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The Map Thief: The Gripping Story of an…
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The Map Thief: The Gripping Story of an Esteemed Rare-Map Dealer Who Made… (edition 2015)

by Michael Blanding (Author)

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4425544,293 (3.88)37
"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. The Map Thief delves into the untold history of this fascinating high-stakes criminal and the inside story of the industry that consumed him. Acclaimed reporter Michael Blanding 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, Blanding is the first reporter to explore the story in full-and had the rare privilege of having access to Smiley himself after he'd 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, Blanding teases out an astonishing tale of destruction and redemption. The Map Thief interweaves Smiley's escapades with the stories of the explorers and mapmakers he knew better than anyone. Tracking a series of thefts as brazen as the art heists in Provenance and a subculture as obsessive as the oenophiles in The Billionaire's Vinegar, Blanding has pieced together an unforgettable story of high-stakes crime. "--… (more)
Member:Jemalu
Title:The Map Thief: The Gripping Story of an Esteemed Rare-Map Dealer Who Made Millions Stealing Priceless Maps
Authors:Michael Blanding (Author)
Info:Avery (2015), Edition: Illustrated, 336 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:
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The Map Thief: The Gripping Story of an Esteemed Rare-Map Dealer Who Made Millions Stealing Priceless Maps by Michael Blanding

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» See also 37 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 56 (next | show all)
Michael Blanding's The Map Thief is both an education on maps and mapmaking and the true story of E. Forbes Smiley, a map expert and dealer in rare maps who stole at least 100 rare maps from libraries and museums.

Blanding had Smiley's cooperation when he began researching this book, then lost it. His research on the rare books and antique map world did include many others who were victims or beneficiaries of their relationship with Smiley. As he builds the story of Smiley's life and career, Blanding dives deep into the history of some of the individual maps that Smiley dealt with, educating us along the way.

This is a short book that I found to be an interesting read but it wasn't completely satisfying. Perhaps because really understanding what happened depends so much on Smiley's willingness and ability to tell (he was an admitted inveterate liar who found it hard to stick to the truth), there are gaps and unknowns in the telling:

* Smiley compiled a list of 97 maps he stole at the time he went to trial in 2006, claiming he wanted to make amends for what he had done, but it soon became clear that the total number was more than that. No one knows for sure how many maps he actually stole.

* Nor does anyone know for sure when he began stealing maps. When originally apprehended he said 1998, then at trial he maintained he began in 2002. He dealt in rare maps for several years before 1998, so who really knows?

* In Smiley's telling, his rare map gallery was burgled in 1989 and, he says he lost a quarter of a million dollars. Not having insurance, this was the beginning of his financial troubles that were well known among his fellow rare map dealers. But the author reports there are no newspaper reports of the burglary, nor could the NYPD, FBI or Interpol produce any records of having investigated. So was the burglary story perhaps Smiley's way of hinting that his map thefts began much earlier than he was actually willing to admit?

Despite the gaps, I rate this book 3 Stars ⭐⭐⭐ - I wasn't completely satisfied with this book but I liked it well enough. If you have in interest in true crime / art theft stories, you might like it too. ( )
  stevesbookstuff | Mar 15, 2021 |
I've had this on my shelf forever, and I don't even remember why it caught my eye. But I'm glad I did, because it is a very readable story of a map dealer in our own recent history subverted by his own grandiosity and greed, ultimately ruining his career and damaging the collections of many libraries, both prestigious and obscure.

E. Forbes Smiley III is from a middle class family, despite the very upper-class sounding name, and finds himself working in the rare books division of B. Altman & Co. on 5th Avenue in New York, displaying a rare affinity for collectible maps. From there he pursues a career as a map dealer, helping others develop premier private map collections and becoming a true expert on early maps. But somewhere along the way, his various ambitions steer him off the rails, and he spends years stealing maps to sell to clients and other dealers to keep up with his own spending.

Blanding's book is a biography, a case study of antiquarian knowledge and art crime, a catalog of institutional carelessness, and an education on the history of maps and the exploration of the Americas from the 16th century onward. Recommended. ( )
  ffortsa | Jan 9, 2021 |
I'd NEVER have imagined that there was so much money in old maps (not the treasure they point to, mind you, just the maps.) Odd little history about a real map thief. ( )
  rickycatto | Sep 9, 2020 |
About E Forbes Smiley III ( )
  DeidreH | Jan 26, 2020 |
Blanding's audiobook portrays E. Forbes Smiley III, a rare maps dealer as someone that became obsessed with an image. When the dealer's sales did not finance his lifestyle he turned to theft. Smiley's thefts exposed the vulnerability of libraries and archives and the lack of concern among dealers and buyers for the provenance of rare maps. ( )
  MichaelC.Oliveira | Nov 23, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 56 (next | show all)
Old maps are beautiful relics — relics of ignorance, ambition, and ingenuity...Maps project wishful thinking. “The Map Thief” is a masterful cartography of a man who fell victim to such wishful thinking, destroying his life. As a rival dealer said about Smiley, “You’re talking about a person who defiled the institutions that defined his existence.”
 
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Epigraph
[A]s Geography without History seemeth a carkasse without motion; so History without Geography, wandreth as a Vagrant, without a certaine habitation.  
- Captain John Smith, 1624
Dedication
To Zachary and Cleo May you always find your way. >
First words
(Introduction) The first time I heard Forbes Smiley's voice was at six o'clock on a summer Friday as I was drinking a martini at a Boston bar.
June 8, 2005
E. Forbes Smiley III couldn't stop coughing.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (2)

"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. The Map Thief delves into the untold history of this fascinating high-stakes criminal and the inside story of the industry that consumed him. Acclaimed reporter Michael Blanding 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, Blanding is the first reporter to explore the story in full-and had the rare privilege of having access to Smiley himself after he'd 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, Blanding teases out an astonishing tale of destruction and redemption. The Map Thief interweaves Smiley's escapades with the stories of the explorers and mapmakers he knew better than anyone. Tracking a series of thefts as brazen as the art heists in Provenance and a subculture as obsessive as the oenophiles in The Billionaire's Vinegar, Blanding has pieced together an unforgettable story of high-stakes crime. "--

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Book description
The Map Thief by Michael Blanding

I won this book though Library Thing and I am so pleased.  Never in my wildest imaging would I believe a personable rare book dealer would stoop to so many dishonest dealings.  Granted the temptation is always there.  However to lie, steal, fabricate so many numerous damaging of historic and rare books with maps.  Purposely defacing historic map makers work through greed and the pompous posturing to be seen as a great man.

Once I started this book I absolutely couldn't bear to lay it down.

Antiquarian Map Dealer E. Forbes Smiley the 3rd stepped out of his love of the trade to be swallowed into his ever increasing need to wheel and deal stolen maps.  

Con men have always been around but Smiley the 3rd advances into the realm of macbe behavior.

Totally loved the true stories of historic map makers, and the people who stood strong against thieves.

If you read only one a year this is the one!

True Crime and I'm just sorry that his time served didn't really fit his crime. It should have been harsher...
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