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

This book was a mixed bag. I like maps, and crime but this didn’t work too well as a book for me. This is the story of Smiley Forbes III, the rare map dealer, who was caught stealing many, many maps. It details his career as an art dealer, promininent maps he’s bought and sold, and then his downfall.

book cover

The flow of the book is all wrong. He goes into some of the narrative of Smiley’s life and then when he talks about a map Smiley bought or sold he goes off on a 5 page tangent about the map. I love arcane map knowledge but it got in the way of the story here. I feel the author couldn’t decide if he was writing a crime/biography or a story about maps.

At times, it is a bit uncomfortable how the author is sort of in awe of Smiley’s skill for deception, and stealing maps. I can’t really stomach that. Thieves that destroy, and try to profit off of irreplacable historical artifacts are the lowest of the low. We should behead them and hang them outside libraries as a warning to other would-be thieves. What kind of scum destroys, steals, or defaces humanities cultural heritage?

The only benefit of reading this book was looking up the map names on the internet to gaze in wonder at some of these beautiful, and historically important maps.

Champlain's 1613 map of New France

Now that I’ve finished this very disapointing book, I am yearning to read a really good book about maps. The hunt is on!

Rating: ★★

Book #19 in my 2022 Reading Challenge

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