Magazine article American Libraries

Accused Rare Map Thief Pleads Innocent

Magazine article American Libraries

Accused Rare Map Thief Pleads Innocent

Article excerpt

A well-known collector and dealer in antique maps pleaded not guilty August 9 in New Haven (Conn.) Superior Court to three counts of first-degree larceny, the New Haven Register reported August 10. E. Forbes Smiley III, a resident of Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts, has worked with libraries and museums for the past two decades to help them build collections of early maps and atlases relating to the discovery and settlement of North America.

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The charges stem from his June 8 arrest on the Yale University campus. A Beinecke Library worker called campus police after discovering a utility knife blade on the library floor during Smiley's visit. A police detective followed him to the Yale Center for British Art, where he confronted Smiley and found in his possession seven rare maps whose total estimated value was nearly $900,000; library staff members identified three as belonging to the Yale collection, including a 1614 map by Captain John Smith believed to be one of the earliest accurate maps of New England.

The charges against Smiley have stimulated rare maps curators to examine their collections for missing materials. The same day as his court hearing, Boston Public Library officials announced that 10 maps were missing from six rare atlases in the library's collection that Smiley had at one time viewed. BPL President Bernard A. Margolis said in the August 10 Boston Globe that he believes a map of Lake Superior found in Smiley's possession at the time of his arrest may belong to the library. …

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