Though he was once part of an elite circle of antiquarian map dealers, E. Forbes Smiley’s career came to an abrupt end when he was caught stealing maps from the Yale University library. In The Map Thief, Michael Blanding details not only Smiley’s elusive career and eventual downfall, but digs deep into the fascinating world of rare maps.
The Map Thief catches readers from the start as it begins with Smiley’s end. With detail that rivals the best heist films, Blanding describes the steps Smiley took on the day he was caught and the glaring mistake he made that set the library staff, and eventually the police, on his trail. From there, the book takes makes a perfect parallel into the world of antiquarian maps while also becoming somewhat of a history of Smiley’s life. As Blanding discusses the paths that led Smiley toward map dealing, he details the oldest and rarest maps the man was aching to find.
While history buffs will certainly find themselves in a world of joy here, the style and pace of The Map Thief has much to offer for those just dipping their toes into non-fiction.