- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Avery; Reprint edition (June 2, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1592409407
- ISBN-13: 978-1592409402
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (148 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #227,878 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Map Thief: The Gripping Story of an Esteemed Rare-Map Dealer Who Made Millions Stealing Priceless Maps Paperback – June 2, 2015
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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. --Carl Hays --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
“THE MAP THIEF is a gripping, suspenseful tale, told by a veteran investigative reporter. And yes, it comes with maps.” – Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Blanding tucks great little historical trivia … into his cohesive narrative… an enjoyable exploration of an obscure aspect of history.” – Miami Herald
“Brisk, engaging…Maps project wishful thinking. THE MAP THIEF is a masterful cartography of a man who fell victim to such wishful thinking, destroying his life.”
– The Boston Globe
“Brain kale...Bizarre, fascinating, and 100 percent true.” – Mental Floss
“Truth is much stranger than fiction…In the normally dry world of cartography, Smiley’s story makes for a riveting read.” – Town & Country
“An enthralling look at a famous case.” – Boston Common
“The best glimpse yet of the social-climbing sneak thief who stole millions of dollars in rare maps from Yale University and other institutions a decade ago.” –New Haven Register
“Blanding delves deep into both Smiley’s world and the history of mapmaking…a fascinating story of ambitions high and low.” – Kirkus Reviews
“Well-researched…A highly readable profile of a narcissist who got in over his head and lost it all.” – Publishers Weekly
“A gripping mix of true crime, cartographic lore and bookish obsession, THE MAP THIEF is a book that map and book lovers will devour, even as they cringe at the crimes described.”
– Shelf Awareness
“In this cartographic caper, Michael Blanding slips into the antique map trade and takes a magnifying glass to the mind and motivations of a curious character named E. Forbes Smiley III, a New England polymath with a special talent for taking razors to rare books. The setting and the character belong in a novel, and this engrossing book reads like fiction.” – Nina Burleigh, author of the New York Times bestseller The Fatal Gift of Beauty: The Italian Trials of Amanda Knox
"The Map Thief isn't just a perceptive, meticulously researched portrait of an exceedingly unlikely felon. It's also a tribute to the beautiful old maps that inspired his cartographic crimes--and shaped our modern world." – Ken Jennings, author of Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks
“Old maps tug powerfully at the imagination, and not always in healthy ways. Nothing makes that clearer than the strange, unsettling case of Forbes Smiley, whose story Michael Blanding has pieced together in captivating detail. This is an unforgettable and cautionary tale, told by an expert investigative reporter who writes with the narrative flair of a novelist. A great read!”
– Toby Lester, author of The Fourth Part of the World: An Astonishing Epic of Global Discovery, Imperial Ambition, and the Birth of America
“Disgraced map dealer Forbes Smiley once said that he hoped that the stories about his thefts ‘would go away.’ That might be so. But thankfully Michael Blanding decided otherwise, and he tells a powerful story about the nature of crime, greed and art. Smart, suspenseful, and engaging, this book is a fascinating read.” – Ulrich Boser, bestselling author of The Gardner Heist
“This is a terrific book. The portrait of Forbes Smiley here is one we rarely get of cultural heritage thieves – complete and even-handed, without being either credulous or vindictive. The Map Thief, aside from being wonderfully readable, is a valuable addition to this area of study.”
– Travis McDade, author of The Book Thief: The True Crimes of Daniel Spiegelman
“Michael Blanding not only tells the spell-binding tale of a clever and obsessed thief, but he also adds to the field of research into people who commit crimes involving rare and precious items. All the while, Blanding examines the crimes with the acumen of a seasoned investigator and the skill of a talented writer.” – Anthony M. Amore, co-author of Stealing Rembrandts: The Untold Stories of Notorious Art Heists
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Top customer reviews
Besides discussing how the thief was caught, the author adds much to this book by detailing some of the political shenanigans of early 16th Century cartographers: drawing fictitious boundaries on New World maps to support their nation’s political goals of claiming larger swaths of land than what their explorers had actually discovered.
Besides detailing the swashbuckling, good-time party-man, back-slapping personality of the map thief, this book could almost stand alone as a book discussing the historical development of maps regarding the New World.
This isn’t a book about how to lay out strands of chain-links in how to map as a budding land surveyor, but it is an informative look at the development of cartography of New World maps. Why, two books for the price of one! An insight to the lack of security at many big-name libraries.
The author was able to arrange only one meeting with the thief, before he clamed up for good -- the author speculates that perhaps the thief didn't want to become liable for more prison time if he were to reveal that perhaps he hadn't been fully forthcoming in his admissions as to what more he might have purloined. Although the thief admitted to stealing some 110+ maps, several librarians thought that he might have stolen more -- as many other maps disappeared from their libraries shortly after the thief had visited them. A good enjoyable, interesting and informative read by a determined author who doggedly wrote a fine book.