$10K reward in search for long-lost LA library sculpture



Los Angeles City Librarian John F. Szabo unveiled a section of the bronze titled ‘Well of Scribes’ last year after an antiques dealer recognized it as part of a long-missing artwork. Image courtesy of Los Angeles Public Library

LOS ANGELES (AP) – A $10,000 reward has been offered for information leading to the recovery of missing parts of a bronze sculpture that mysteriously disappeared from the Los Angeles Central Library 50 years ago.

The Well of Scribes, depicting writers from different cultures, vanished in 1969 when the library underwent a renovation. The story of its disappearance was revived in 2018 by author Susan Orlean’s The Library Book, which inspired Alta magazine’s managing editor to investigate its whereabouts.

One of three panels was returned last year by an antiques dealer in Arizona who bought it from a woman for $500 years earlier.

The LA library and Alta on Tuesday announced the reward for information leading to the discovery of the sculpture’s lost pieces.

“We’re excited to broaden the search and to ask the public’s help in this endeavor,” Alta editor Blaise Zerega told the Los Angeles Times. He encouraged anyone with a hunch about the missing pieces’ whereabouts to contact the magazine or the library.


View of the entire ‘Well of Scribes’ bronze, circa 1926. The panel at right was recovered, but the whereabouts of the remaining two panels is unknown. Los Angeles Public Library image

Alta hired a private investigator who specializes in recovering missing art. So far, the investigator has tracked down multiple leads, Zerega said.

“We speculate there’s a good chance it’s still in the greater LA area,” he said.


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