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The map thief : the gripping story of an esteemed rare-map dealer who made millions stealing priceless maps / Michael Blanding.

By: Blanding, Michael [author.].
Material type: materialTypeLabelBookPublisher: New York, New York : Gotham Books, [2014]Copyright date: ©2014Description: xvi, 300 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some colour), maps ; 24 cm.Content type: text Media type: unmediated Carrier type: volumeISBN: 9781592408177 (hardback); 1592408176 (hardback); 9781592409402 (paperback).Subject(s): Smiley, E. Forbes | Map dealers -- United States | Map industry and trade -- United States | Map thefts -- United States | Book thefts -- United StatesDDC classification: 364.16/289120973
Contents:
Selected mapmakers, 1470-1860 -- The explorer and the thief -- Small hope -- A new world -- Who knows the most wins -- Catalog number one -- Playing hardball -- Upward departure -- The battle of Sebec -- Missing maps, missing cards -- Caught! -- The plea -- Map quest -- Terra incognita -- Maps Smiley admitted stealing -- Additional maps libraries reported missing.
Summary: This is the story of an infamous crime, a revered map dealer with an unsavory secret, and the ruthless subculture that consumed him. Maps have long exerted a special fascination on viewers, both as beautiful works of art and as practical tools to navigate the world. But to those who collect them, the map trade can be a cutthroat business, inhabited by quirky and sometimes disreputable characters in search of a finite number of extremely rare objects. Once considered a respectable antiquarian map dealer, E. Forbes Smiley spent years doubling as a map thief, until he was finally arrested slipping maps out of books in the Yale University library. This book delves into the untold history of this fascinating high-stakes criminal and the inside story of the industry that consumed him. The author, a reporter and magazine writer, has interviewed all the key players in this stranger-than-fiction story, and shares the fascinating histories of maps that charted the New World, and how they went from being practical instruments to quirky heirlooms to highly coveted objects. Though pieces of the map theft story have been written before, the author is the first reporter to explore the story in full, and had the rare privilege of having access to Smiley himself after he had gone silent in the wake of his crimes. Moreover, although Smiley swears he has admitted to all of the maps he stole, libraries claim he stole hundreds more, and offer intriguing clues to prove it. Now, through a series of exclusive interviews with Smiley and other key individuals, the author teases out an astonishing tale of destruction and redemption. The story interweaves Smiley's escapades with the stories of the explorers and mapmakers he knew better than anyone. Tracking a series of brazen thefts, and an obsessive subculture, the author has pieced together an unforgettable story of high-stakes crime. -- Provided by publisher.
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Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:

Once considered a respectable rare-map dealer, E. Forbes Smiley made millions and was highly esteemed for his knowledge; until he was arrested for slipping maps out of books in the Yale University library. Though pieces of the story have been told before, Blanding is the first reporter to gain access to Smiley himself after he'd gone silent. Although Smiley swears he has admitted to all of the maps he stole, libraries claim he stole hundreds more, and offer evidence to prove it. Now, through a series of exclusive interviews, Blanding teases out the whole story.

Reissued in paperback: 2015.

Includes bibliographical references and index.

Selected mapmakers, 1470-1860 -- The explorer and the thief -- Small hope -- A new world -- Who knows the most wins -- Catalog number one -- Playing hardball -- Upward departure -- The battle of Sebec -- Missing maps, missing cards -- Caught! -- The plea -- Map quest -- Terra incognita -- Maps Smiley admitted stealing -- Additional maps libraries reported missing.

This is the story of an infamous crime, a revered map dealer with an unsavory secret, and the ruthless subculture that consumed him. Maps have long exerted a special fascination on viewers, both as beautiful works of art and as practical tools to navigate the world. But to those who collect them, the map trade can be a cutthroat business, inhabited by quirky and sometimes disreputable characters in search of a finite number of extremely rare objects. Once considered a respectable antiquarian map dealer, E. Forbes Smiley spent years doubling as a map thief, until he was finally arrested slipping maps out of books in the Yale University library. This book delves into the untold history of this fascinating high-stakes criminal and the inside story of the industry that consumed him. The author, a reporter and magazine writer, has interviewed all the key players in this stranger-than-fiction story, and shares the fascinating histories of maps that charted the New World, and how they went from being practical instruments to quirky heirlooms to highly coveted objects. Though pieces of the map theft story have been written before, the author is the first reporter to explore the story in full, and had the rare privilege of having access to Smiley himself after he had gone silent in the wake of his crimes. Moreover, although Smiley swears he has admitted to all of the maps he stole, libraries claim he stole hundreds more, and offer intriguing clues to prove it. Now, through a series of exclusive interviews with Smiley and other key individuals, the author teases out an astonishing tale of destruction and redemption. The story interweaves Smiley's escapades with the stories of the explorers and mapmakers he knew better than anyone. Tracking a series of brazen thefts, and an obsessive subculture, the author has pieced together an unforgettable story of high-stakes crime. -- Provided by publisher.

2 5 11 18 19 27 37 82 96 98 100 103 151 161

Table of contents provided by Syndetics

  • List of Characters (p. xi)
  • Selected Mapmakers, 1470-1860 (p. xvii)
  • Introduction (p. 3)
  • Chapter 1 The Explorer and the Thief (p. 9)
  • Chapter 2 Small Hope (p. 27)
  • Chapter 3 A New World (p. 41)
  • Chapter 4 Who Knows the Most Wins (p. 59)
  • Chapter 6 Catalog Number One (p. 75)
  • Chapter 6 Playing Hardball (p. 91)
  • Chapter 7 Upward Departure (p. 107)
  • Chapter 8 The Battle of Sebec (p. 119)
  • Chapter 9 Missing Maps, Missing Cards (p. 135)
  • Chapter 10 Caught! (p. 153)
  • Chapter 11 The Plea (p. 167)
  • Chapter 12 Map Quest (p. 185)
  • Chapter 13 Terra Incognita (p. 201)
  • Epilogue (p. 221)
  • Appendix A Maps Smiley Admitted Stealing (p. 223)
  • Appendix B Additional Maps Libraries Reported Missing (p. 233)
  • Acknowledgments (p. 249)
  • Bibliography (p. 251)
  • Notes (p. 257)
  • Index (p. 293)

Excerpt provided by Syndetics

June 8, 2005: E. FORBES SMILEY III couldn't stop coughing. No matter how much he tried to suppress it, the tickle in the back of his throat kept breaking out into a hacking cough, drawing glances from the patrons sitting around him. The glass fishbowl of a reading room at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University was quiet except for the low hum of the air- conditioning and the clicking of fingers on keyboards, making Smiley painfully aware of the noise he was making. At one point, he pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket to muffle the sound. As he did, an X-Acto knife blade wrapped inside fell softly onto the carpeted floor. He folded the cloth and put it back in his pocket, oblivious to what had just happened. Smiley was in the Beinecke this morning to study some rare atlases in preparation for the London Map Fair, an annual gathering of hundreds of map collectors who came to the British capital to buy, sell, and trade antiquarian maps. As one of the top dealers in the field, Smiley hoped to use the event to climb out of the financial hole into which he'd recently sunk. Over the years, he'd become expert at recognizing different versions of the same map from subtle typographical variations, an ability that could translate into thousands of dollars when deployed at the right moment. By refamiliarizing himself with some select maps, he hoped to be ready for any opportunity in London. So far, the trip hadn't gone well. The previous night, he'd woken up miserable in a cheap hotel. It wasn't the kind of place he'd usually stay. He favored luxury hotels, where he could see the look of surprise and interest flit across the faces of people when he let it be known he was a map dealer. He looked the part, too, with graying hair swept back over his ears and a long, oval face ending in a narrow, patrician chin. A pair of silver wire-?framed glasses perched on his nose, and he invariably wore tweed or navy blue blazers. That, along with his Yankee-sounding name, usually caused people to assume he was from "old money," an impression Smiley did nothing to correct. When people thought of Forbes Smiley-- as he was universally known by friends, dealers, librarians, and clients-- a few words inevitably sprang to mind: gregarious; jolly; larger-?than-?life. He spoke with the resonance of an Italian tenor mangled by a nasally Waspish affectation. His voice, like Daisy Buchanan's, was "full of money." When he made phone calls, he made sure to announce that he was calling "from the Vineyard." His upper-?crust affectations, however, were tempered by a charming self-?deprecation. He'd ingratiated himself with many a librarian by inquiring after her spouse or children, and reciprocated with entertaining stories of travels around the world or the progress of the new home he was building on the Vineyard. Most of all, people thought of his laugh. For years, friends had reveled in Smiley's laugh, which rolled up out of his belly and wracked his body in a cackle that only increased in volume the longer it went on. It was the kind of laugh that in college had earned him free tickets from theater producers, who sat him in the front row to egg on the audience. And it generally caused people to excuse the pretension that crept into his voice when he was expounding on any of his obsessions-- architecture, New England history, the blues, and, of course, maps. Whether they liked him or not, his colleagues and rivals in the map business had all been seduced by his knowledge, which in certain areas exceeded that of anyone else in the world. Reprinted by arrangement with Gotham Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © Michael Blanding, 2014. Excerpted from The Map Thief: The Gripping Story of an Esteemed Rare-Map Dealer Who Made Millions Stealing Priceless Maps by Michael Blanding All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Reviews provided by Syndetics

Library Journal Review

The opening of journalist Blanding's (The Nation, New Republic, Boston Globe Magazine) cartographic true crime volume sees the bordering-on-delusional, overconfident E. Forbes Smiley III (b. 1956) breezily describing his long-term heist of the map world. Over several years while he was already a well-known rare-map dealer, Smiley stole treasures from some of the most prestigious institutions in the United States and England and sold them to cover his mounting debts (and sometimes, the reader will feel, just because he could). The beginning of the book also relates what became an inevitable next step as Smiley grew increasingly brash: his capture near Yale University's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library with stolen maps. While the reader thus knows most of the outcome from the outset, -Blanding's well-researched tale of his subject's emergence and slow climb to the top of this genteel yet cutthroat corner of the art world remains fascinating-especially for librarians, who will thrill to the behind-the-scenes -depictions of libraries from the eastern seaboard to London, and relish how one of their number finally forced this blowhard to his comeuppance. Along the way, too, readers will gain a quick education on the curation of rare maps and the quirkiness and intrigue involved in their creation (they're not as impartial as their makers may claim). VERDICT This modern-day crime tale is almost novelistic in its detailed flashbacks to the past and suspenseful ending, which pits Smiley's newfound honesty against the libraries that seek to prove that he stole even more than he's humble-bragging he did.-Henrietta Verma, Library Journal (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Review

Considered by many to be a reputable antique map dealer, E. Forbes Smiley III was also a thief who stole hundreds of valuable maps (some estimates put his haul at over 200) from libraries and other institutions and then sold them. Here, reporter Blanding (The Coke Machine: The Dirty Truth Behind the World's Favorite Soft Drink) examines and contextualizes the curious case. What began as the occasional pilferage in order to keep his business afloat ballooned as Smiley's debt increased exponentially, due in no small part to a grand lifestyle-the most glaring example of which was Smiley's renovation of a rustic farmhouse, including a $105,000 kitchen from Italy. He also spent enormous sums in an effort to revive the struggling town by opening a restaurant and other businesses. In this well-researched account, Blanding profiles Smiley as well as dealers, clients, librarians, and mapmakers, including Gerard Mercator and Sir Robert Dudley (creator of the first atlas of the world's coastlines). While Smiley's actions are shocking, perhaps the most outrageous fact in the book is the revelation of his prison sentence: a mere three and a half years. This is a highly readable profile of a narcissist who got in over his head and lost it all. Agent: Elisabeth Weed, Weed Literary. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Booklist Review

With antiquarian objects such as centuries-old letters and maps fetching higher and higher prices at auctions these days, an entire criminal subculture has developed that matches the ingenuity of more established art thieves in snatching these items from libraries and museums. Himself an ardent cartography enthusiast since childhood, seasoned journalist Blanding takes a closer look at one particularly infamous map thief, E. Forbes Smiley III, and the series of heists Smiley engineered that eventually landed him in prison. Smiley was already well known in antiquarian circles as a charming and knowledgeable map collector who frequently donated maps to the very libraries he was stealing from until he was nabbed in 2005 after a Yale librarian noticed an X-Acto knife blade on the floor. Blanding juxtaposes the story of Smiley's high earnings career and subsequent fall from grace into theft with the history of the map creators themselves. His book is as much a riveting true-crime tale as it is a fascinating peek inside the little-seen world of mapmaking and collecting.--Hays, Carl Copyright 2010 Booklist

Kirkus Book Review

The strange, mysterious world of rare mapsand the even stranger mystery of the man who stole them for years without getting caught.Journalist Blanding (The Coke Machine: The Dirty Truth Behind the World's Favorite Soft Drink, 2010) presents a detailed account of the case of E. Forbes Smiley III, the high-living Gatsby-esque map dealer who scored millions fencing rare maps. Although deeply knowledgeable and well-respected in his field, Smiley also wanted the good life, and he racked up a mountain of debt trying to bankroll fancy homes and ill-advised property schemes. A charmer who won the trust of librarians and was deeply aware of their haphazard filing systems, Smiley easily developed a second career in thievery. He got away with it for at least four years, until the fateful day in 2005 when a Yale security guard noticed he dropped a razor blade on the floor of the rare book and manuscript library. Blanding delves deep into both Smiley's world and the history of mapmaking, focusing in particular on what makes a map valuable. Some are simply meticulous works of art; others helped forge the destinies of countries or document lands that no longer exist (such as the short-lived Roanoke Colony). There are also uniquely primitive maps that are wildly off the mark about undiscovered lands, harkening back to an age when North America was still known as "Terra Incognita." As an attorney involved in Smiley's case put it, these maps "drew the lines between where knowledge ended and imagination began. They represented man's timeless drive to explore the unknown and bring definition to the void." In the modern world, they have also become an affordable means of conspicuous consumption for people who can't quite swing a Picasso or Monet.A fascinating story of ambitions high and low, the ancient yearning to chart a new world and the eternal lure of a quick buck. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.