THE MAP THIEF
The Gripping Story of an Esteemed Rare-Map Dealer Who Made Millions Stealing Priceless Maps
Maps have long exerted a special fascination on viewers—both as beautiful works of art and practical tools to navigate the world. For those that collect them, however, the map trade can be a cutthroat business, inhabited by quirky and in some cases disreputable characters in search of a finite number of extremely rare objects. E. Forbes Smiley III, esteemed and respectable antiquarian map dealer, spent years doubling as a map thief until he was finally arrested while delicately tearing maps out of books in the Yale University Library in 2005. He would later confess to the theft of 97 maps valued at over $3 million total, and serve 3 years in prison for his crimes.
THE MAP THIEF: The Gripping Story of an Esteemed Rare-Map Dealer Who Made Millions Stealing Priceless Maps by Michael Blanding includes the results of an exclusive interview with Smiley before he went quiet, as well as the other individuals involved; from the dealers he worked with to the librarians affected by Smiley’s theft. Blanding expertly reports a tale of personal destruction and redemption played out against the dog-eat-dog world of a secretive subculture. THE MAP THIEF delves into the untold history of this fascinating high-stakes criminal, interweaving it with the stories of the explorers and mapmakers he knew better than anyone, and the inside story of the industry that consumed him. Moreover, though Smiley swears he has admitted to all of the maps he stole, the libraries he victimized have uncovered over a hundred more they accuse him of taking—along with some intriguing clues to prove it.
While uncovering the roots of Smiley's crimes, THE MAP THIEF follows those clues in an effort to determine the truth and divulge the implications of Smiley’s crimes on dealers, libraries, collectors, and map lovers alike.
Michael Blanding is a Boston-based investigative journalist whose work has appeared in The Nation, The New Republic, Slate, S, Consumers Digest, The Boston Globe Magazine, and Boston Magazine. His first book, The Coke Machine: The Dirty Truth Behind the World's Favorite Soft Drink, was published by Avery/Penguin in 2010. His latest, The Map Thief: The Gripping Story of an Esteemed Rare-Map Dealer Who Made Millions Stealing Priceless Maps, was published by Gotham Books in June 2014 and named a New England Indie Bestseller by the New England Independent Booksellers Association.
Blanding is currently a senior fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University and a staff writer at Harvard Business School. He has also co-written several travel guides to New England destinations for Moon Handbooks, and taught journalism at Emerson College, Northeastern University, and Grub Street Writers.
He has won multiple awards for his writing, including a 2012 Clarion Award from the Association for Women in Communications for best feature article (100,000-500,000 circulation); a gold medal in the 2011 EXCEL Awards from Association Media & Publishing; first place for best general circulation magazine article in the 2005 National Association of Real Estate Editors awards; and a bronze medal for reader service in the 2004 City and Regional Magazine Awards. In addition, he has thrice been named a finalist for the Livingston Awards for Young Journalists, in 2006, 2004, and 2003.