A stolen 15th century map dating to the dawn of modern printing, a decade before Christopher Columbus sailed to America, was returned to Spain on Monday.
The map was discovered missing from Spain's National Library in August, cut out of a 1482 edition of Claudius Ptolemy's ''Cosmographia.'' Fifteen other irreplaceable documents also disappeared.
A Uruguayan-born researcher, Cesar Gomez Rivero, was charged in the thefts.
The Cosmographia map was seized by Australian Federal Police at an art gallery in Sydney after it passed through dealers in Argentina, London and New York, a spokesman for the Spanish library told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity in keeping with government rules.
Eight other maps were recovered in Buenos Aires. Two others were tracked to New York and handed over in November to Spain's police chief.
At least four maps dating from between the 15th and 17th centuries were still missing, Spain Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said in November.
Cosmographia was printed by 15th century cartographers using original calculations made by Ptolemy, a 2nd century Greek astronomer and geographer.
World maps by Ptolemy were used by travelers for hundreds of years. Columbus is believed to have sailed with Ptolemy's maps when he sailed to America in 1492.
What makes the returned map especially valuable is its remarkable coloring and near perfect state of preservation, the library spokesman said.
The map was returned to library director Milagros del Corral at a ceremony in Sydney, Australia.
Spain's Ambassador to Australia, Antonio Cosano praised Australia for the return.
''This country is sending a very strong and firm message that it fully implements its international obligations and Australia is not a safe haven for the illicit export of the cultural heritage of any nation,'' he told reporters at the National Library of Australia.
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