Michael Blanding has always been interested in maps so it’s not surprising that he wrote a book about a man who made a living stealing rare maps from libraries all over New England. The Map Thief traces the career of E. Forbes Smiley III, who made off with more than $3 million worth of maps, including some that were created over 500 years ago. Smiley walked out of many famous libraries with maps, including thefts from the Beinecke at Yale, the Houghton Library at Harvard, and the Rare Books and Manuscripts Department of the Boston Public Library.
Blanding captivated the audience with his stories about how Smiley regularly stole valuable maps and avoided capture for many years. The author also noted that as a result of Smiley’s thievery, libraries greatly improved their map security. Smiley served just over three years for his crimes, about 11 days for each of the 97 maps he had been convicted of stealing.