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The Map Thief: The Gripping Story of an Esteemed Rare-Map Dealer Who Made Millions Stealing Priceless Maps
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Penguin Publishing Group 2014
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Description

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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Format:
Adobe EPUB eBook, Kindle Book, OverDrive Read
Street Date:
05/29/2014
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780698156982
ASIN:
B00G3L6LNU
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APA Citation (style guide)

Michael Blanding. (2014). The Map Thief: The Gripping Story of an Esteemed Rare-Map Dealer Who Made Millions Stealing Priceless Maps. Penguin Publishing Group.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Michael Blanding. 2014. The Map Thief: The Gripping Story of an Esteemed Rare-Map Dealer Who Made Millions Stealing Priceless Maps. Penguin Publishing Group.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Michael Blanding, The Map Thief: The Gripping Story of an Esteemed Rare-Map Dealer Who Made Millions Stealing Priceless Maps. Penguin Publishing Group, 2014.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Michael Blanding. The Map Thief: The Gripping Story of an Esteemed Rare-Map Dealer Who Made Millions Stealing Priceless Maps. Penguin Publishing Group, 2014. Web.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2010. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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fullDescription

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.

reviews
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        April 14, 2014
        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.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        May 15, 2014
        The strange, mysterious world of rare maps-and 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(2014) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        June 15, 2014

        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

        Copyright 2014 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        June 1, 2014
        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.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2014, American Library Association.)

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shortDescription

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...

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