Included in the collection of books were early 15th-century prints, rare medieval manuscripts, historical maps, and a suite of 19th-century illustrated bird books that had once belonged to the famed German ornithologist and explorer Maximilian of Wied-Neuwied
Many of the Bonn Library’s books were lost in a bomb attack on its main building in October 1944. The library kept a scrupulous inventory of all losses, recording some 180,000 items missing since World War II, which played a key role in identifying these items. According to Baumann, this represents the largest return of objects in Sotheby’s history. The Belgian woman who had initially tried to consign the books to auction was happy to return them after learning of their provenance and even attended a celebratory ceremony in Bonn earlier this week.