Sculpture returned to Los Angeles library 50 years after disappearance

The sculpture depicting writers from different cultures vanished in 1969 when the library underwent a renovation.
A bronze sculpture titled Well of the Scribes is seen during an unveiling of the long-lost sculpture after it was discovered in Arizona, on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019 at the Central Library in Los Angeles. (Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times/The Associated Press)

A bronze sculpture that mysteriously disappeared from the Los Angeles Central Library 50 years ago has returned to its original home.

One of three panels of the Well of Scribes was unveiled at the downtown library on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The sculpture depicting writers from different cultures vanished in 1969 when the library underwent a renovation.

The story of its disappearance was revived in Susan Orlean's The Library Book, which inspired Alta magazine's managing editor to investigate its whereabouts.

The bestselling American writer talked to Eleanor Wachtel about her new title The Library Book, which tells the story of the devastating fire at the Los Angeles Central Library - and the significance of Orlean's own childhood library. 55:02

An article published in the magazine's July edition caught the attention of an antiques dealer in Arizona who bought the panel from a woman for $500 years earlier.

Floyd Lillard in Bisbee, Arizona, recognized the sculpture in question, contacted the library and gave it back.

City librarian John Szabo said the discovery has given him hope that the other two panels might turn up one day.

"Up until now, we thought (the sculpture) might have been destroyed or was in someone's backyard," he said. "We just didn't know if it would ever be found."


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.