The Map Thief: The Gripping Story of an Esteemed Rare-Map Dealer Who Made Millions Stealing Priceless Maps

By Michael Blanding

The tale of an notorious crime, a respected map broker with an unsavory mystery, and the ruthless culture that fed on him
Maps have lengthy exerted a different fascination on viewers—both as attractive artistic endeavors and as functional instruments to navigate the realm. yet to people who acquire them, the map exchange could be a cutthroat company, inhabited via quirky and infrequently disreputable characters looking for a finite variety of super infrequent objects.
Once thought of a good antiquarian map broker, E. Forbes Smiley spent years doubling as a map thief —until he used to be eventually arrested slipping maps out of books within the Yale college library. The Map Thief delves into the untold background of this attention-grabbing high-stakes felony and the interior tale of the that fed on him.
Acclaimed reporter Michael Blanding has interviewed all of the key avid gamers during this stranger-than-fiction tale, and stocks the attention-grabbing histories of maps that charted the recent international, and the way they went from being functional tools to quirky heirlooms to hugely coveted items. even though items of the map robbery tale were written ahead of, Blanding is the 1st reporter to discover the tale in full—and had the infrequent privilege of getting entry to Smiley himself after he’d long gone silent within the wake of his crimes. furthermore, even if Smiley swears he has admitted to the entire maps he stole, libraries declare he stole 1000's more—and supply exciting clues to end up it. Now, via a chain of unique interviews with Smiley and different key members, Blanding teases out an remarkable story of destruction and redemption.
The Map Thief interweaves Smiley’s escapades with the tales of the explorers and mapmakers he knew greater than somebody. monitoring a chain of thefts as brazen because the artwork heists in Provenance and a lifestyle as obsessive because the oenophiles in The Billionaire’s Vinegar, Blanding has pieced jointly an unforgettable tale of high-stakes crime.

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In the summertime OF 1901, a Jesuit professor poking round the garret of Wolfegg fortress within the German Alps stumbled on a heavy booklet with a crimson beechwood hide and hogskin backing. having a look within, he made one of many maximum cartographic rediscoveries of all time—the misplaced map of the realm made through Martin Waldseemüller in 1507. published on twelve sheets, the map used to be one of many first to include the hot discoveries of Christopher Columbus and Amerigo Vespucci, and the 1st one to teach the hot global as its personal continent, cut loose Asia (Figure 4). yet what made it so vital to historical past used to be a unmarried be aware imprinted on the southern continent of the Western Hemisphere: “America” (Figure 5). determine five MARTIN WALDSEEMÜLLER. “UNIVERSALIS COSMOGRAPHIA” (DETAIL). ST. DIE, 1507. Waldseemüller’s map used to be the 1st map to take advantage of the observe, and it was once greater than a decade ahead of it subsequent seemed. The map stayed at Wolfegg for greater than a century prior to the USA govt bought it for $10 million—the optimum fee ever paid for a map. Now it's completely displayed on the Library of Congress because the “birth certificates of America,” a correct identify on account that Waldseemüller’s map is in charge greater than the other record for the identify of the continent this day. And the truth that it's not known as Columbia might be summed up in a single proposal: intercourse sells higher than God. ahead of he made heritage, Columbus used to be a Genoan service provider captain dependent in Portugal, sporting shipment up and down the Atlantic coast. while the printing press took off in Europe, despite the fact that, he started studying Marco Polo’s debts of gold mines, perfumes, and ivory to be present in the Cathay and made it his challenge to determine them. He driven Ptolemy and Martellus to the extremes to estimate a distance of twenty-four hundred miles among the Canary Islands and Japan—a area of the particular distance. a lot of the background is recognized. while his appeals to John II of Portugal have been unsuccessful, he became to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain, who agreed to finance his day trip in trade for sovereignty over any lands he chanced on. A month out to sea, a crewman at the Niña sighted an island, which Columbus evidently assumed has to be a part of the Indies, a bunch of islands Marco Polo had defined as being within the Sea of Cathay. For the following six months, he traipsed round one island after one other, asking each local he met in regards to the place of the gold mines of the good Khan. in fact, what he’d fairly came across have been the Caribbean islands of Cuba and Hispaniola. On 3 later expeditions, he explored southward to arrive the northern coast of Venezuela by means of 1498, an identical 12 months Vasco da Gama reached India. ultimately, annoyed by means of his failure to discover gold and riches, Columbus started conceiving a a growing number of grandiose view of himself and his expeditions so that it will justify his voyages—eventually believing he had stumbled on not anything below the legendary backyard of Eden. He unfold his theories upon his go back to Europe in a piece referred to as the e-book of Prophecies, adopting the identify “Christ-bearer” and drawing upon biblical passages to end up his voyage have been foretold as a sign for the top of background.

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