Search for missing historical book now in investigators’ hands

Judicial Investigating Organization photo This is a photo that exists of the 'Libro Violeta.' The page shows Tómas Guardia, the president, seated on a throne in what appears to be the legislative chamber.

The Judicial Investigating Organization has issued an all-points bulletin for a book. This is not just any book but the famous “Libro Violeta” by José María Figueroa Oreamuno.

This is the last in a series of books and other material that was in the personal library of former president Rafael Iglesias Castro.

The Archivo Nacional said in January that it had received complete control over the existing notebooks of the famous chronicler of the lives and times of 19th century Costa Rica.

The Archivo Nacional already had “El Álbum de Figueroa,” a Figueroa compilation of the author’s years of traveling and observing Costa Rican society. The new documents are five notebooks on which the album is believed to have been based. The Archivo called them drafts of the final book.

But still missing was the “Libro Violeta” and a large drawing of a woman. Since the Archivo considers all the Figueroa books to be its property, the judicial police are now involved.

However, in a news release, the law enforcement agency said candidly that there are no suspects.

As A.M. Costa Rica reported in January, many consider Figueroa an ethnographer and cartographer because he traveled into less-well-known areas of the country, such as Talamanca, Térraba, Boruca and Guatuso in the middle of the 19th century and produced a number of maps, including one that was displayed in Spain to mark the 400th anniversary of the discovery of America.

Figueroa also was a caricaturist and wit. He once was brought into court on a pornography charge relating to his drawings.

His album is about 200 pages, and it was delicately restored by experts. He did not pull punches. Once he wrote of the relationship of a priest and a mistress. Figueroa, himself, never married but did father a daughter.

He was from the highest level of Costa Rican society because his Spanish immigrant father married into the Oreamuno family. Figueroa was born in Alajuela in 1820 and died in 1900. So he was a witness to the highly serious politics of the mid 19th century when political opponents and even presidents were shot.

Edgardo Richards, writing for the Asociación Costarricense de Filosofía, said that Figueroa wrote and drew a lot of the political class, particularly under the administration of Gen. Tomás Guardia and of practices of the church hierarchy, the corruption, the press, the militarism, Masonry, gambling, alcoholism, and the customers and prejudices of the privileged classes. Figueroa was influenced by 18th century French philosophy.

The Archivo Nacional waged a battle to obtain the album of Figueroa and than it did so again to obtain the notebooks. The notebooks were found in 2007 in the Iglesias library.

The president’s granddaughter, Manuela Tattenbach Iglesias, offered the presidential documents to the Archivo Nacional. The Archivo and Ms. Tattenbach entered into an agreement in 2008, but when the material arrived at the Archivo, it was reported to be incomplete. There were no Figueroa notebooks.

What followed was a lengthy legal proceeding between the Archivo and the person who was by then the executor of Ms. Tattenbach’s estate. Last year, the Archivo obtained legal custody of the notebooks and eventually entered into an agreement for ownership. The Archivo notes that the missing “Libro Violeta” was part of the collection that was catalogued in 2007. So it has been only missing for four years at most.

Anyone with information about the book is asked to call 2295 – 3307, 2295 – 4355, 800-8000645 or email, which is the address of the Centro de Información Confidencial, said judicial agents.

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