May 12, 2014
08:44 AMConnecticut Today
Tale of Yale's 'Map Thief' Told in New Book; Harvard a Victim Too
A new book offers the best glimpse yet of the social-climbing sneak thief who stole millions of dollars in rare maps from Yale University and other institutions a decade ago.
E. Forbes Smiley III, a Gatsby-like character who rose from modest beginnings to the inner circle of the rare map world, is the central figure in “The Map Thief,” which arrives in bookstores in early June.
Smiley made off with $2.3 million in antique maps from Yale, Harvard, the New York Public Library, Boston Public Library, the British Library and the Newberry Library in Chicago.
His arrest in 2005, after he dropped an X-Acto knife on the floor of theBeinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library’s reading room, sent shock waves through the ranks of rare book and map collectors, libraries and dealers. It also exposed serious lapses in library security at Yale and elsewhere.
“At (Yale’s) Sterling Memorial Library, even they would admit security wasn’t adequate at the time,” said Michael Blanding (right), the Boston-based journalist who wrote “The Map Thief.” “The Beinecke had tighter security, but Smiley stole from there several times previously before he was caught.”
Smiley admitted to pinching 97 maps, starting in 2002. They included a 1631 map of New England by John Smith, a 1676 map of New England by John Seller and more than a dozen others at Yale.