Imagine finding a dust-covered bankers box full of proclamations, bills and treaties signed by a multitude of American presidents, from George Washington and Thomas Jefferson to Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan.
That’s essentially what happened recently in Poland, except on a much older scale.
A collection of documents signed by a series of Polish monarchs, some more than 450 years old, turned up unexpectedly at the Warsaw School of Economics.
Zoran Karisic, an archivist at the university library, found the documents by chance in a storeroom, according to Polskie Radio, Poland’s national publicly funded radio broadcasting organization.
“It was a simple cardboard box, lined with paper and tied with string,” she told the Rzeczpospolita daily.
The papers range from as far back as 1555 up through 1790, and include items signed by Bona Sforza (1494-1557), the Renaissance queen reputed to have had a habit of poisoning her enemies, including her daughter-in-law.
Other monarchs featured in the collection include the last king of Poland, Stanislaw August Poniatowski, who ruled from 1764-1795.
It would not regain its independence until 1918.
Karisic revealed that although some conservation will be carried out by the National Library, the documents are generally in extremely good condition, many bearing ornate seals, according to Polskie Radio.
It’s unclear how the papers came to be in the collection of the school.
During World War II, the library was incorporated into the German State Library in Berlin following Poland’s defeat at the hands of the Nazis.
“One theory is that the documents may have been presented to the Warsaw school before the war by descendants of the Polish Chrzanowski family, as there are recurrent mentions of the clan in the papers,” according to Polskie Radio.
Following conservation, all of the documents will be scanned and published on the college’s Internet website.