Friday, October 07, 2005

Hilarious: A thief of old maps in the US caught in action...?!!!

This is really a premiere for me... and sadly enough seems to be funny...

The Times
October 07, 2005
Arrest in library may throw light on shadowy world of stolen maps
From Charles Bremner in New York
A SUAVE New England antiquarian appeared in a Connecticut court this week before a trial that investigators hope will expose a vast international racket in stolen maps, including priceless Elizabethan charts lifted from the British Library.
The arrest of E. Forbes Smiley III as he left a library at Yale, allegedly with $900,000 (£508,000) worth of maps inside his coat, has rattled the cosy world of collecting and shocked curators who have lost precious documents.
Mr Smiley, 49, an authority in the map-collecting business, is charged with larceny over the Yale incident on June 8. A staff member spotted a craft knife under his seat in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at the university. Mr Smiley admitted that the knife was his and a search produced the maps that he had cut out, police said.
He is pleading not guilty and, on bail, has declined to discuss his actions.
However, FBI sources said that Mr Smiley had admitted the theft of more than a hundred maps, and the bureau is trying to find their purchasers and previous owners.
Since June, an FBI art-crime squad in Philadelphia has sent warnings to the British Library and other institutions where Mr Smiley, a specialist in Americana, conducted his studies on what seems to have been a worldwide map-stealing escapade. “The FBI has been in contact with certain other rare book libraries and learnt that those institutions are finding rare maps missing from volumes that Smiley had viewed, ” the FBI said.
Libraries in Boston, Chicago and New York have reported losses and Mr Smiley is strongly suspected while in the British Library of slicing two maps of Martin Frobisher’s 1578 expedition in search of the Northwest Passage.
The museum reported in August that it had gone missing from the volume A true discourse on the voyages of Martin Frobisher, along with a 1624 map of Nova Scotia. The theft upset Canada, where the Frobisher documents are deemed part of the national heritage.
Mr Smiley is reported to have been in trouble with the tax authorities and to have lived well beyond his apparent means, with his wife, Lisa Benson, at lavish homes on Martha’s Vineyard, the millionaire’s holiday island, and in Maine.
In the map world the Smiley affair has caused surprise among some and a feeling of “we told you so” among others. Ashley Baynton-Williams, a London dealer who worked for three years for Mr Smiley in Manhattan, said that he knew that Mr Smiley had always had money problems but had been surprised to learn of his alleged thefts. “His reputation was not great but I don’t think anybody thought he was stealing, ” Mr Baynton-Williams said. He described Mr Smiley as a “life and soul of the party” type.
In New York, Graham Arader, a leading dealer in maps and books, said that he had been “telling collectors for years that [Mr Smiley] was a crook and don’t buy from him”.
Mr Smiley has become the visible part of a huge trade in stolen maps, according to Mr Arader, who said: “It is an epidemic. Shady dealers, monasteries, they are all doing it. Rare book dealers and map traders have abrogated the trust placed in them.”
This trade was a consequence of the internet and the dominance of Sotheby’s and Christie’s as the clearing house for legitimate antique maps, he said. “There is not much room left for the middleman . . . Eighty per cent of the maps not from Sotheby’s and Christie’s are not legitimate.”
Mr Arader said that he believed that Mr Smiley took the British Library maps. “I am accusing him,” he said. Mr Baynton-Williams concurred. “Yes, he did do it,” he said.
Tony Campbell, the former head of the map collection at the British Library, said: “The Smiley case has exposed the danger that some of us have warned about for years. Let us hope that the right steps will be taken after this disaster.”
There has been no suggestion of dishonesty in Mr Smiley’s recent work for Lawrence Slaughter, a collector for whom he gathered material of Colonial North America that has been donated to the New York Public Library.

The 1507 Waldseemuller map, the first depicting the world as a globe and the first that names the New World “America”, was sold by Christie’s in June for £731,000
A contender for oldest map is inscribed on mammoth tusk and was found in Ukraine. It depicts a river and dates from 10,000BC
A series of carvings on a rock found in Ireland have been identified as the oldest map of the Moon, carved 5,000 years ago
A famous British map is the Hereford Mappa Mundi, dating from about 1300 and drawn on vellum with gold leaf
The first maps in the modern sense appeared in the 1550s with the introduction of copperplate printing,,11069-1814749,00.html


At 10:16 PM, Blogger Rael said...

I suppose the mammoth tusk, the Irish rock and the vellum map are already national treasures (read: not for sale!!)
caring for vintage maps


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