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Many of the links below point to messages sent to the ExLibris list. In June 2009, the list's archive was transferred from Stanford University Libraries to the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation. Although the intention was to make the archive "publicly available again as soon as possible" this has not yet happened (February 2011). Those links no longer work but they have been left on the page in case they become functional again later.

Another good place for breaking news is < http://www.maproomblog.com/ > The Map Room weblog, whose archive includes a section on Map Thefts.

For news about the Forbes Smiley case (2005-May 2007) see Reports and news stories; for later Smiley references see below

News stories

{NB. For news about the thefts by Brubaker (Western Washington University, et al.) and Gómez Rivero (Madrid, National Library), see the headings above. For Forbes Smiley see in the chronological listing below for more recent mentions and Reports and news stories for the period up to May 2007. See separately below for Books, Articles, etc.}




  • < https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/12/19/antique-book-dealers-targeted-swathe-major-thefts-across-london/ > 'Antique book dealers targeted in swathe of major thefts across London. Experts fear criminal gangs may have been inspired by a daring heist three years ago in which £2.5m worth of rare artefacts were stolen' (by Max Stephens in The Telegraph, 19 December 2020). [On subscription or take a free trial.]
          'Antique book dealers have been targeted in a swathe of high-value thefts after being inspired by an abseiling gang who stole £2.5m of rare artefacts in a daring heist.' The photo caption is 'Up to £100,00 worth of rare maps were stolen from Altea Gallery in Mayfair'
  • 'How German Librarians Finally Caught an Elusive Book Thief'. 'For decades, often using a fake identity, he stole antique maps worth thousands of dollars each' (by Jeffrey Arlo Brown for Atlasobscura, 23 November 2020).
          A detailed account of the unmasking of Norbert Schild, dubbed the Büchermarder or book marten (an egg-stealer). Active since at least 1988, usually operating by cutting pages out of books, and with over 30 libraries thought to have been affected, he was observed on one occasiion and his distinctive description widely distributed in Germany. He is currently appealing against a jail sentence.
          Since Schild was despoiling libraries in a comparable way to Forbes Smiley, who was arrested in 2005, it is disappointing to learn that lessons were not learned, at least in Germany. The only good thing to come out of this is that a belated awareness of the vulnerability of maps in early books has led some libraries to take more rigorous preventative measures. It is to be hoped that this article will be widely circulated among rare book librarians.
  • 'The inside story of the $8 million heist from the Carnegie Library. Precious maps, books and artworks vanished from the Pittsburgh archive over the course of 25 years', a thorough account of "the most extensive theft from an American library in at least a century, the value of the stolen objects estimated to be $8 million", by Travis McDade for the Smithsonian Magazine, September 2020. All 276 maps from a 1644 Blaeu atlas were removed, along with the content of Ogilby's America and Ptolemy's Geographia.
  • Ronald E. Grim, 'In the footsteps of the crime: Recovering map masterpieces stolen by E. Forbes Smiley', The Portolan (Journal of the Washington Map Society, 107 (Spring 2020), pp.24-30.
  • 'Priore, Schulman Plead Guilty to Pittsburgh Rare Book and Map Thefts', from the Map Room blog (14 January 2020), which includes links to previous posts back to April 2018 (see more below). The former archivist of the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh, Gregory Priore, and rarebook dealer, John Schulman, pleaded guilty and are due to be sentenced on 17 April 2020. See also The Washington Post: <https://www.washingtonpost.com/history/2020/01/14/carnegie-library-book-theft/ >.
          The New York Times reported (20 June 2020) that Schulman had been sentenced, inter alia, to four years of house arrest and Priore to three. <https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/20/us/Carnegie-library-theft-schulman-priore.html?smid=em-share >. On 27 June 2020 the Deputy District Attorney Brian Catanzarite asked the judge to impose prison sentences so as to reflect “the serious and atypical nature of the offenses to which they pleaded guilty”, as reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette < https://www.post-gazette.com/news/crime-courts/2020/06/26/Allegheny-County-Carnegie-Library-PIttsburgh- thefts-prosecution-asks-judge-reconsider-sentences/stories/202006260121 >
          Also 'Men who stole rare books from Carnegie Library sentenced to home confinement' by Tom Davidson and Bob Bauder, for TribLIVE, 19 June 2020: < https://triblive.com/local/pittsburgh-allegheny/men-who-stole-rare-books-from-carnegie-library-sentenced-to-home-confinement/ >


  • < http://www.leparisien.fr/faits-divers/les-faux-chercheurs-volaient-des-cartes-geographiques-anciennes-28-05-2019-8081820.php > 'Les faux chercheurs volaient des cartes géographiques anciennes' (by Vincent Gautronneau in Le Parisien, 28 May 2019).
          Three men, all aged around 50, were arrested near Béziers (Hérault) by the investigators of the Central Office against the trafficking of cultural property (OCBC). Between the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019, they managed to steal at least five maps dating from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, from muncipal libraries in Limoges (Haute-Vienne), Auxerre (Yonne) and Le Mans (Sarthe). One map (not identified) was supposedly worth around 25,000 euros. The maps, which were probably stolen to order, have not yet been recovered.
  • 'Who Owned This? Libraries and the Rare Book Trade Consider Issues Surrounding Provenance, Theft and Forgery'.
          This was a symposium at the Grolier Club, New York, 5 March 2019, organized by the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB), the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America (ABAA) and co-sponsored by the Grolier Club. Videos of the eight talks are available via the Vimeo link. One secifically mentioned maps: Dorit Straus, 'Rare books, incunabula, map plates: Can insurance play a role in loss prevention and curbing thefts?'


  • < https://www.pressherald.com/2018/07/21/pittsburgh-pair-charged-with-stealing-rare-books/ > 'Pittsburgh pair charged with stealing rare books. Researchers find more than 300 items damaged or missing, a loss estimated at $8 million' (by Marc Levy, Associated Press).
          More on the mass theft noted in April 2018. Greg Priore, archivist at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (who had been fired in June 2017) and the owner of a nearby bookstall, John Schulman, were arraigned on 20 July 2018, charged with theft, conspiracy, forgery, receiving stolen property and other counts in the disappearance of hundreds of items. "The alleged scheme started unraveling last year when appraisers began a routine audit commissioned by the library and discovered that items were missing or damaged since the last audit in 1991 ... Detectives say efforts to recover the items have netted books, plates and maps estimated at a value of $1.1 million. Some were found during a search last year of Schulman’s book warehouse ... In a 36- page narrative filed in court, Priore told detectives that he first approached Schulman in the late 1990s about selling items from the library’s special collection and that Schulman agreed to do it. Priore, who in 1991 became manager and archivist of the library’s special collections room, simply walked out of the library with books, authorities say. Sometimes Priore concealed maps or illustrations in a manila folder or, if it was larger, rolled it up and carried it out, they said. Schulman paid Priore up front and pocketed the cash from items he could unload, detectives said."
          For links to further updates in August 2018 see 'Pittsburgh Rare Book and Map Theft Update', on The Map Room blog, 1 October 2018.
  • 'Bordeaux : le procès cette semaine d'un gang de voleurs de cartes anciennes' ('Ce lundi matin sept voleurs de bibliothèques vont comparaître devant la justice à Bordeaux. Ces ressortissants hongrois sont accusés d'avoir dérobé des dizaines de cartes géographiques anciennes datant du XV et XVI siècle. Préjudice estimé : 2,8 millions d'euros' - France Bleu, 13 May 2018) [For details of the case see below: 'Antique map thieves arrested in Hungarian and French police operation' (Europol, 25 February 2014)]
  • 314 Rare Books Stolen from Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Library (Hyperallergic, 1 April 2018, reports that an unspecified edition of Ptolemy's Geography was among 314 rare books, maps, folios and other items that were found to be missing in a stock-take in spring 2017 but only revealed in March 2018. The original announcement by the Carnegie Library, featured in < http://triblive.com/local/allegheny/13443929-74/thief-pulled-off-carnegie-library-heist-over-extended-period > Trib Live on 20 March 2018, had little detail. However, it does partially reproduce a list of the stolen books. It is not clear if that has been circulated to the trade. Hyperallergic quotes Michael Blanding's opinion: "From the list of stolen items in Pittsburgh, he noticed that the maps weren’t nearly as valuable as the books, so either the thief was more of a book expert or this was just a reflection of the Carnegie Library’s collections."
          Update 3 April 2018, from the MapRoom blog, noting that the full list of stolen items had been posted, including "maps by Hondius, Jefferys, Ogilby and Ortelius, as well as two copies of the Italian translation of Ptolemy’s Geography".


  • < http://ifcpp.org/event-2333002 > 'Security for Special Collection Librarians Workshop', 19 September 2017, organised by the International Foundation for Cultural Property Protection, at the Omni Hotel, New Haven, CT.
  • < http://www.tt.com/panorama/verbrechen/13561788-91/wertvoller-kepler-kupferstich-aus-landesbibliothek-gestohlen.csp > 'Wertvoller Kepler-Kupferstich aus Landesbibliothek gestohlen', from the Tiroler Tageszeitung (date not known). Describing the removal of the world map by Philip Eckebrecht from an example of Johannes Kepler's Tabulae Rudolphina (1627) in the Landesbibliothek, Innsbruck on 28 July 2017. Shirley No.335. [Noted here 26 December 2017.]


  • < https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/blogs/the-scoop/library-theft-security-inventory-provenance/ > 'Security, Inventory, and Provenance: Confronting the hidden truth about theft in libraries' (by George M. Eberhart for American Libraries Magazine, 17 August 2016). [The talks and discussions at the August 16 session on theft in libraries, sponsored by both the IFLA Strategic Programme on Preservation and Conservation and its Rare Books and Special Collections Section, included mentions of various map thefts.]
  • < http://uvamagazine.org/articles/to_catch_a_thief > 'To Catch a Thief: How a UVA detective brought a man accused of stealing maps across the country to justice' (by Diane Tennant in the University of Virginia Magazine).
          About Thomas Durrer, the detective at the University of Virginia's Library, who revealed the extent of the Gilbert Bland map thefts in 1995 - as described in The Island of Lost Maps, by Miles Harvey.


  • < https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2015/12/04/stolen-rare-map-returned-boston-public-library/B5kgP1M8yi0fdWwxT0fY2K/story.html > 'At BPL, sharp eye steers missing map home' (by Shelley Murphy in the Boston Globe, 4 December 2015).
          About an example of the 1612 Champlain map of New England, missing from the Boston Public Library collection and identified by the map curator Ron Grim in the catalogue of Cohen & Taliaferro. Although E. Forbes Smiley was the last person recorded as seeing it, this was not one of those he confessed to having taken. The key to the identification lay in copy-specific details that were revealed in the digital image taken earlier by the library. The dealer returned the map.
          See also < https://www.finebooksmagazine.com/press/2015/12/map-believed-stolen-from-the-boston-public-library-is-found-and-returned.phtml > 'Map Believed Stolen from the Boston Public Library is Found and Returned' (Fine Books & Collections, 4 December 2015).
  • < http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/07/22/employee-held-in-paris-national-library-theft/ > 'Employee Held in Paris National Library Theft' (by Doreen Carvajal in ArtsBeat, 22 July 2015).
          Includes the statement: "Earlier this summer, the library told the police that about 20 three-century-old maps had vanished from its Richelieu-Louvois branch, a 17th-century mansion in the heart of Paris that is undergoing renovation."
  • < http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/may/17/rare-book-experts-join-forces-to-stop-tome-raiders > 'Rare book experts join forces to stop tome raiders' ('British Library conference highlights rise in thefts from heritage libraries around the world, with tens of thousands of manuscripts missing', by Dalya Alberge in the Guardian, 17 May 2015).


  • < https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2014/01/the-peculiar-underworld-of-rare-book-thieves.html > 'The Peculiar Underworld of Rare-Book Thieves' (by John Ruch in Paste Magazine, 22 January 2014 [noted 30 August 2014]).
          A round-up, including Forbes Smiley, based partly on an interview with Bonnie Magness-Gardiner, manager of the FBI’s Art Theft Program, with comments on the available listings of stolen books, favouring ILAB's Stolen-Book.org.
  • < http://www.courant.com/entertainment/arts/hc-yale-map-thief-20140811,0,1176266.story > 'Map Thief's Misadventures Chronicled In New Book' (by David Holohan in the Hartford Courant, 11 August 2014).
          A phone interview with Michael Blanding, author of The Map Thief: the gripping story of an esteemed rare-map dealer who made millions stealing priceless maps. Including for example: "Q: Do you know how the restitution is going to those he stole from or sold stolen maps to? Is it likely all will be made whole?   A: I believe that they are garnering his wages, that's my impression, and that the dealers get very small checks every month or every few months. I don't expect he will ever be able to pay everyone back".
  • < http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/scores-valuable-maps-still-missing-7458704 > 'Scores of valuable maps still missing 15 years after they were plundered from National Library' (on WalesOnline, 20 July 2014).
          'Peter Bellwood was jailed for four-and-a-half years at Swansea Crown Court in 2004 after confessing to stealing 50 documents from the Aberystwyth’s National Library of Wales from March to August 2000. The gambling addict sold them for £70,000. But when the institution checked their archives they found 107 maps and one portrait had been plundered. Only 12 maps have ever been found – leaving 95 maps and the portrait still unaccounted for.
          'Tim Bryars, who runs Tim Bryars Ltd, a specialist map shop in London said: “These maps are gong to be difficult if not impossible to trace because they are not quite rare enough, or valuable enough, to arouse suspicion in a dealer.” Work stolen was by famous cartographers including Ortelius, Mercator, Hondius and John Speed.'
  • Further on Michael Blanding's The Map Thief: the gripping story of an esteemed rare-map dealer who made millions stealing priceless maps (New York: Gotham Books, 2014). Apart from the author's psychological insights into Forbes Smiley's character and motivation, the book also contains valuable appendixes. The first (pp.223-232) lists the 'Maps Smiley admitted stealing'. Of considerably greater value, is the second (pp.233-48), itemising the 'Additional maps libraries reported missing'. As explained in the note (p.291) this was based on the list compiled by John Woram. However, and this is the significant bit:
          "I have supplemented this list with my own research and reporting, verifying the information whenever possible with the curators at the institutions, most of whom were very open to assisting me. I also visited each of the six affected institutions and examined the books and maps themselves, in most cases personally viewing and photographing the items that have been recovered. While inevitably there may be errors in the listing, the final lists are as close to definitive as I have been able to make them."
          Even if collectors, rare map dealers and auction houses do not acquire the book they should certainly make sure to have those lists beside them when considering a future purchase of any similar item listed there. Otherwise it could be argued that the requirement for 'due diligence' will not have been met.
  • < http://hamptonroads.com/2014/06/grandson-charged-theft-navy-admirals-papers > 'Grandson charged in theft of Navy admiral's papers' (by Ann E. Marimow in the Washington Post, 11 June 2014).
          'Rear Adm. Samuel Eliot Morison was a friend to President Franklin D. Roosevelt who knew the ins and outs of the Navy's strategy during World War II. He would go on to write the definitive history of the Navy's wartime operations in a collection that spanned 15 volumes. In February 2013, an employee at the Naval archives in the Washington Navy Yard discovered that some of Morison's papers — a trove of maps, charts and photographs that informed his writings — had gone missing.
          On Tuesday, Morison's 69-year-old grandson was arrested and charged in the theft after some of the records turned up for sale on eBay. Samuel L. Morison of Crofton, Md., who had already been pardoned by President Bill Clinton for leaking classified photos to the media nearly three decades ago, is accused in court papers of stealing scores of items from his grandfather's collection ... The elder Morison, who died in 1976, was a well-regarded historian who had a warship named after him. His biographies of Christopher Columbus and John Paul Jones were awarded the Pulitzer Prize ... In 1985, Morison was found guilty of giving three classified spy satellite photographs to the British magazine Jane's Defence Weekly. He was pardoned by Clinton in 2001. Nine years later, Morison was hired as a part-time researcher in a position that gave him access to his grandfather's historical records at the Navy archives known as "Office Files of Rear Admiral Morison Papers."'
         Admiral S.E. Morison also wrote the two-volume European Discovery of America.
  • Yale’s ‘Map Thief’ story told in new book (Jim Shelton for the New Haven Register, 11 May 2014)
          A preview of Michael Blanding's The Map Thief due out in June. It includes some new material based on the author's six-hour interview with Forbes Smiley. Now known as 'Ed', rather than Forbes, he was working as a landscape labourer. One or two extracts:
          “The Sterling Library is the first place I realized I had access to material that was not well-catalogued, and it wasn’t clear it would be missed,” Smiley told Blanding. “I am looking at a piece of paper that I can fold and put in my pocket, that people in New York expect me to show up with because I’ve been doing this for 25 years legitimately.”
          “There’s something of a Greek tragedy in the hubris he showed,” Blanding said. Smiley told him, “The libraries weren’t using these things, and I’m building collections where they are going to be used.” After Smiley’s arrest, Yale closed its map department for months. Reese and others conducted a thorough examination of the collection, finding that a number of other maps were missing as well. According to Blanding’s book, Yale found 30 catalog cards for missing maps in the office of Fred Musto, curator of Sterling’s map collection. The university fired Musto for gross mismanagement.
          Graham Arader chips in with: “Not only was (Smiley) stealing stuff, he was selling copies of maps as the real thing.”

    Among the reaction from newspapers and journals, the following piece by the author in The Boston Globe (23 May 2014), - http://www.bostonglobe.com/magazine/2014/05/23/trail-martha-vineyard-rare-map-thief/qbFFssloEpByBZ4vK14DgL/story.html - 'On the trail of Martha’s Vineyard’s rare map thief', is worth noting.

  • 'Antique map thieves arrested in Hungarian and French police operation' (Europol, 25 February 2014)
          "A Hungarian organised criminal group, specialising in the theft of rare and valuable maps, has been dismantled by Hungarian and French law enforcement authorities, supported by Europol. After a lengthy two-year investigation, a common action day has led to the arrests of 11 criminal group members (7 in Hungary; 4 in France) and the seizure of more than 400 stolen antique maps in Hungary. Today, 110 valuable maps of French origin seized in this operation are being returned to French authorities during an official ceremony at the French Embassy in Budapest. The ceremony will be attended by the Hungarian Minister of Interior, the French ambassador, the French Police and Home Affairs attaché in Hungary, representatives of the French and Hungarian investigators, and Europol.

    "According to intelligence, the criminals usually stole to order from national archives, libraries and cultural institutions all over the EU. After gaining access to valuable books – often from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries – they cut out the desired maps or pages before smuggling them out of the building. The members of this criminal group are suspected of having committed thefts with this modus operandi in Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and Switzerland. Global losses caused by the group are thought to be in the millions of euros, but the stolen objects have a priceless cultural and historical value to the countries from which they were stolen. The investigation is still ongoing with suspects in jail awaiting trial.

    "Europol supported the investigation by organising operational meetings between the investigators and providing ad-hoc analysis of case intelligence. In addition, an alert report warning EU law enforcement authorities about this specific modus operandi was issued. International law enforcement coordination is essential to solve such cases and Member States are therefore encouraged to report similar cases in their countries to national authorities and Europol."

    A later report, 27 February, from XpatLoop, 'Hungary’s Interior Minister Returns Antique Maps Stolen From France', added that "The [110] maps, cut out of books, were stolen from the Library of Toulouse in 2012 and were discovered in the same year in a car near Gyor in north-western Hungary"

  • [For details of the trial see above under 13 May 2018]

  • 'The Peculiar Underworld of Rare-Book Thieves' (by John Ruch for Paste, 22 January 2014). [A summary of old news but including a reference to a forthcoming book on Forbes Smiley by Michael Blanding, who commented: “We may never know the full extent of Smiley’s crimes or recover all the maps he stole".]


  • 'Getting away with History' (by Donavan Griffin in Information Today, November 2013). [A round-up of library responses to book and map thefts.]
  • Maps of Central & Eastern Europe stolen (c.1919-39). "The Chicago Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is investigating the theft of historical topographical maps from various educational institutions. The maps are mostly from Central and Eastern Europe, including: Poland, Germany, Austria, and western Russia and their scales vary between 1:25,000 to 1:100,000 ... Of particular interest are maps published by the Wojskowy Instytut Geograficzny Instytut (Poland). The investigation has also revealed the theft of 19th century Austro-Hungarian topographical maps. The thefts have occurred as far back as 2008 and as recently as the spring of 2013". (17 July 2013)
  • < http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2013/july/fbi-seeking-owners-of-stolen-artwork/ > FBI 'Map Quest: Seeking Owners of Stolen Artwork' (12 July 2013). The FBI seeks to return 57 maps taken from E. Forbes Smiley III. "We are still in possession of 57 rare maps and books - some dating to the 17th century - and we would like to return them. To that end, we are posting pictures and information about the items in the accompanying photo gallery in the hopes that the individuals or institutions who own them will come forward to claim them ... In many cases, the maps were cut from books with a razor and trimmed so they didn’t look like they came from books. Some of the maps had different titles - many in Latin - and could have come from several known copies of the same book. To further complicate matters, many libraries weren’t even aware they were missing items until we contacted them." [Update 26 July. Information obtained from the FBI by Michael Blanding corrected the number of items in the press release and gallery from 57 to 28.]
  • Pennsylvania State University (eight sets of large-scale maps of Eastern Europe from around the time of WWII were stolen from the Donald W. Hamer Maps Library during March 2013. The details are given [reported May 2013]).


  • 4th LIBER Collection Security Conference, 23 November 2012, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague (with a link to the abstracts of the presentations).
  • 'First of 56 Books Stolen by Thief Who Killed Himself in 2004 Finally Located' (by Michael Stillman for the August issue of AE Monthly [=Americana Exchange]). This is further commentary on the thefts by Anders Burius from the Royal Library in Stockholm. Like others, Stillman asks the obvious questions: 'one of the 56 books stolen from the Royal Library were ever recovered. Why this fact seems to have been placed on the back-burner is unclear, since Burius had told officials where he had taken them, but perhaps everyone concluded it was too difficult to pursue them further. This part is hard to understand ... Mr. Arader was mystified as to why the Royal Library had not posted a list of missing items long ago. That is another aspect of this case that is hard to explain. Sometimes, libraries can be embarrassed by having their items stolen. It may make them look lax.'
  • Map Theft and Map Thieves (brief notes on recent map thieves by Caitlin Dempsey for GIS Lounge)
  • 'Barry Landau and the grim decade of archives theft' (a piece on the OUP Blog by Travis McDade about the toughening of US sentencing policy in relation to cultural theft, in this case from the National Archives, 29 June 2012).
  • < http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/27/books/swedish-royal-library-recovers-stolen-1597-atlas-in-new- york.html?_r=2 > 'Swedes Find Stolen Atlas in New York' (by Patricia Cohen in the New York Times, 26 June 2012). An example of the 1597 atlas of America by Cornelius Wytfliet, Descriptionis Ptolemaicae augmentum, stolen from the Royal Library in Sweden, has been recovered. The incident raises a number of the usual questions. It had been stolen by an employee of the Stockholm library, Anders Burius, who committed suicide in 2004, shortly after his arrest..
          The volume had been sold by Sotheby's in London the year before that, where it was bought by W. Graham Arader III. When a Stockholm librarian noticed it in his inventory, Arader returned it to Sotheby's, who passed it back to the Library 10 days ago. Arader pointed out that the Library had never published a list of what was known to have been stolen (despite the thief having removed the catalogue cards as well). The new climate is very much in favour of full and immediate disclosure, giving the antiquarian book and map trade a chance to exercise 'due diligence' and avoid purchasing such items. It also significantly increases the chance that the thief will be caught. Earlier this month, the Library belatedly issued a list of the 55 books that are still missing.
          It would seem that most of the stolen books were illustrated. Besides works on astronomy, navigation and travel, there are a number of atlases or books with maps, by, for example, Apian, Bertius, Bertelli, Champlain, Henepin, Montanus, Tschudi and Zeiller.
          All but two of the books were recorded as having been sold, in two cases twice, in a succession of sales (1995-2009), partly by F. Dörling but mostly at their successors, the Hamburg auction house Ketterer Kunst. The New York Times notes that "the police later discovered that Mr. Burius started stealing rare books as early as 1986 from at least four other prominent libraries. A number of stolen texts were found in his home and in a friend’s garage. As for the others, Mr. Burius ground off identifying marks and sold them, mainly to the German auction house Ketterer Kunst, using an alias. He told the police that he was never asked to show proof of the books’ provenance and that he was always paid in cash. Mr. Burius said he believed “that the auction firm understood that he didn’t have the right to sell them,” according to a 2008 Swedish government report". Ketterer Kunst have yet to supply an explanation.
  • 'Diversion offered for historic book and map thefts' (two Frenchmen age 22, Ilane Elie Benzara, and Guillaume Ferdinand Pringault, were charged in Christchurch, New Zealand 'with stealing library books and maps while helping remove them from an earthquake damaged building' [evidently a major library in the city]. 'The damaged items were L’Afrique en plusieurs cartes nouvelles worth $9767, a Book of Common Prayer worth $3183, a map of ancient England, value unknown, Moses and Aaren 4th edition, value unknown, Statuyten vande nonnen chartriosinnen from 1690, value unknown, Kearsleys Peerage, worth $154, and a map of Lincolnshire, worth $821' - from Christchurch Court News, 6 June 2012)
  • An alert from the Antiquarian Booksellers Association on 23 January 2012 gave details of the theft from a private home, on or about 16 December 2011, of Notes on various GSGS maps of the 1940s.


  • < http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/baltimore-city/bs-md-history- thieves-20111007,0,443863,full.story > 'Art investigators: Saving the country's cultural heritage, one recovered work at a time' (by Tricia Bishop in the Baltimore Sun) - 23 October 2011.
          Focusing on the attempts to identify material from the US National Archives among items recovered from Barry Landau, this broadens out into an account of how the badly staffed US agencies are trying to deal with increasing levels of cultural theft.
  • < http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204422404576596873383476078.html?mod=googlenews_wsj > 'The Case of the Disappearing Documents. One collector's love for presidential memorabilia lasted decades - and led to an indictment roiling a cloistered world.' (by Ellen Gamerman in the Wall Street Journal - 30 September 2011).
          The discursive piece about Barry Landau, accused of stealing American historical documents, includes the following: "Yale University clamped down on library security a few years ago after antiquities dealer E. Forbes Smiley confessed to widespread map theft on the campus and elsewhere, says Lynn Ieronimo, the head of security at Yale's Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library. That library has installed casino-style cameras that hover over every table in the glass-walled reading room, and the library is considering adding facial recognition software to its arsenal says Ms. Ieronimo, who adds that everyone's belongings, including her own, are searched upon departure."
  • < http://www.thelocal.se/35034/20110719/ > 'Swedish librarians find stolen atlas in New York' (by Rebecca Martin in the Local: Sweden's news in English, 19 July 2011 - posted 28 July).
          'One of the books stolen from the Swedish National Library in the beginning of the 2000s has been discovered with a collector in New York. This is the first of the books stolen in the by now infamous book thefts to have been tracked down. “The discovery was a combination between coincidence and skill, actually,” said head of information at the National Library (Kungliga Biblioteket –KB) Urban Rybrink to The Local.
          'In 2004 literary Sweden was hit by scandal when it was discovered that a respected specialist at the National Library in Stockholm had been pilfering rare books to a value of at least nine million kronor ($1.4 mllion) from the library’s collections and selling them off at auction houses worldwide for a number of years. After admitting to the crime while questioned by the police, the man took his own life five days after being released from custody by slitting his wrists and severing a gas lead in his kitchen ...
          'At the time the library was not allowed to make the list of stolen titles public due to the ongoing police investigation. But only a few weeks ago, library specialists looking into another atlas up for sale in New York, discovered a book, seemingly similar to an atlas they knew as stolen, among the books of a New York collector. “We have been able to verify that it is the right book by help of photos and descriptions sent back and forward between the library and the collector, “ said Rybrink. The book, an atlas from the 16th century called "Descriptionis Ptolemaicae augmentum, sive Occidentis notitia brevi commentario" which was made by Cornelis van Wytfliet, covers the “new world”; North and South America.'
          The article then explains why the Royal Library has little chance of getting the book back since it had been sold, several times, in good faith.
  • An 'Open Letter to Dealers in the Collectibles Trades' from Janine Moodhe on 21 July 2011 was forwarded to the MapHist list. 'Earlier this month convicted fraudster and thief John Charles Gilkey of California was arrested for a parole violation stemming from a series of incidents in San Francisco late last year. Now that he has been re-apprehended, he will be brought up again on charges either later this month or next in San Francisco. A career criminal, Mr. Gilkey has a long record of defrauding rare book and autograph dealers and dealers in other collectibles, with the use of stolen credit card numbers or with bad checks ...
          'Mr. Gilkey is reported to have a storage unit containing rare books, autographs, prints, maps, stamps, comic books, Hollywood and film memorabilia, and coins. Many of these objects may have been obtained through fraud. However, police cannot obtain a search warrant of the storage unit until they provide a judge with a list of items that they are seeking ...'
  • On 3 March 2011 there was a panel discussion at the National Archives, Washington, D.C., 'Protecting Our National Treasures: The Impact and Prevention of Archival Theft'.
  • A talk by Michael Inman, curator of Rare Books at The New York Public Library, 'A Long Road Home: Investigation and Recovery in the E. Forbes Smiley Map Theft', on 14 April 2011 in the Book History Colloquium at Columbia University. This will focus on the "the theft recovery process, from identifying purloined collection items and assigning ownership to dealing with law enforcement and insurance carriers. Particular attention will be paid to the important role that bibliography and cataloging plays in the recovery process."
    < http://www.ilab.org/eng/news/928-michael_inman_a_long_road_home_investigation_and_recovery_in_the_e__forbes_smiley_map_thefts.html >
  • [Noted 13 January 2011]. A recording of the 2010 RBMS Conference Program, 'To Catch a Thief: Cataloging and the Security of Special Collections', is now available on the RBMS site. It was recorded by Frank Rothkamm at the ALA Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., 27 June 2010. Note that the remarks of the attending FBI agent have been redacted; see also the Prospectus.
  • 'Forty Hall Museum thief jailed for "robbing Britain's heritage"' by Elizabeth Pears in the Enfield Independent, 26 January 2011 < http://www.enfieldindependent.co.uk/news/8812868.Forty_Hall_Museum_thief_jailed_for__robbing_Britain_s_heritage_/ >. A thief who set his sights on precious historical artefacts in Enfield's prized Forty Hall Museum was jailed yesterday. Gary Doyle, 54, of Lascott's Road, Wood Green, made off with six antique maps of Middlesex from the museum, in Forty Hill. Two days earlier he had swiped a replica Tudor helmet from the National Army Museum's Making of Britain gallery on October 5, 2010. But he was caught after trying to flog the antiquarian maps when the dealers saw through his claim that the pieces belonged to a relative. Doyle was captured on CCTV by Met Police officers who matched his image to both museums. He was traced and arrested.
          DC Michelle Roycroft, of the Art and Antiques Unit, said: "Doyle's arrest and subsequent charge demonstrates how by working closely with our partners in the museums and trade organisations we will combat thieves and thwart their attempts to profit from robbing Britain's heritage." Doyle appeared at Wood Green Crown Court, in Lordship Lane, on January 25, where a judge sentenced him to 15 months imprisonment.


  • [Noted 8 December 2010.] A talk scheduled for 14 April 2011, as part of the Book History Colloquium at Columbia University: 'A Long Road Home: Investigation and Recovery in the E. Forbes Smiley Map Thefts', by Michael Inman, Curator of Rare Books, The New York Public Library.
  • < http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-10695170 > 'How thieves target rare books' (by Andrew McFarlane in the BBC News Magazine, 21 July 2010).
          Further on the William Jacques case. He had been in jail before for book theft. 'Between October 1996 and May 1999, he stole about 500 extremely rare books and pamphlets from Cambridge, the British Library and London Library. Many were then sold on through auction houses in the UK and abroad, netting him hundreds of thousands of pounds...'
          'Many booksellers feel there has historically been a reluctance on the part of libraries to acknowledge there was a problem, with many fearing adverse publicity. "There were cases where embarrassment played a part and fear of how donors would react," says [Julian] Rota [President of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association]. However, he adds that many great research institutions are now much better prepared to tackle theft. "You don't want to have so much security that people can't get to the books," he says. "But libraries are much more clued up about theft than certain ones were 20 years ago."'
  • < http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/jul/20/tome-raider-william-jacques-jailed > ''Tome raider' jailed again for stealing valuable books' (by Sam Jones in the [London] Guardian, 21 July 2010).
          [Excerpts from the article about the jailing of William Jacques, which includes a photo]: 'A serial book thief who used a Cambridge degree and a tweed jacket as a "shabby cloak of respectability" to mask his deeds was jailed for three-and-a-half years today for stealing books worth £40,000 from the Royal Horticultural Society's library. There was, as the prosecution pointed out, little sophistication in the strategy employed by William Jacques, who had already been given a four-year sentence for plundering £1m-worth of rare books in the late 1990s. Armed with his scholarly jacket and a pair of glasses, the man dubbed "tome raider" began frequenting the RHS's Lindley library in Vincent Square, central London, and signing in under the false name of Santoro. But his regular visits and limited wardrobe soon caught the eye of staff, who grew suspicious. On one occasion, Southwark crown court heard, the defendant "was seen to place something inside his jacket and walk away with his left arm stiff against his jacket as if holding something". "It was rather crude," noted Gino Connor, prosecuting. "But it was effective."'
          '... not only did the [police] find a piece of paper bearing the names of 70 volumes of rare books, all kept at the library, along with their precise locations, there were also notes on the books' valuations and whether they included maps and plates that could be removed and sold separately. They then came across a card for London's Senate House library, also in the name of Santoro...'
          'Because he has never revealed his true address, investigators believe he may have stashed the rare books he stole in a secret location....' The thief, who failed to pay the £56,327 demanded when he was last before the courts, faces confiscation proceedings next January. With interest, the amount outstanding now totals £93,000.' On Jacques see also below, 2 February 2009.
  • < http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-wear-10685237 > 'Durham University's stolen manuscripts appeal' (BBC News Wear, 19 July 2010).
          'Durham University has made a renewed appeal for the return of six historic books and manuscripts stolen more than 10 years ago. The items, valued at about £160,000, formed part of an exhibition at the University Library charting the progress of English literature. Also taken during the theft in 1998 was a priceless Shakespeare First Folio. This has now been returned following the conviction of Raymond Scott for handling stolen property. The 53-year-old, of Wingate in County Durham, was warned he faced jail after being cleared of stealing the Folio but found guilty of handling stolen goods and removing stolen property from the UK. Security arrangements at the library at Palace Green have been significantly tightened since the 1998 theft.
          The missing documents include a manuscript by the medieval political writer Egidius Romanus, and a volume containing three works on English history with maps - Michael Drayton's Poly-Olbion (1612); William Slayter's The History of Great Britanie (1621) and Matthew Stevenson's Florus Britannicus (1662). Dr Sheila Hingley, head of heritage collections at Durham University, said: "The theft of these historic books and manuscripts was devastating for the university community. "We were all delighted at the return of the Shakespeare First Folio, and we would love to be reunited with the other missing books and manuscripts which form an important part of the historically significant collections held at the University." A Durham Police spokeswoman appealed for anyone with information to ring Crimestoppers.'
  • Announcement of a meeting on 27 June 2010 in Washington, D.C. 'To Catch a Thief: Cataloging and the Security of Special Collections' - 2010 Conference Program of ACRL's Rare Books and Manuscripts Section (RBMS) at the American Library Association's Annual Conference, with co-sponsorship by ALCT's CMDS and ALA's MAGERT. "How can libraries fulfill the need to provide access to their collections while simultaneously protecting them? Can full catalog records deter theft? How have they been instrumental in identifying and reclaiming stolen materials? Recognizing ongoing pressures on technical service staff and library administrators due to budget cutbacks and competing priorities, this program will explore how balancing faster and cheaper cataloging with sufficiently robust descriptions benefits the security of special collections in libraries."
  • OCLC Webinars Missing Materials.org (slides of the event on 11 May 2010)
  • See 'Map Theft Update' and 'Map Thefts in US Libraries', under 'Subject', on the MapHist list in April 2010.

  • Are we to look forward to Forbes Smiley on screen - though apparently it may not be entirely truthful? In an interview with Fred Melamed, who played the manipulative Sy Ableman in the Coen Brothers’ film 'A Serious Man' (New York Magazine, 21 January 2010 - seen 12 February), he stated the following:
         "... I’m writing a screenplay now, which I’m trying to direct, and it’s about a man who was a well-known map expert, who was famous for having discovered certain maps, and he was caught stealing from the Beinecke Library at Yale a few years ago. A guy named Forbes Smiley, he was actually a college friend of mine. The screenplay also has references to other things that happened to Forbes Smiley, although most of it is invention [!]. And many of our friends who’ve looked at it are amazed that so much of it is invention. They thought I was going to make a biopic or something. But being able to invent gives you a lot of freedom. By the way, the film is called (Also, a Villager) ... " < http://nymag.com/daily/entertainment/2010/01/a_serious_mans_fred_melamed.html >.
  • < http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2010-01-24/mumbai/28137750_1_asiatic-society-maps-antique > 'Antique maps missing from Asiatic Society' [Hemali Chapia, TNN, 24 January 2010, via the Times of India - seen 8 February]. This brief note describes the extensive theft of maps from the Asiatic Society of Mumbai, founded in 1804.
          'Almost nothing remains of the entire set of maps that date back to 1803-04: they depict the expanse of Mumbai (then Bombay) in great detail when the first revenue survey was carried out. Called the Dickinson survey, close to 350 rolls had every part of the city drawn - its street plan, forts, old tanks, buildings. The 200-year-old guardian of these maps has no clue how they slipped through its fingers. And in what doesn’t seem to be an admirable reflection of Asiatic Society’s efforts to preserve these records, another set of antique rolls last catalogued in 1975 is short of 150 maps. These included admiralty charts of various parts of the world, some drawn by the Portuguese who were considered prolific cartographers.
          ‘"It appears to be a systematic theft. Of another set of 1,330 maps that were catalogued by an internal committee of Asiatic, only 1,135 remain now. I’ve written a letter to Society regarding these missing maps. Maps have been vanishing over a period of time"', according to B Arunachalam, Professor of Geography at the University of Mumbai.
  • E. Forbes Smiley III. 'According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons website, Smiley was released from prison yesterday' (note to the ExLibris list, 16 January 2010).


  • 'Sharing Information: Report on the LIBER Library Security Network (LSN) Since 2002' (by Erland Kolding Nielsen in LIBER Quarterly 18,2 (September 2008): 90-100). I did not notice until 27 December 2009 this comment about Peter Bellwood, who, on completion of his jail term in the UK for thefts from the National Library of Wales was sentenced to a further term in Denmark: 'Under cross examination yesterday [23 May 2008] in court Peter Bellwood confessed that he had sold the 11 maps [from the Danish Royal Library] to antiquarian and map dealer David Bannister in London for GBP3,500. This is new information for us, since Peter Bellwood has hitherto not been willing to reveal the identity of the buyer.' Prompted by that, a Google check pulled up the [London] Guardian article of 23 December 2004 [see below], which had already disclosed Bannister as the purchaser of from Bellwood of maps taken from the NLW.
  • Prevention and Suppression of Theft of Works of Art (a brief note about the Art Loss Register and the Brussels-based Bureau Central Oeuvres d'Art et Antiquités - issued by the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB), 30 November 2009)
  • 'Accessing the Inaccessible: Creating a Digital Cartobibliography of Embedded Maps', by Craig Haggit in Journal of Map and Geography Libraries, 5:1 (January 2009) pp.40-54 [seen 15 October 2009, but subscription required] - "Maps within printed books have long been both useful for research and often difficult to access. Numerous indexes have been published in the past 150 years to resolve this problem, though these efforts have necessarily been limited in scope. A selection of these works is reviewed, and an online and collaborative cartobibliography aimed at providing a method to index embedded maps using wiki software is discussed". Citing this may seem strange, since the < http://www.cartoko.com/ > Cartoko Wiki discussed here has no concern with theft avoidance. However, Craig Haggit's initiative, building on the work of those who had earlier attempted to index the maps 'embedded' in books, has strong echoes of the project I have long urged, namely to produce a collaborative index of 'vulnerable' maps - vulnerable, that is, to theft because of their commercial value and saleability. Armed with such a list, whose contents would already be known to an educated thief, the rare book curator would be able to take the necessary preventative action. The inclusion of scans on Cartoko is reminiscent of the British Library's 'Vulnerable Items and Topographical Images Projects (Map Library)'.
  • " The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession"- a book review by Jeremy Dibbell on the PhiloBiblos blog (4 October 2009). 'Allison Hoover Bartlett has turned her 2006 San Francisco Magazine article < http://www.sanfranmag.com/story/man-who-loves-books-too-much > "The Man Who Loved Books Too Much" into a book by the same name (Riverhead, 2009). The subject is John Charles Gilkey, longtime book thief and crook-of-all-trades, who has stolen (and most likely continues to steal) from book dealers and libraries around the world.' At least one reference to maps is quoted: 'Naturally, things progressed, and even during the course of reporting for the book, Bartlett learned that Gilkey had begun stealing maps and other rare materials from libraries: on p. 181, she writes that she asked the thief "'Have you ever taken a book from the library?' ... Gilkey looked incredulous. 'No,' he said. 'That would be stealing.' I had no idea what to say." By p. 240, he's admitted to stealing dust jackets and cutting maps out of library books. "So much for not stealing from the library," Bartlett notes.'
          Dibbell explores the general issue of journalistic ethics, when presented with evidence of crime. A word of warning: 'As Bartlett notes in the afterword, Gilkey couldn't be stopped: just before the book went to press, he stole a book from a Canadian dealer. I'm sure it's not the last time.'
  • In response to a request for information from the prison service submitted by Everett Wilkie (convenor of the ExLibris list) the following statement was released on 11 September 2009: 'According to the U.S. Prison at Devens, MA, E. Forbes Smiley is to be released from that prison and sent to a half-way house, the Barnstable County Work Release Center, in Bourne, MA, on September 22. He is scheduled to be released completely from custody on January 17, 2010.'
  • < http://www.ceskenoviny.cz/news/zpravy/czech-court-imposes-five-years-on-pole-for-theft-of-rare-maps/393508 > 'Czech court imposes five years on Pole for theft of rare maps' (in the Ceske Noviny, 19 August 2009).
          'A Czech court today sentenced 47-year-old Pole Piotr Stanislaw Peron to five years in prison for stealing 16th-century maps from the Scientific Library in Olomouc, expelled him from the Czech Republic for eight years and ordered him to pay 1.2 million crowns to the library. The verdict has not taken effect as Peron appealed it immediately.
          'In March Peron took the Apian World Map, originating in 1520, away from the library, after cutting it out from an ancient book, Ioannis Camertis Minoritani. Then he attempted to steal a map from 1599. The police caught him red-handed. An expert estimated the value of the original coloured Apian map at 1.2 million crowns [about $67,000]. The value of the other map, depicting North Pole and America's northernmost parts, was estimated at 600,000 crowns. Unlike the former map, the latter has been returned to the library.
          'Peron confessed to having stolen the latter map, but asserted that he has never seen the former. Judge Marketa Langerova labelled his assertion expedient. "When a library expert was giving his testimony, Peron came up with thorough information about details in the map, before being stopped by his defence lawyer. The five-year sentence was imposed in view of the danger [such crime poses] to society, of the damage caused and because significant pieces of cultural and historical heritage were involved," Langerova said.
          'State attorney Petra Brncalova said Peron, with a permanent residence in Canada, was probably a member of an organised group."He was interested in history, maps and atlases. He knew how to handle books, he was an experienced professional," Brncalova said. Experts say similar maps can sell for an equivalent of up to 6 million crowns on the U.S. market, while the prices are slightly lower in Europe. In the past, Peron was prosecuted for frauds in Poland. In March he was not allowed to leave Poland and was bound to regularly report to the local police.' The article includes a photograph of the thief.
  • < http://www.thinkspain.com/news-spain/16929/multiple-map-thief-behind-bars > 'Multiple map thief behind bars' (from thinkSpain, 12 August 2009).
          'A thief, who has already made off with nearly 70 priceless maps and documents from a number of Spanish libraries, and who was arrested by the Guardia Civil on Friday, had planned a route of robberies across the rest of Spain and abroad. Z.V., a 47-year-old Hungarian, had marked all the libraries he planned to 'visit' on a road map, continuing the journey he started in the north of Spain, passing through another 30 or so Spanish cities before moving into Portugal, France and then Italy. His 'visits' to libraries in Soria, Toledo, Valladolid, Logroño and Pamplona had already netted him 67 historic maps and cartographic documents dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries as well as several from the Ptolemaic dynasty of ancient Greece [i.e. presumably Ptolemaic maps].
          'All the stolen documents have been recovered from the hotel room in Pamplona, where Z.V. was arrested on Friday. The thief has no previous criminal record and is currently resident in the Dominican Republic where he works as a second-hand car salesman. Apparently the man had no intention of selling the documents, that he wanted for his own private collection ... The police operation, codenamed 'Operación Biblión' began in March 2008, when a map dating back to 1537 was stolen from the Real Biblioteca in the San Lorenzo Monastery in Escorial (Madrid). The thief was eventually tracked down thanks to hotel records in the towns where he had stolen.'
          See further two articles in Spanish: (1) < http://www.levante-emv.com/sucesos/2009/08/12/detienen-ladron-mapas-ptolomeo/620446.html > 'Detienen al ladrón de los mapas de Ptolomeo. El acusado de robar 67 documentos cartográficos tenía una hoja de ruta con bibliotecas de España, Francia y Portugal' (from levante-emv.com, 12 August 2009); and (2) < http://www.museum-security.org/?p=2478 > 'Spain - El ladrón de mapas antiguos robó páginas de ocho libros de Navarra / Among the copies seized by the Guardia Civil is the first modern atlas, Theatrum orbis terrarum (1579)' (featuring the text of an article by Nerea Alejos (Pamplona, 12 August 2009) via the Museum Security Network).
  • A recent book out from Praeger Publishers, edited by Noah Charney: < http://www.praeger.com/catalog/C36635.aspx > Art and Crime: Exploring the Dark Side of the Art World, includes articles, one by Travis McDade and the other by Richard W. Oram and Ann Hartley, on issues relating to library, archival, and map thefts and the recovery of special collections [thanks to Joel Kovarsky for this, 3 August 2009].
  • More on the Kansas University Watson Library theft. Detective Jack Campbell Jr. forwarded a list of the missing items to MapHist on 3 July 2009.
  • < http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2009/jun/09/rare-books-kus-watson-library-targeted-vandals/ > 'Rare books at KU’s Watson Library targeted by vandals' (by Jesse Fray in the Lawrence Journal, 9 June 2009 [seen 12 June]).
          'Thieves are ripping off Kansas University’s Watson Library, tearing apart books filled with old and expensive artwork, taking what’s valuable and leaving destruction behind. Thousands of dollars worth of expensive pages have been cut apart and stolen from rare books dating to the early 1800s, their bindings and remnants left sprinkled in unusual spaces throughout the library. "It’s really unfortunate and incredibly rare that something like this would happen," said Rebecca Smith, library spokeswoman. The thefts began May 28, when two books - valued at $3,700 by the library - were damaged and parts of them stolen. The books, or large folios, contained expensive plates of unique artwork and archaeological drawings, said Lea Currie, head of collection development for KU libraries.'
          Two obvious questions: how do they know more than one peron was involved, and how, after all the recent, and widely publicised, slicing out of plates from books, can those in charge of rare books find such activity surprising? No details were given here but it seems that some maps were involved. [Thanks to Heather Kinsinger for drawing my attention to this.]
  • Announcement: Annual Study Conference of CILIP [Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals] Rare Books & Special Collections Group, 'A Special Relationship? Special Collections and the Antiquarian Book and MSS Trade', at Clare College, Cambridge, 9-11 September 2009 - 'an opportunity to examine and discuss issues concerning libraries and the antiquarian book trade, including acquisitions, donations, valuations, theft and the sale of library materials'.
  • Posts to the MapHist list on 12 May 2009 [see the Archive under the heading 'Map thief arrested in Cleveland, Ohio'] give a few details of a court appearance in Cleveland, Ohio of Shannon Marie Timura. She is accused of having taken 1,200 'prints' from the Cleveland printseller, Scott Francis, to sell online. Apparently, about 1000 of those have been recovered. Among the decorative prints were a number of maps, mostly, it seems, 19th-century atlas maps of the United States.
  • < http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/8024809.stm > 'Book page thief sentence halved' (BBC News 29 April 2009).
          'An Iranian scholar who stole pages from priceless books at Oxford's Bodleian library and the British Library has had his sentence halved. Farhad Hakimzadeh, 61, of Knightsbridge, central London, pleaded guilty to 14 counts of theft and was jailed for two years in January 2009. Judges at the Appeal Court reduced the sentence to 12 months and a deportation order was overturned ...
          'William Boyce QC, for the scholar, pleaded his "philanthropic and charitable works" in mitigation, asking for his jail term to be decreased. Mr Justice Blake, giving the court's judgement, said: "This was not a case of someone stealing to improve his library then preventing scholars from accessing those books in the future. All the books have been recovered and so have the pages. "He has suffered a considerable humiliation and loss of reputation at the age of 61 years." The decision means that Hakimzadeh, having served 104 days, will be released in 78 days time.
          'A spokesman for the British Library said: "When Hakimzadeh damaged and stole pages from Library items he abused the trust that we extend to all researchers using our collections. "We have zero tolerance of anyone who harms our collections and will pursue anyone who threatens them with utmost vigour." The spokesman added that the Library will "continue to pursue a number of routes with the aim of achieving redress for the damage he caused."'
          No clear details have been released about the maps that were taken. All the books have apparently been recovered. Does that apply also to the maps?
  • 'Steal the world' ['an English translation of an article that appeared in the Spanish national newspaper ABC in 2008', via the blog of ARCA (Association for Research into Crimes against Art), 14 March 2009. The original article, authored by Noah Charney, appeared on '4-1-2008'. It is a polemical and pessimistic round-up of the Smiley, Gomez Rivero and other cases. 'Map theft is frighteningly commonplace. But discreet statistics are rarely if ever kept by police, so the exact number of book, manuscript, and map thefts per year in various countries is unclear ... There are hundreds of Smileys and Johnsons and Gomez Riveros still out there, plundering one of the least protected of the world’s treasure troves.'
          Travis McDade is quoted on the subject of map dealers, who are 'allowed to plead ignorance, saying that they thought the stolen map they bought was a rare opportunity, a fantastic buy.' Among his own observations is this: 'The surprise is not in the National Library [in Madrid] thefts having occurred at all, but that someone was careless enough to have been caught.' He does, however, urge that we all learn from past mistakes and he suggests various practical security measures. Some have been urged by others; a few perhaps will be thought impracticable.
  • < http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/d41a83d6-09dc-11de-add8-0000779fd2ac.html > 'What drives people to steal precious books' (by Tim Richardson in the Financial Times, 6 March 2009).
          A run-down of recent events and of the measures being taken in an attempt to make things more difficult for future thieves. The task, though, is a large one. 'The Museum Security Network, a Dutch-based, not-for-profit organisation devoted to co-ordinating efforts to combat this type of theft, estimates that only 2 to 5 per cent of stolen books are recovered, compared with about half of stolen paintings ... Yet there is still no global security network for libraries and the need for more co-operation and openness is, perhaps, reflected in the fact that Hakimzadeh had form'. Though brief, the article is wide-ranging. 'Now we come to the elephant in the room: insider theft. The vast majority of library staff would, of course, never dream of stealing items in their care but evidence suggests that most thefts are committed by staff or trusted insiders.' The piece includes a summary of Martin Gill's tips 'To catch a thief', from a recent LIBER Quarterly article.
  • < http://www.rbms.info/committees/task_force/alasaa_joint_access/index.shtml > 'Joint Statement on Access to Research Materials in Archives and Special Collections Libraries' (20 February 2009).
          The draft statement, with important passages concerning security, and references, has been posted for comment by 15 March. It was prepared by a joint group from the American Library Association and the Society of American Archivists.
  • < http://www.news.com.au:80/couriermail/story/0,23739,25003084-5003424,00.html > 'Linda Fairstein turns real life into crime story success' (by Fiona Purdon in the [Queensland] Courier Mail , 6 February 2009).
          Forbes Smiley has achieved further fame - literary this time. The former chief prosecutor of the Manhattan District Attorney Office's Sex Crimes Unit, Linda Fairstein, now a crime novelist, has set her latest book, Lethal Legacy in the New York Public Library.
          'Conservator of antique books and maps Tina Barr is attacked in her apartment, which turns out to be a murder scene the next day. [Alex] Cooper and regular police associate Mike Chapman delve into the shady world of rich collectors and library conservation as Fairstein explores how far people will go to secure a rare map - even murder. Barr is a suspected associate of map thief Eddy Forbes, who is based on two real- life criminals - Victor Phillips and Edward Forbes Smiley. Phillips was convicted of criminal possession of stolen property in 1976 after he stole rare maps and books, which he cut up to sell as individual prints'.
          Smiley I think we already know. I hope her No.1 fan, Bill Clinton, enjoys this one, though map curators and those occupied in the 'shady world' of library conservation may have slight cause for alarm.
  • 'Guardian Comments on Book Thefts' (PhiloBiblos, 2 February 2009) - Jeremy Dibbell adds his own useful comments to the Guardian article referred to in the preceding entry: 'Auction houses and book dealers must do a more thorough job of checking provenance, and must report suspicious items when they are offered for sale. Libraries and all other institutions must speak out when they've been robbed, and must follow through on the cases and carry them to completion. Collectors must also be watchful of what they're purchasing - even when it's from reputable dealers - and follow up on any suspicious items offered or purchased. Most importantly, all three groups must talk to each other.' He also points out that 'if the international media publicized cultural crimes more often and in more depth, not only would more thieves be captured, but judges and legislatures would take notice and enact the penalties these criminals deserve.'
  • < http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/feb/02/antiquarian-book-theft-library-crime > 'Book world's silence helps tome raiders. Libraries secretive about acts by eccentric criminals. Scale of antiquarian book thefts is unknown' (Sandra Laville in the [London] Guardian, 2 February 2009) - A round-up of recent rare book theft cases: William Simon Jacques, known as the 'tome raider', who uses aliases such as Mr Santoro or David Fletcher, 'jailed for four years for stealing £1m worth of rare and ancient books from the British Library in one of the biggest hauls in legal history', and now out of prison; David Slade, a former president of the (UK) Antiquarian Booksellers Association - a trusted insider, like Smiley, who betrayed that trust to steal private press volumes from his employer Sir Evelyn de Rothschild; and Farhad Hakimzadeh. The commentary points out the mismatch between some current practice and what is needed. The gagging clause in the Hakimzadeh case was unknown to me.
          'They successfully plunder priceless tomes, manuscripts and ancient maps, while the players in this closed world - the national and international libraries, the dealers and the victims themselves - largely remain silent about what is going on ... Alan Shelley, current president [of the ABA], said the only way to eradicate the trafficking of rare books was to work closely with libraries, auctioneers and dealers. The British Library has led the way by admitting when it is the victim of theft. But while major international libraries alert each other to details of stolen books or descriptions of thieves, these do not always reach the antiquarian book trade and not all libraries are honest about falling victim to theft. "We all need to be a bit more grown up," said Jolyon Hudson, from Pickering and Chatto antiquarian bookseller. "[Libraries] are the curators of the nation's knowledge, and when they lose it they are somewhat embarrassed to admit that."
          'The British Library, already plundered by Jacques, and after him by the American thief Edward Forbes Smiley, fell victim to the secrecy surrounding the antiquarian world, when they allowed Farhad Hakimzadeh to become a reader. He proceeded to slice out sections of handbound books, causing £300,000 worth of damage - a crime for which he received two years in jail this month. Unknown to the library, the Iranian academic had stolen almost £100,000 worth of books from the Royal Asiatic Society 12 years before. But in an out-of-court settlement, which included a gagging clause on both sides, Hakimzadeh paid the RAS £75,000 and details were not sent around the international library alert system.'
  • < http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/jan/17/british-library-damaged-books > 'British Library seeks £300,000 damages from book vandal' (the [London] Guardian, 17 January 2009) - Further details emerge here about Farhad Hakimzadeh, in particular the theft from the Royal Asiatic Society, on whose Editorial Board he sat, for which he avoided the publicity that would have attended prosecution. The later thefts from the British Library and Bodleian followed. It is also confirmed that he had made monetary gain from at least some of those thefts.
          'Farhad Hakimzadeh, 60, used a scalpel to remove leaves from the priceless books, which date back to the 16th Century and chart the travels of westerners in the Middle East. Appearing at Wood Green crown court in London for sentencing yesterday, Hakimzadeh, who lives in a £3m home in Knightsbridge, south-west London, claimed he suffered from an obsessive compulsive disorder which forced him to remove the pages to complete his own extensive collection.
          'The court heard that his obsession was such that he left his marital bed on his wedding night to polish his books, but that he also made monetary gain, selling one of his own books with a stolen page inserted into it for more than £2,000. Passing sentence, Judge Peter Ader told Hakimzadeh: "I have no doubt you were stealing for gain in order to enhance your library and your collection. It seems to me it was a kind of vanity that you wanted to have the best library in your field ..."
          'The court heard he had stolen 94 items from the Royal Asiatic Society in 1998, but paid the library £75,000 as compensation. The British Library is pursuing its own civil claim for damages in excess of £300,000 from Hakimzadeh. The claim takes into account the priceless nature of some of the books he damaged which cannot be restored.'
  • < http://uk.news.yahoo.com/4/20090116/tuk-jail-for-stealing-pages-from-rare-bo-dba1618.html > 'A businessman has been jailed for two years after admitting stealing pages from rare and priceless books at two historic libraries' (Yahoo News, 16 January 2009) - Farhad Hakimzadeh was sentenced at Wood Green Crown Court (in north London) to two years in jail. He had a Reader's Pass from the British Library from 1998 and had been stealing from the Bodleian Library, Oxford from at least 2003. 'Separate civil proceedings have been launched by the British Library against him'. [See under 21 November 2008 for the initial story.]
  • Ton Cremers, in a post on the < http://www.museum-security.org/?p=916 > Museum Security Network (2 January 2009) takes issue with 'Noah Charney’s misconceptions about art theft', referring to a post by Charney on 30 December, '2008 in Review: Art Crimes of the Year', to artinfo.com < http://www.artinfo.com/news/story/29907/2008-in-review-art-crimes-of-the-year/?page=1 >. One of the examples cited is Farhad Hakimzadeh (due to be sentenced on 16 January) whom Charney sees as a rare example of the thief who does not steal to sell. Until/unless more information becomes available, this interpretation seems unlikely [see the long entry under 21 November 2008].
  • < http://www.americanaexchange.com/NewAE/aemonthly/article.asp?f=1&page=1&id=740 > 'Police Blotter: 284,000 Stolen Books, and a Scholar-Thief' (seen 2 January 2009, on Americana Exchange) - another round-up, this one by Michael Stillman, of recent book thefts, referring, inter alia, to Smiley and Hakimzadeh.
  • PhiloBiblos posted a 1 January 2009 Round-up of the book (and map) thefts during 2008, with links to his posts about them at the time.


  • Daniel Crouch of the London dealer, Bernard Shapero Rare Books, announced to MapHist on 2 December 2008 ('Stolen maps and atlases') that 'a number of atlases were stolen from one of our customers' Mayfair office last Thursday evening. A list follows below. Also taken were several dozen antique sheet maps, all folio size or larger; most depicting part or all of Greece or the Mediterranean. A list of these will be available shortly.'
  • The London media provided general cover, on 21 November 2008, of the story about the 60-year old, Harvard- trained businessman, Farhad Hakimzadeh, who sliced pages from 150 early books in the British Library and the Bodleian Library, Oxford. See, for example, the Guardian, 'History's missing pages: Iranian academic sliced out sections of priceless collection' < http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2008/nov/21/british-library-sues-iranian-academic >, the Independent, 'Millionaire stole priceless pages from Bodleian's rarest books' < http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/millionaire-stole-priceless-pages-from-bodleians-rarest-books-1028253.html >, and the BBC, 'Scholar faces jail for page theft' < http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7739754.stm >. Hakimzadeh, who left Iran at the fall of the Shah, has a U.S. passport and was 'chief executive of the Iran Heritage Foundation, a charity he formed in 1995 to promote and preserve the history, languages and culture of Iran' (this and other quotes from the Guardian).
          The reported facts include the following. Over a period of seven (or eight) years he used a scalpel to remove pages and maps from books (presumably seen in the British Library's Rare Books Reading Room), making sure he was unsighted by the CCTV. I have seen reference to just one map although 'maps', in the plural, was mentioned several times. This appear to be the world map attributed to Holbein, which appeared in the 1532 Huttich and Grynaeus Novus Orbis regionum (Shirley No. 67). I did not see any comment as to whether or not this map has been retrieved, nor the identity or fate of others.
          The books he mutilated described 'how Europeans travelled to Mesopotamia, Persia and the Mogul empire from the 16th century onwards'. In some cases Hakimzadeh used the stolen pages to complete books in his own collection. However, many of the sheets have not been recovered, which raises the obvious questions: where are they now, and has he been selling the marketable material, particularly the maps? He has pleaded guilty to specimen charges of stealing 10 items from the BL and four from the Bodleian. The BL has valued the damage to their books at £400,000 and has launched civil proceedings against Hakimzadeh, who is described as a millionaire.
          When damage to one book was reported in 2006, a check was made of other volumes consulted by those who had seen that title. Once the trail led to Hakimzadeh, he was found to have sliced material out of up to 150 of the 842 books he consulted. In the opinion of Dr Kristian Jensen, the head of British collections at the library, "Hakimzadeh is eminently characteristic of our traditional groups of readers: he has a profound knowledge of the field. From my point of view, that makes it worse because he actually knew the importance of what he was damaging. What he did was use the cover of serious scholarly purpose to steal historic pieces and abuse our trust." Jensen also stated that the thefts were the most damaging the British Library had suffered.
          [Update: the [London] Times (also 21 November), 'The gentleman thief who took a leaf out of the British Library’s rarest travel books' < http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/article5201784.ece > states, 'The total cost of the damage that he inflicted on books from the British Library could be up to £1 million - one map alone that he cut out of a book was worth £30,000 ... Although four specimen charges were brought involving books from the Bodleian’s collection, a spokesman said that since 2003 he had taken pages from another 47 volumes.' Another comment - 'Experts were able to match one of the pages found at Hakimzadeh’s home to a book in the British Library as it had exactly the same mark made by a book worm' - brought memories of the laughter that the mention of worm-holes provoked in Smiley's US court.
          [Further updates: 22 November. Sentencing has been postponed until 16 January 2009, as reported on the Cultural Property and Archaeology Law Blog. And 27 November. 'Millionare Bodleian thief brought to book' (Cherwell.org - student news and reviews at Oxford University) < http://www.cherwell.org/content/8170 >, which concentrates on the Bodleian's reactions.
          [Further update: 27 November. '‘Trusted reader’ destroys books: Staff at British Library express outrage as ‘millionaire vandal’ pleads guilty', by Paul Keilthy in the Camden News [covering the British Library's borough] < http://www.thecnj.co.uk/camden/2008/112708/news112708_11.html >. Based on 'the first public discussion of the thefts' (that day) the period during which the activity occurred was given as 1997-2005. 'The British Library team which investigated the thefts had to minutely examine every page and illustration in 842 books consulted by the thief ... Police searched Hakimzadeh’s Knightsbridge home after the thefts were discovered but found only 14 items. Detective Sergeant Graham Simpson, who worked on the case, said there was no evidence that Hakimzadeh had sold the artefacts for gain. "As for his motivations, they are completely unknown," he said.' If the maps and pages were not sold, it is reasonable to ask where are they now? It is hoped that the British Library's proposed civil case against Hakimzadeh will throw light on that and, better still, retrieve a significant amount of the stolen material. There is still no information about the other maps involved.]
          [Further update: 16 January 2009 - see under that date - he was sentenced to two years in jail.]
  • The New York Map Society Missing Maps page, maintained by John Woram, has been updated (13 November 2008) with further commentary, especially about Harvard University's Houghton Library and the issues arising out of the sale at Sotheby's of the Champlain map (see below).
  • Peter Barber, Head of Map Collections at the British Library, sent a message, on 10 November 2008, to the MapHist list about the inclusion in the BL's Integrated Catalogue of 'all information describing unique details of individual copies'. [Unfortunately, the message cannot be retrieved as it contained images.] While this is a general announcement, specific mention is made of the 'Vulnerable Items and Topographical Images Projects (Map Library)' - an indication of how the map community is leading the field in the documentation of the kinds of copy-specific information that might be required to identify a stolen item.
  • More on the provenance question surrounding the Champlain map. In a message to the MapHist list on 14 October, John Overholt, Assistant Curator, The Donald and Mary Hyde Collection of Dr. Samuel Johnson/ Early Modern Books and Manuscripts, Houghton Library, Harvard University, wrote: "After a comparative assessment of digital copies of the missing Harvard map and the map Sotheby's will auction, Houghton Library curators have found enough discrepancies to believe that the one for sale is not the one missing from Harvard. Harvard and Sotheby's are collaborating on possible further steps". [See also the same journalist's update on 14 October: 'Champlain map cleared for auction', < http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/story.html?id=a48b9899-768f-46c8-84f6-d50552536ca5 >.] For continuing discussion (21 October) about the current status of Harvard's missing maps list of August 2006, and of the apparent reluctance to release scans of those that have not yet been recovered, see comments in the New York Map Society's online newsletter.
  • < http://www.canada.com/calgaryherald/news/story.html?id=10546db5-6beb-4882-a32d-69d5f421d8ed > 'Rare map of Canada under scrutiny after Harvard thefts' (Randy Boswell, in the Calgary Herald, 12 October 2008) - 'A rare print of a 396-year-old map of Canada created by French explorer Samuel de Champlain - and billed by Sotheby's as "perhaps the most important single map" in Canadian history - is to be auctioned next month in Britain for up to $80,000. But the newly offered copy of Champlain's richly illustrated rendering of Canada's geography as it was understood in 1612 - just four years after the founding of New France at Quebec City - is drawing special attention from experts at Harvard University, which had its vintage reproduction of the same map stolen several years ago from its antique book library.' What is described misleadingly as the 'vintage reproduction' of the 1612 Champlain map of Nouvelle France is one of the original maps reported missing by Harvard in the wake of the Forbes Smiley thefts. It did not appear on the list of his admitted thefts. Harvard is currently checking digital photographs and considering sending somebody to London to check in person.
          'A Sotheby's spokesman said the map being sold was checked - as all items are before sale - against a U.S.-based lost art registry that tracks missing artworks and other cultural artifacts from around the world'. Clearly Sotheby's are unaware of the efforts made to identify and then publicise the maps found missing in those collections visited by Smiley, information brought together by John Woram into a single database. That the large number of those maps still unaccounted for are not also included in the new database, specifically for maps, set up by IAMA, is not for want of urging by Joel Kovarsky, who manages that vital tool in the fight against thefts. [See also the comment placed on the online newsletter of the New York Map Society by John Woram.]
  • For a first-hand account of his dealings with Joshua McCarty, over the Ted Canaday map thefts, see Stolen maps & books by George Ritzlin (mounted 8 October 2008)
  • < http://travismcdade.com/blog/?p=218 > 'Hayes Presidential Library Theft' (15 September 2008)
    Travis McDade, who teaches a law course, with particular reference to, I understand, the theft of library materials has analysed the security implications of the various statements made by library officials. He also quotes, at the beginning, from the Philobiblos blog.
          His piece needs to be read in full. In my view his criticisms about the library's security, or lack of it, seem justified, even if his blanket dismissal of the usefulness of a database of stolen material is not. As he itemises them, almost every action taken by staff was inappropriate and almost none of the precautions necessary for a library holding valuable material were in place. As he concludes: "I've seen a lot of crimes. I've never seen a more clear cut example of buffoonish criminals being abetted by a dismally ill-prepared library staff."
          One of the Toledo Blade articles < http://toledoblade.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080912/NEWS03/809120347 > had a staff member say: "Our head librarian has been at the center 25 years and, in that time, we have never had a theft of this type of material". The same Communications Manager explained that "for someone to be so selfish to take material for personal gain and remove them from public access as a whole - that is ultimately upsetting to us." The upset is fully understandable, but how is such innocence about the ways of the world still possible, in a library described as containing 'some of the country's rarest books'?
  • < http://www.columbusdispatch.com/live/content/local_news/stories/2008/09/12/rarebooks.html?sid=101 > 'Three charged with swiping rare books. Columbus couple, Marysville man could face 10 years in prison' (John Futty, in the Columbus Dispatch, 12 September 2008).
          Joshua T. McCarty (31) was one of three people arrested this week and charged with stealing two books from the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library in Fremont, Ohio. One of them is valued at over $100,000 and hence is an "object of cultural significance". McCarty and the others face 'up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 if convicted' [perhaps Smiley's lawyer could help here].
          Of specific interest to the map community is the statement that 'Federal prosecutors said McCarty has a lengthy criminal history, including an arrest in 2007 in connection with the theft of $20,000 worth of antique maps from a bookstore in Harrisburg, Pa.' I reported the earlier theft as follows in March 2007: < http://mark.antiquetrader.com/Be+On+Lookout+For+Maps+Stolen+From+Pa+Shop.aspx > 'Be on lookout for maps stolen from Pa. shop' (Mark Moran, 1 March 2007) - 'Approximately 50 antique maps were stolen from Ted L. Canaday Old and Rare Books, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, sometime between Feb. 8-15. The total value of the maps amounted to nearly $20,000.' Among items thought to be unusual was a MS map of early oil territory in Pennsylvania'. I had not seen any further news about that map theft.
          The Fremont thefts were also reported in the Toledo Blade on 12 September < http://toledoblade.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080912/NEWS03/809120347 > and again on the 13th < http://toledoblade.com:80/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080913/NEWS17/809139993 >. These add considerable extra information, e.g. that the thefts took place 'in June' and on 25 August, that the combined value was about $130,000, that one of the two stolen books, the 'Maxwell Code' (1795, the first book printed in Ohio), had been recovered, and that McCarty, although being described as 'more intelligent than your typical thief,' was caught when he was spotted 'leaving a women's bathroom'.
          Bonnie Magness-Gardiner, art theft program manager for the FBI said private owners, libraries, museums, galleries, and presidential centers should take proper steps to protect themselves from such thefts. "They really need to protect it by having insurance, appropriate security, and an inventory," she said. "If they don’t have an inventory with a good photograph, if it’s stolen, it will be very difficult to get back that material."

  • 'Cataloging rare maps in books' (15 August 2008) - on this continuing thread (running partly in parallel on the ExLibris and MapHist lists) Angie Cope, of the American Geographical Society Library, drew attention to a useful source for anyone compiling a database of 'vulnerable maps'. 'The American Geographical Society of New York cataloged all maps in books and produced a 13 volume set entitled: "Index to maps in books and periodicals" published by G.K. Hall. It is accompanied by another hefty set entitled: "Research catalog." These volumes are literally photocopies of the card catalog from the AGS of NY numbering around 300,000 cards that reflect the holdings of the AGS (and now the AGSL). But, maps in books were cataloged in great detail - including newer and the older/rare items.'
  • 'Maps in Books' - a draft cataloging manual, from Yale's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, was announced to the ExLibris list on 13 August 2008 by Stephen R. Young, Rare Book Team Leader at the Sterling Memorial Library. "This project to enhance the description and access for maps in books is one of many responses to the Smiley thefts."
  • "I believe it is very important to enhance access to the maps that are "hidden" in the books. I thought it was odd that a few years back, again while I was at Tulsa, someone was doing a survey of map holdings in libraries. But you weren't allowed to count the maps in books, just loose maps. You could count atlases, but not other monographs that included maps. But as you all know, it is within these monographs where many of the important, valuable maps are. And the ones that are vulnerable to theft. Especially if you have no record that your copy of the volume was complete with all maps." (Lori N. Curtis, Archivist, Loma Linda University, California, to ExLibris, 12 August 2008).
  • < http://www.birminghampost.net/news/west-midlands-news/2008/08/04/electrician-stole-books-worth-89-000-from- birmingham-university-65233-21463926/ > 'Electrician stole books worth £89,000 from Birmingham University' (Ross McCarthy, in the Birmingham Post, 4 August 2008) - 'Police who arrested an electrician after he tried to dishonestly use his former boss’s fuel card at a garage, discovered he had a haul of stolen valuable historic maps and books at his home. Richard Delaney had taken the items worth about £89,000 while working at Birmingham University library, the city’s crown court heard ... The judge sentenced Delaney, 37, of Mapleton Road, Hall Green, who admitted two charges of theft and one of dishonestly making a false representation, to 12 months imprisonment suspended for 18 months ... When interviewed Delaney said he had access to the special collections room of the university library where he was carrying out electrical work. He claimed he had taken the maps from books out of interest intending to read them and return the items. Tim Pole, defending, said at the time Delaney was addicted to heroin and his life was on a downward spiral. He said he had not initially realised the value of the maps and books although he did realise later and was going to sell them.'

    See also 'Birmingham University library hit by £200,000 burglary' (by Nick McCarthy in the Birmingham Post, 5 August < http://www.birminghammail.net/news/birmingham-news/2008/04/15/birmingham-university-library-hit-by-200-000- burglary-97319-20766006/ > - 'Historic books, maps and letters worth £200,000 were stolen from Birmingham University. The documents, which have since been recovered, were taken from a secure collections department at the university library in February ... A spokesman for the university declined to give details of what was taken whilst it was subject to a police investigation and court proceedings, but he confirmed that the items have been recovered.'

    As can be seen the accounts disagree about the value of the stolen material. His age is variously given as 36 and 37. This later report talks of him 'facing charges' where the earlier one announced the sentence.

  • Everett Wilkie sent a message to the ExLibris list (2 August 2008), headed "Smiley's legitimate purchases". 'I had the idea to search American Book Prices Current for records of items that Forbes Smiley had purchased over the years. The records are somewhat dated, of course, since the names of buyers long ago stop being revealed. Anyway, below are the records I found. I assume that anything in the list he later sold was probably legitimately acquired, since the purchases all seem to predate his conversion to the dark side of the force.' Then followed 14 records from the period 1985-8. Unfortunately the public ExLibris Archive is not functioning at present and so no link can be given.
  • Further on the case of Peter Joseph Bellwood. < http://www.cphpost.dk:80/get/107185.html > 'Map thief says sorry. A UK man who stole a series of medieval maps from the Royal Library apologised to the Danish people for his actions' (the Copenhagen Post, 14 May 2008) - 'A British thief was sentenced to one year in prison for stealing several maps dating from the 16th and 17th centuries from the Royal Library in 2001, reported Politiken newspaper. The man, 56-year-old Joseph Bellwood, was captured at that time on the library’s video camera cutting 11 authentic medieval world maps out of books during his visit there seven years ago. Bellwood left the country before he could be caught, however, but he was later arrested and jailed in the UK for a similar theft in Wales.

    'Auction house Christie’s valued the maps at £70,000, or around 1 million kroner, while Bellwood’s lawyer claimed the value to be only around 40,000 kroner. The Royal Library sought a total of 4.2 million kroner in compensation for the loss, which included the destruction of the maps’ original books. Yet the court required Bellwood to pay only 324,000 kroner in retribution in addition to his one-year jail sentence.

    'He will begin serving the sentence in 2009, after he has finished serving his UK jail term. The whereabouts of the maps are presently unknown, as Bellwood had sold them on. Bellwood received his Danish sentence from the Eastern High Court on Tuesday and was given the chance to speak in his defence. ‘I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to the library and the Danish people,’ he told the court. ‘I am very sorry for what I’ve done.’ Bellwood had also robbed libraries in other European capitals and it was only due to the Royal Library’s cameras that he was identified and later caught' [via Philobiblos.] See also a statement from the Danish Royal Library, posted to the MapHist list on 16 May.

  • The Missing and Stolen Maps Database was officially launched on 27 April 2008. It is managed by theInternational Antiquarian Mapsellers Association (IAMA). For explanatory notes on the functioning of the Database see the announcement to the MapHist list. I wholeheartedly endorse the comment of Joel Kovarsky: 'we sincerely hope that librarians, dealers and collectors will make use of this site'. Now that a mechanism has been provided that allows widespread - and it is hoped, speedy - dissemination of news about map thefts, it is essential that all the communities involved support this initiative wholeheartedly. It should not be too long before the first thief is caught because of this Database.
  • < http://www.boston.com/news/local/new_hampshire/articles/2008/04/09/artifacts_stolen_from_historical_society/ > 'Artifacts stolen from historical society' (The Boston Globe, 9 April 2008) - 'Police say someone stole everything from historic maps and clothing to a cannon ball from the New Castle (New Hampshire) Historical Society. Police Chief James Murphy says the thief or thieves forced their way into the society sometime during the weekend, leaving behind a trail of blood ... The society discovered the theft on Tuesday ... maps of New Castle also were taken.' [Update, 10 April in the Union Leader - 'New Castle historical society posts $2,000 reward in theft', by Clare Kittredge < http://www.unionleader.com/article.aspx?headline= New+Castle+historical+society+posts+%242%2C000+reward+in+theft&articleId=b672fc6a-9fb6-41b5-bae9-5ab6764bba61 >. More details are given of the break-in, including the fact that 'blood was left spattered over postcards, maps...'.]
  • < http://timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=666322&category=REGIONOTHER&BCCode=&newsdate=2/24/2008&TextPage=1 > 'Treasure-troves at risk. Thefts cost billions as experts work to step up security of artifacts' (Paul Grondahl, in the [Albany] Times-Union, 24 February 2008) - A round-up of security concerns affecting US archives and libraries, prompted by the actions of Daniel Lorello, on the staff of the New York State Archives. 'Millions of valuable historical documents at local historical societies, state libraries and the National Archives are vulnerable to being stolen by insiders and outsiders. The reasons are many: the sheer volume; incomplete inventories; the cost of security; the value of the artifacts amid a growing demand from collectors; and the fact the documents are routinely retrieved by staffers for use by researchers in public reading rooms...'

    'The FBI estimates $6 billion is lost annually in crimes against cultural institutions worldwide. Strassberg advocates spending more on security and tougher sentences for the thieves ... Mandatory bag inspections of State Library and Archives employees as they leave work have been discussed over the years, but have not been put in place because of concerns raised by unions and the added cost.' As one librarian pointed out: "We're always trying to balance access and security". [The full text also available via ExLibris.]

  • Stolen map alert from the British Library, 21 February 2008. "I very much regret to report that we have discovered the theft of 74 maps from ‘Description de l’Univers, contenant les differentes systemes du monde, les cartes ... de la géographie ancienne et moderne ... et les moeurs ... de chaque nation’ by MANESSON MALLET, Alain. (Paris, 1683). This is now the subject of a police investigation with the Arts and Antiques Unit. We do not yet know when the maps were stolen, and as soon as I have more information I will be in touch again." The crime number is 230 4414/08. Any information, please, to: Judith Barnes, Collection Security Co-ordinator, 020 7412 7821. [From Shelf:Life, with further information from PhiloBiblos. Rodney Shirley, Maps in the Atlases of the British Library, describes the work (Vol 1, p.667-), referring for a collation to Pastoureau. The BL example forms part of the Rare Book, rather than Map collection.]
  • 'eBay to buy back stolen historical items' (by Michael Gormley, Associated Press, 9 February 2008) - An important development in connection with the theft of material taken from the New York State Archives by Daniel Lorello. 'Documents dating from the Civil War and others to and from Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt are among hundreds of stolen documents sold online that eBay is agreeing to buy back and return to New York's archives, a state official said Saturday. The online auction giant has no liability in the sale of the stolen artifacts, but agreed voluntarily to offer buyers the amount that they paid, according to the official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because not all details of the investigation have been announced ... The total cost of buying back the documents for which eBay has sales records is estimated at $68,000. The offer by eBay means the state won't have to spend money to buy the records. If there is a conviction, a court could order restitution.' [The full text available via ExLibris.]
  • 'Stolen maps database announcement' (message to MapHist from Joel Kovarsky, 5 February 2008) - 'The International Antiquarian Mapsellers Association (IAMA) is funding the development of a stolen map database. We hope to have a working prototype available by mid-April 2008.' The message explains how the database will function and lists those who have signed up to the idea.
  • < http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780345494689 > 'The Map Thief', a suspense novel by Heather Terrell, a Pittsburgh lawyer, is due out in July 2008 from Random House. No synopsis as yet.
  • Since July 2007, Francis Herbert has been carrying out in the British Library Map Library the 'Vulnerable Maps' project, describing in detail antiquarian maps in volumes that are judged to be at greatest risk of theft. Such maps are being identified among the BL's collection with the aid of carto-bibliographies, stamped and scanned, as reported in Cartographiti, the newsletter of the Map Curators' Group of the British Cartographic Society, 80 (Autumn 2007) p.5.
  • < http://wikis.ala.org/acrl/index.php/RBMS_Seminars_in_Development_2008 > 'Security: Bringing It All Back Home: Recovering from a Theft (Seminar 6)' (9 January 2008) - preliminary details of the Preconference in Los Angeles, 24-27 June 2008, to be held by the The Rare Books and Manuscript Section (RBMS) of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), a division of the American Library Association (ALA). This is to include: Michael Inman, Librarian, Rare Books Division, New York Public Library; Topic: 'The Smiley Thefts'.
  • < http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2008/01/02/stolen_rare_maps_find_their_way_back_to_librarys_collection/ > 'Stolen rare maps find their way back to library's collection' (by Jenna Russell, 2 January 2008 in the Boston Globe)
    'More than 30 rare, antique maps stolen from the Boston Public Library by a Martha's Vineyard map dealer were returned to the library in 2007, library president Bernard Margolis said this week, part of the conclusion of an international scandal that rocked the staid world of map collecting. Not all has been resolved, however. More than 30 other missing maps, losses that have not been linked to confessed map thief E. Forbes Smiley III, have yet to be recovered by the Boston library more than a year after their disappearance was discovered ...

    'Margolis said investigators have returned 31 maps that Smiley admitted taking from the Boston library. In addition, Smiley has paid the library $7,000 in restitution for another map he stole that cannot be found, Margolis said. Three other maps have not been located, he said. Curators at the library inventoried their rare maps after the thefts came to light, and discovered 36 more missing maps worth almost $1 million. Two of those maps have since been returned by collectors in Boston and Maryland, Margolis said, and efforts to uncover the others at auctions are ongoing ... The Boston library has spent about $200,000 on improved security and surveillance systems to prevent future thefts, Margolis said. All visitors to the rare-books room now sign in and out. But by necessity, the thefts have left the library a less trusting place.' Also giving details of the three maps still missing from Harvard.


  • 'Chile returns thousands of stolen Peruvian books' (7 November 2007 [noted 15 November]) - 'Chile returned to Peru on Monday 3,788 books, antique texts, and a variety of other artifacts dating back to the 16th century. The items were originally stolen from Lima's National Library and taken to Santiago during the late 19th century War of the Pacific.' The returned items carry the seal of the Peruvian National Library - a stamp of Peru's coat of arms and the inscription "Biblioteca de Lima."' The head of Peru's National Library referred [no detail given] to 'a huge list of atlases and volumes with notes from travelers that came to explore this side of the world'. [The full text also available via ExLibris.]
  • < http://www.expatica.com/actual/article.asp?subchannel_id=81&story_id=45990 > 'New outbreak of map pilfering in ministry library' (15 November 2007) [Copyright EL PAÍS, SL. / J. A. HERNÁNDEZ 2007] - 'The Foreign Ministry says that almost 300 "highly valued" books, some of them more than 400 years old, have been stolen or lost from its library in recent years ... It appears that the thefts have taken place over a number of years. Indeed, a Foreign Ministry spokesman told EL PAÍS this week that such pilfering is almost a tradition at the library ... Among the missing items are several maps from the late 16th century, a number of large-format books, as well as a valuable collection of 18th-century maps of the coastline of northern Europe ... The losses, most from the last four years, were discovered during a recent inventory of the library ... One hypothesis being explored is that a Ministry employee has taken advantage of the poor security in the building to systematically steal books to sell them on the black market.' [The library is open 'only to academics, or specialist researchers'. No mention is made of the coincidence that the four-year theft period suggested here seems to be similar to that for the maps taken from the National Library.] [via < http://www.maptheuniverse.com/?p=165 > Map the Universe; see the full text on ExLibris.]
  • 'No jail time for woman who stole rare book from Rockland Historical Society' (Steve Lieberman in the New York Journal News, 8 November 2007) - Rebecca Streeter-Chen, who stole an 1823 copy of Tanner's New American Atlas (valued at $60,000) on April 22 from the Rockland Historical Society, was sentenced to community service rather than jail because she has young children. [The full text also available via ExLibris, and for comment see Travis McDades's < http://travismcdade.com/blog/?p=134 > blog].
  • < http://www.rbms.info/committees/security/commending_booksellers.shtml > Resolution< [dated 1 October 2007, seen 24 October] - 'The Rare Books and Manuscript Section (RBMS) and the Map and Geography Roundtable (MAGERT) of the American Library Association mutually commend members of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America (ABAA), the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB), and the International Antiquarian Mapsellers Association (IAMA) for their cooperation in assisting with the recent recoveries of stolen maps and books removed from library and archival collections. Thanks to the assistance of these organizations and other members of the antiquarian trade, valuable cultural resources have been returned to their home libraries and archives'. Twenty dealers and auction houses are named, in connection with the Smiley thefts and those 'from the University of Texas at Austin by Mimi Meyer'.

  • < http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=520020 > 'Long Lamont Line Irks Students. Students complain about meticulous searches by new guard; call line ‘absurd’' (Denise J. Xu in the Harvard Crimson, 12 October 2007) - Director of Communications for Harvard College Library (HCL) Beth Brainard explained that 'thefts such as those conducted by map marauder E. Forbes Smiley cause HCL to reevaluate their security procedures. In general, however, she said that "security measures are proactive rather than reactive".'
  • < http://www.hindu.com/lr/2007/10/07/stories/2007100750050600.htm > 'Dark side of bibliomania' (by Pradeep Sebastian, in The Hindu, 7 October 2007) - a review of Travis McDade’s The Book Thief: The True Crimes of Daniel Spiegelman (Praeger Publishers, 2006). Among Spiegelman's haul were '284 historical maps, 237 individual maps razored out of a 17th century version of Blaeu’s Atlas Major'. Reference is made to the famous judgement by Judge Kaplan: "great research libraries are repositories of our social, cultural, and scientific heritage. Their rare books and manuscripts are vital to understanding the world and often are irreplaceable objects of study for scholars who add to our knowledge of ourselves and our environment." McDade teaches legal research at the College of Law at the University of Illinois, and runs his own < http://travismcdade.com/blog/ > blog.
  • Theft of an atlas with Allard and De Wit maps from a French dealer [7 September]. "Please be advised that on 20 August an atlas was stolen from a private premises in Normandy in France. The atlas contains 48 maps in contemp. colours of all parts of the world by Hugo Allardt and F.de Wit. The atlas has a manuscript index and is bound in contemp. brown calf. A list of the included maps is to be found at < http://www.loeb-larocque.com/ENGstolen_atlas.html >.Please contact us if this atlas will be, or has been offered to you:
    Béatrice Loeb-Larocque, Librairie Loeb-Larocque,31 rue de Tolbiac, 75013 Paris France. Tél/FAX +33 (0)1" [via < http://www.maptheuniverse.com/?p=152 > Map the Universe]
  • < http://www.yalealumnimagazine.com/issues/2007_07/maps.html > 'Paper Trail. Close-ups -- and some recent history of Sterling's rare maps' (Kathrin Day Lassila in the Yale Alumni Magazine, July/August 2007 [noted 2 August 2007]) - An account of what has been done in Yale University's Sterling Memorial Library, post-Smiley. What was it like before? 'No lists of its patrons' requests had been kept. Only a quarter of its 11,000 rare and antique maps had been entered into Orbis, Sterling's electronic catalog. The card catalog proved strangely unreliable. So, in late July, as the FBI was pressing libraries everywhere to find out whether they were missing any maps, Bill Reese [the book dealer consultant] came up with a shortcut. "I sat down and I said to myself, ‘If I was Forbes Smiley, what would I steal?'"

    Smiley had dealt principally in the rarest and most expensive antique American maps. Reese put together a list of about a hundred likely targets. To find out which of them had once been in the collection but had disappeared, staff assistant Margit Kaye tracked down old acquisitions records, and the staff pored over microfiche of the card catalog as it existed in 1978. All this research was necessary because, disturbingly, the cards for many of the missing maps were themselves missing from the catalog ...

    Today, Sterling and its storage space have been renovated. No one sees any of Sterling's rare maps without first signing a form and listing the map requested. Patrons can see only one item at a time, and only while they themselves are under constant surveillance by two video cameras. Two full-time catalogers are now at work in the collection, and the 11,000 rarities are their main charge ...' The longer-term plan is to scan the 11,000 rare maps. [The full text also available via ExLibris.]

  • < http://www.keepmecurrent.com/Community/story.cfm?storyID=40984 > 'Author: Historical societies vulnerable' (David Harry, 2 August 2007, Bridgton, Maine) - 'William D. Andrews, author of Stealing History, will speak to the Bridgton Historical Society [on 5 August] ... reminding listeners of the importance of protecting the artifacts and documents ... "Societies do not always have the capacity to preserve and protect," said Andrews, who added his inspiration for the novel came from news accounts of thefts from local societies. The conviction of E. Forbes Smiley for stealing millions of dollars worth of maps from libraries is almost as extreme as the premise of Stealing History, but his conviction and the book show the ease of concealing documents that might be quickly sold to collectors and make historical societies inviting targets.'
  • < http://www.concordmonitor.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070723/REPOSITORY/707230302 > 'State libraries must work to thwart thieves' (Editorial in the 'Concord Monitor' [New Hampshire], 23 July 2007) - The example of Forbes Smiley is used to urge libraries to put effort into cataloguing. Otherwise 'the rare maps and prints that can easily be excised from seldom-read books are easy prey for a knowledgeable thief ... Searchable, online catalogs of a library or museum's contents make its easy for honest dealers, other museums, researchers and law enforcement to identify stolen items.'
  • There was a session on 'Library Security for Maps' during the annual conference of the American Library Association (Washington, D.C., 21-27 June 2007), on which see the report by April Carlucci, reproduced from Cartographiti.
  • < http://www.phillyburbs.com/pb-dyn/news/103-05252007-1352883.html > 'Stolen antique atlas, valued at $65k, recovered in Philadelphia' (Associated Press, 25 May 2007) - an example of the 1823 New American Atlas by Henry Tanner, stolen in April from the Historical Society of Rockland County, was recovered when it was offered for sale in Philadelphia. 'A former employee of the Historical Society was trying to sell the book and is a suspect in the theft'. The original theft was reported (via ExLibris) to the MapHist list. [For a fuller account of the circumstances of the recovery, in which the circulation of details 'from a list of professional rare-book dealers' [ExLibris] was crucial, see 'Stolen 1823 atlas recovered', in The Journal News (26 May 2007) < http://www.thejournalnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2007705260369 >. The full text of which is available via ExLibris; and likewise a follow-up piece on June 1 from The Journal News.]

For earlier references to the Smiley case see The E. Forbes Smiley III map thefts: reports and news stories
(later mentions will be found above)

  • < http://www.wvec.com/news/topstories/stories/wvec_local_051107_mariners.5cc997dc.html > 'Ex-employee accused of selling Mariners' Museum items on eBay' (by Mary Nelson on the WVEC.com (Norfolk, VA) web site, 11 May 2007) - 'A former Mariner's Museum employee and his wife [Lester Weber and Lori Childs] are facing a civil suit for allegedly stealing from the museum, and selling the items on eBay ... He was the chief archivist for six years until last September when he was fired, according to museum management, for policy violations including stealing museum property ... Museum management alleges the couple made 160,000 dollars selling the items on eBay.' As to the items involved, the museum, in Newport News, referred to "historical documents, things like maps, letters, and plans". The charges are denied. [The full text also available via ExLibris.]
  • 'Paper trail that ended chapter on book scam' (by David Eames in the New Zealand Herald, 7 April 2007) - Because the librarian had deleted the electronic catalogue records of the stolen books you might have expected measures to close that loophole. Instead, there is to be 'a security rethink at the university. Rare books may have to have security tags similar to those in clothing stores.' [The full text available via ExLibris.]
  • < http://www.philly.com/dailynews/local/20070405_Archives_ex-intern_pleads_guilty_to_theft.html > 'Archives ex-intern pleads guilty to theft' (by Michael Hinkelman in the Philadelphia Daily News, 5 April 2007) - Denning McTague, a former intern at the National Archives and Records Administration in Philadelphia, pleaded guilty to stealing rare government documents - most having to do with the Civil War. McTague is described as 'a collector who operates a business that sells rare maps and manuscripts.' McTague stole 164 documents and sold some on eBay. There is no mention of any cartographic material having been taken.
  • < http://mark.antiquetrader.com/Be+On+Lookout+For+Maps+Stolen+From+Pa+Shop.aspx > 'Be on lookout for maps stolen from Pa. shop' (Mark Moran, 1 March 2007) - 'Approximately 50 antique maps were stolen from Ted L. Canaday Old and Rare Books, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, sometime between Feb. 8-15. The total value of the maps amounted to nearly $20,000.' Among items thought to be unusual was a MS map of early oil territory in Pennsylvania. 'A detailed list of maps will appear in the March 21 issue of Antique Trader' [which has the same address as this blog]. [Update (March 3): the list of stolen maps was posted to the ExLibris list.] [For further update see 13 September 2008, for an article about Joshua T. McCarty, who was arrested 'in 2007 in connection with the theft of $20,000 worth of antique maps from a bookstore in Harrisburg, Pa'.]


  • < http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1572378,00.html > 'On the Trail of Pilfered History. Exclusive: The market in stolen historical documents has gotten so hot that federal investigators have launched an operation to retrieve what belongs to the government' (by Douglas Waller in Time.com, 21 December 2006) - a round-up about 'the pilfering of old letters, documents, maps, photographs, books and other historical artifacts', with particular reference to Operation Historic Protector, launched by the Archive's Inspector General's Office in November. Investigators from the National Archives attended the Washington Capital Area Historical Autograph and Manuscript Show on 9 December.
  • < http://www.courant.com/news/local/hc-tocatchathief1211.artdec11,0,395760.story?coll=hc-headlines-local > 'Book Theft Caught On Tape. Toronto Pair Accused Of Stealing Antiques' (by Kim Martineau in the Hartford Courant, 11 December 2006) - a Canadian couple, Nora Thomson (47) and Peter Mason King (48) were arrested in Toronto in October and charged with stealing illustrated rare books and prints worth at least $65,000 from (and to) The Avenue Ltd in Westport, Conn. and D. & E. Lake Ltd in Toronto. 'Lake has posted a list of his missing items on the website of the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America'. The couple were caught because of a newly installed CCTV. Other shops were visited by the couple. No cartographic items are mentioned and their targets seem to have been decorative prints. However, some of those mentioned also deal in maps. [The full text also available via ExLibris].
  • < http://www.yaledailynews.com/Article.aspx?ArticleID=34501 > 'Libraries increase security. Recent thefts of rare maps prompt extensive study of libraries’ security measures' (by Steven Siegel in the Yale Daily News, 30 November 2006) - referring to the security review carried out by Yale in the wake of Forbes Smiley's thefts, leading to likely measures such as more effective CCTV and reduction of the backlog of uncatalogued materials. As pointed out by Alice Prochaska, Yale's Librarian: 'Making thefts known is now considered a good practice and dealers and collectors have a place to look to verify that the items they purchase are not missing from a library's holdings.'
  • < http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,3-2468609,00.html > 'Thieving library staff take a love of rare books too far' (by Roger Boyes in the [London] Times On-line, 24 November 2006) - a brief round-up of recent book and map thefts, specifically from the University of Erlangen, including some general comments: 'The breakthrough for library thieves came about four years ago when an appropriate chemical mix was discovered that could wipe out library markings without leaving a trace. As most library thefts are inside jobs, there is usually no need for chemistry: it is often enough to steal an ex libris seal documenting that the book has legitimately left the library stock ... The main problem appears to be budget cuts, which have slowed library stocktaking to a snail’s pace.' [The full text also available via ExLibris].
  • < http://books.guardian.co.uk/news/articles/0,,1864902,00.html > 'Sleight of hand conceals 16th-century book's theft' (a brief note in the [London] Guardian, 5 September 2006): "A 16th-century book has been stolen from an exhibition in a castle in Upper Austria, but the crime went unnoticed for days because the thieves left behind another book, police said yesterday. The 1532 volume, Astronomicum Caesareum, by Petrus Apianus, disappeared from Peuerbach Castle between August 23 and 26, when a guide discovered it had gone. The book, worth about £20,000, was displayed in an exhibition case under an unsecured glass panel. Police suspect the theft happened while the exhibition was open to the public, but video surveillance so far has yielded no clues." For more on a volume (actually of 1540) described by Professor Owen Gingerich as "one of the great masterpieces of sixteenth-century printing", and including celestial charts, see here. [Update: Prof. Gingerich, in a post to ExLibris on 6 September doubted it was the Astronomicum Caesareum that was stolen and suggested instead the same author's much smaller Cosmographia was involved.]
  • < http://www.courant.com/news/local/hc-yalemaps0720.artjul20,0,3506904.story?coll=hc-headlines-local > 'Yale Posts List Of Missing Maps. Getting Word Out May Thwart Efforts To Sell' (by Kim Martineau in the Hartford Courant, 20 July 2006) - Yale's Librarian and map dealers support the former head of the security committee for the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America, Ken Sanders, when he says: "Get the word out to as many people as possible if the goal is to recover the material and apprehend the thief". William Reese notes that "institutions have a moral obligation to publicize theft", and, as a warning to buyers, "anyone shopping in these markets has to be conscious of provenance". As Kim Martineau sums up: "By making its list public, Yale has set a precedent among the libraries that inventoried their collections after Forbes Smiley's arrest. If other libraries follow, it could bring about a sea change in how maps are bought and sold, as dealers and collectors start to insist on proof of clear title". The inventory of Yale's Sterling Memorial Library revealed 'between 90 and 95 maps' as missing. Some are of Japan or Russia, and others of modest value. However, the article itemises seven maps of which Smiley is known to have handled examples. His lawyer describes that as 'coincidence' and Yale is said not to suspect Smiley of their theft. [The full text also available via ExLibris].
  • 'Maps Identified as Missing from the Map Collection in the Sterling Memorial Library, Yale University. As of July 19, 2006' (a list of missing maps not apparently taken by Forber Smiley)
  • 'Oxford globe stolen' (a miniature Richard Cushee globe, 1731, was stolen from the Museum of the History of Science on 7 May 2006).
  • < http://books.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1746542,00.html > 'Stealing beats borrowing. Selfishness is trumping sharing as £150m worth of books are filched from local libraries every year' (Rose George in the Guardian (London), 4 April 2006)

2005 (and earlier)

  • 'Theft Alert' (from ARLIS (Art Libraries Society Discussion List, 21 December 2005) - details, including link to a police photograph, of someone suspected of tearing out maps in the Bowdoin College Library, Brunswick, Maine. These were mostly 'turn-of-the-century government documents, depicting National Parks and other American territories')
  • < http://www.kentucky.com/mld/kentucky/news/13380793.htm > 'Libraries tightening security as thefts rise. Challenge is to balance preservation, access' (Beth Musgrave and Linda Blackford in Lexington Herald-Leader, 11 December 2005). [Text also available via ExLibris].
  • Map thefts and a numismatic connection (Wayne Homren in The E-Sylum, 8:36 (21 August 2005 - Article 15) - with excerpts from Miles Harvey's The Island of Lost Maps about the career of Charles Lynn Glaser, whose career as a map thief spanned at least 1974-92)
  • < http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2004/12/23/nmap23.xml > 'Thief jailed for cutting maps from library's rare books' (Richard Savill in New Telegraph, 23 December 2004)
  • 'Jail for historic maps thief. Former gardener won confidence of staff by handing in 'lost' £50' (Steven Morris in The Guardian, 23 December 2004). 'Swansea crown court was told that he used a book called Antique Maps, regarded as the "thieves' handbook", to choose which ones to take. He sold the maps from Aberystwyth on to the co-author of the handbook, David Bannister, and another map dealer, Michael Cox. Mr Bannister, from Cheltenham, confirmed to the Guardian last night that he had bought maps from Bellwood and had met him twice. "I had the misfortune to have dealing with him," he said. He said he had not known the maps had been stolen because the library in Aberystwyth had not publicised the thefts.'
  • <http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/crime/story.jsp?story=595633 > 'Thief who plundered libraries for rare maps is sent to jail' (Jason Bennetto, in The Independent Online Edition, 23 December 2004)
  • 'Internet alert exposed map thief. Map thief Peter Bellwood left a trail of "razored" antique books in museums across Europe' (BBC News, 22 December 2004)
  • '£70,000 rare map thief is jailed. A man who stole dozens of antique maps from the National Library of Wales has been jailed for four-and-a-half years' (BBC News, 22 December 2004 - with a video link to the Copenhagen CCTV)
  • < http://news.scotsman.com/latest.cfm?id=3601320'Library > Thief Admits Stealing Dozens of Antique Maps' (Antony Stone, PA News in The Scotsman, 8 October 2004 - on Peter Bellwood's map thefts from the National Library of Wales)
  • 'Lost Worlds' (about Melvin Perry and Peter Bellwood - Mark Honigsbaum in the [London] Observer (OM Magazine) 20 July 2003)
  • 'More on Argentina map thefts' (relaying an article, in Spanish, from the Rio de Janeiro 'La Nacion' newspaper, 7 July 2003, about thefts, including maps, from the Biblioteca Nacional of Argentina)
  • 'The world in his hands: Britain's most wanted art thief who steals maps to order' ('"Ripper" who snatches rare prints from top libraries across Europe on the run' (Steven Morris in The [London] Guardian, 19 May 2003)
  • < http://hq.abaa.org/books/antiquarian/abaapages/article01.html 'Internet foils old map thieves' > (about a theft of maps and books on 16-17 October 2002 from Kaabers Antikvariat, Copenhagen - ILAB/LILA Newsletter)
  • < http://www.independent.co.uk/story.jsp?story=296266 > 'Rip and run' raiders carve up the masterpieces of cartography for global trade in stolen maps" (Independent newspaper [London], 18 May 2002, by Cahal Milmo)
  • 'Letter from the Editor' (about map thefts, by Ashley Baynton-Williams, MapForum 15 [April 2002])
  • 'Maps stolen from the University Library of Helsinki, Finland', Journal of the International Map Collectors' Society, 85 (Summer 2001), p.61 (listing the six maps)
  • [for more on this, see European map thefts]
  • 'Antiquarian maps: wave of thefts', Library Association Record, 103:7 (July 2001), p.388
  • < http://www.guardian.co.uk/Guardian/uk/2001/jun/10/books.humanities > 'Britain leads illicit trade in rare books' (Jason Burke, Observer, 10 June 2001)

Top of page

Western Washington University (2006-2008 - James L. Brubaker [with later updates])

  • Lessons from a Theft (by Robert Lopresti, Government Information Librarian, Western Washington University, 1 August 2011, updated 7 March 2013)

  • The Map Room reports (12 October 2010) that 'James Brubaker, who had been sentenced to 30 months’ imprisonment for a series of book and map thefts from more than 100 libraries, but especially Western Washington University, was released from prison in May'. Rob Lopresti is quoted as saying: “He is on parole and probation and I believe he is not allowed to leave the state of Montana.”

  • 'Librarian to recount story of ‘map thief’. In 2006, Western librarian Rob Lopresti was involved in the investigation of the theft of 648 pages that were torn from 102 rare books in Western’s Wilson Library.' A brief interview by Taylor Oldfield in the Western Front, 5 October 2010: < http://westernfrontonline.net/news/12584-librarian-to-recount-story-of-map-thief >.

  • See 'Map Theft Update' and 'Map Thefts in US Libraries', under 'Subject', on the MapHist list in April 2010.

  • 'FBI Compiles List of Most-Coveted Library Books. Some seven months after charging James Brubaker in the theft of hundreds of books from at least 100 academic and public libraries in the United States and Canada, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has entrusted the Western Washington University librarian who helped crack the case with a list of some 800 titles recovered in the case - 600 of which were identifiable as having been taken from specific libraries. "Since any book on the list is apparently a candidate for theft, we are checking it against our own collection," librarian Rob Lopresti e-mailed American Libraries. "Each of the books we own is being considered for possible protection by movement to a different location."
          'Lopresti explained that he is loathe to post the list online for libraries' convenience in checking their own holdings since that could transform it into "a shopping list" for potential thieves. However, he wrote, WWU would send a paper copy of the list by U.S. mail to any library that requests it on library stationary and enclosing a self-addressed, stamped envelope with 59 cents postage to: Rob Lopresti, Wilson Library, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA 98225-9103' (from American Libraries Direct (21 November 2008), via the ExLibris list (28 November)).
  • The < http://govdocs.evergreen.edu/ngin/minutes/nov7-2008.html > Northwest Government Information Network will be holding a meeting on 7 November 2008 in Bellingham, Washington, with a scheduled talk by Robert Lopresti & Julie Fitzgerald (both of Western Washington University), 'To Catch a Map Thief: The WWU Story of Purloined Maps' - about the Brubaker affair.
  • < http://www.canada.com/calgaryherald/news/city/story.html?id=05ed4683-1b2c-4bba-8a37-60167c8338aa > 'Library thief jailed Targeted rare volumes, maps at universities' (Michelle Butterfield, in the Calgary Herald, 16 September 2008) - 'A Montana judge threw the book at a man found guilty of stealing documents from more than 100 libraries in Alberta and the United States. James Brubaker, 74, was sentenced on Monday to 30 months in jail after being convicted of two felony counts in June -- interstate transportation of stolen property from Washington to Montana and possessing stolen property to sell on eBay ... Brubaker also hit the University of Calgary, taking an eight-volume recreation of the original journals of the Lewis and Clark voyages worth more than $2,000, said Tom Hickerson, vice provost and university librarian. According to Hickerson, Brubaker appeared to have very specific tastes about the items he nabbed. "All of the items had lots of maps in them," he said. Robert Lopresti, librarian at Western Washington University, north of Seattle, was in Montana to identify some of the more than 650 documents Brubaker stole from his university. He said investigators found 20,000 documents and books in Brubaker's home. "I have every reason to be confident he got away with this for years," said Lopresti.'
  • < http://www.justice.gov/usao/mt/pressreleases/20080623150357.html > Press release (23 June 2008) from the U.S. Department of Justice, District of Montana in the Western Washington University case. This includes the following passages about a Brubaker accomplice. 'Law enforcement interviewed a long-time colleague who has known BRUBAKER for more than 40 years. He advised that he and BRUBAKER had been together in the Seattle area when BRUBAKER and his wife took 15 to 20 books from an unknown library and stated that BRUBAKER had taken three to four trips into the library and obtained these books. The witness admitted to being present with BRUBAKER and his wife on three occasions when BRUBAKER took library books from libraries in Reno, Nevada, San Francisco, California and the Seattle, Washington area.' Brubaker's 'explanation' is also worth noting: 'BRUBAKER further uttered spontaneously that it is typical for libraries to clear out inventory and the books to be offered up on open market with evidence of library use still affixed. BRUBAKER further stated that, "I admit I've been to Western Washington University," and that he had been there with a friend from Canada.' There does not seem to be any estimate of the period covered by the thefts.
  • < http://www.greatfallstribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080624/NEWS01/806240323/1002/news01 > 'Great Falls man pleads guilty to stealing rare library books' (24 June 2008) - 'James Lyman Brubaker, 74, of Great Falls pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to charges that he stole rare library books with the intent of re-selling them, according to U.S. Attorney Bill Mercer. Sentencing is set for Sept. 15.' The article reviews earlier accounts of the one-man campaign, by Rob Lopresti of Western Washington University, to bring the thief to account. However, it goes on to explain:
          'More than 100 libraries are represented in the recovered books. Hundreds of maps, lithographs, and serial plates were found in envelopes ready for sale on eBay. Possibly tens of thousands of maps, lithographs and plates were found in plastic containers, according to court documents.
          'During the search, investigators also found the tools used by Brubaker to steal the documents and books from the library, and to "clean" them for resale. Investigators found magnets used to de-magnetize books so that they could go through security without setting off an alarm, chemicals and brushes used to remove stamps, codes, and other identifiers from the stolen books, mailers used to fortify and protect the documents and which could be quickly sealed to prevent casual observation or law enforcement observation without a warrant, and cutting tools.
          'Of the 832 books believed to have been stolen by Brubaker, 338 books have been confirmed to have been stolen from libraries. Of the apparent 109 victim libraries and universities (and other sources of books), 51 have been confirmed as having been the victim of the thefts. Victim libraries were found in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.
          'Brubaker also had valuable books from libraries in Calgary, Edmonton, and Lethbridge, all in Alberta, Canada. Victim libraries in Montana included libraries in Belt, Big Timber, Billings, Bozeman, Browning, Butte, Frenchtown, Great Falls, Helena, Miles City, Red Lodge, and Roundup.
          'Of the 832 volumes, 604 books were published from 1900 to the present, 207 published from 1800-1899; and 21 published from 1749 -1799. To date, 338 of the texts have been determined to have an aggregate value of $89,110. Based upon known values, the calculated total theft loss amount is approximately $220,000. Damage to existing volumes where certain pages were removed by a razor or similar device has not yet been determined.
          'Brubaker faces possible penalties of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and 3 years supervised release, Mercer said. He is currently detained.'
  • < http://criminalbrief.com/?p=696 > 'When maps get lost' (by Rob Lopresti, 2 April 2008, on the blog 'Criminal Brief: the Mystery Short Story Web Log Project') - a personal account of events at Western Washington University and the tracking down of the suspect, James L. Brubaker. "They also found in the vicinity of 20,000 other maps and prints, hundreds of Indian artifacts, and a thousand or so books with property stamps from about 100 libraries." It turns out that Lopresti is a mystery writer. Via the Maps-L list, which carries a letter from Lopresti, asking what should happen to the unidentified maps and prints. [For a round-up post, including a list of news links, see the Map Room blog on 7 April 2008.]
  • < http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/to-catch-a-thief.html?c=y&page=1 > 'To Catch a Thief. How a Civil War buff's chance discovery led to a sting, a raid and a victory against traffickers in stolen historical documents' (by Steve Twomey in the Smithonsian Magazine, April 2008 - seen 28 March).
    A multi-page article exploring the issues raised by various recent book and map thefts. The following samples give the flavour. '"Please, please, please don't keep it quiet," Rob Lopresti, a librarian from Western Washington University, told an American Library Association gathering in June. If you stay silent about a theft, Lopresti added, "you're sleeping with the enemy."' Inevitably, Smiley is mentioned: 'A task force of the American Library Association, assembled after the Smiley case, has proposed that institutions mark each map with a stamp of ownership in a place that "cannot be cut away without leaving an obvious incision," and that catalogs note unique features, such as stains, to distinguish each map from sibling originals. A modern, obvious ownership stamp on an old document is not a universally popular solution and marking tens of thousands of items would consume vast quantities of time and dollars. But, Harvard's Cobb says, "Any institution needs to make that commitment."'... 'But perfect security for a special collection or an archive will never exist, and their contents will never lose allure. Cobb, the map curator at Harvard, believes map losses might be rising as thieves try to satisfy buyers who have discovered that maps are historical, colorful and conversational - and not as expensive as traditional artwork. While most of the Archives' holdings are never going to fetch prices comparable to rare maps and old books, the Internet makes them just as easy to sell.'
  • < http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/16830591.html > 'Pay Dirt in Montana. A librarian's sleuthing turns up a crime with at least 100 victims' (by Steve Twomey in the Smithonsian Magazine, April 2008 - seen 27 March).{See end of the entry for updates}
    After a thief ripped 648 pages of historic maps, lithographs and other items from books at Western Washington University (WWU) in Bellingham in February 2006, librarian Rob Lopresti kept an eye on eBay, hoping to spot the stolen items as they were fenced. And spot some he did. His sleuthing, investigators say, helped expose a lucrative history-for-sale scheme that might have more victims than any in recent years. On December 12, 2007, law enforcement officers used a warrant to search a house in Great Falls, Montana, where they discovered roughly 1,000 books from the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries that had been taken from at least 100 university and local libraries across the country, according to Great Falls detective Bruce McDermott. Besides the books, he says, they found some 20,000 individual pages of maps and other documents, each apparently ripped from a book ...

    'In the Montana case, McDermott says, records at the house suggest that the enterprise completed more than 9,000 eBay deals in 2007 alone, grossing almost $500,000. As of late February, no arrests had been made, but McDermott says there is a suspect and an indictment is expected. The breakthrough in Great Falls came after Lopresti used a feature on eBay that alerted him whenever an item that contained certain key words was offered for sale. He and his staff had chosen about 40 such terms because various stolen pages contained them. Within a month, Lopresti says, it was apparent that an eBay seller in Montana had many pages similar to those taken from WWU. Eventually, Lopresti says, he turned to two friends on the East Coast to act as buyers, because the seller might be leery about bids coming from Washington State. The friends won the bidding for two suspicious pages, and in September 2006, the state crime lab matched their paper and tear marks with torn pages in WWU books.

    'More than a year passed, however, before authorities obtained the search warrant. Sgt. Bianca L. Smith of the WWU police attributes the delay in part to the complexity of a case involving two states, Washington and Montana, and the federal government. She notes, too, that no one was in physical danger. During the long wait, Lopresti says, he kept seeing items sold on eBay that might have belonged to WWU. "I was going crazy," he says. Identifying the legitimate owners of the books found at the Great Falls house should not be difficult, because most contain library stamps or catalog numbers. But matching the thousands of individual pages with libraries might prove impossible, because a single map or photo ripped from a volume rarely has marks identifying where it came from. A page could be from any existing copy of a book, and there might be many copies around the world. Meanwhile, Lopresti and WWU have dramatically stepped up security, so that history cannot walk out the door again.' The article contrasts this case with that of Smiley and Bland.

    [Update 27 March 2008. The PhiloBiblos blog reports the arrest of the suspect, James Brubaker, and provides additional news links.] [Update, 1 April 2008: see < http://www.ala.org/ala/alonline/currentnews/newsarchive/2008/april2008/brubakerarrested.cfm > 'Washington Librarian Helps Nab Montana Library Thief' on the American Library Association's site 'american libraries', which includes this comment: 'Lopresti admitted to American Libraries that he feels frustrated by the lack of response from colleagues to his calls at a panel presentation at the 2007 ALA Annual Conference as well as on map specialists’ discussion lists that libraries missing materials share information with law enforcement.' Lopresti was further quoted expressing the following unfashionable opinion: '"We’ve got 20,000 pages with no identifying marks," he emphasized, adding that he has been urging the Great Falls police to hire a retired map librarian on a temporary basis to sort the recovered pages, "because you actually need somebody who knows the stuff."']

  • A message to the Maps-L list, 10 January 2008:
    "I have some news about map thefts. You may remember that in February 2006 Wilson Library at Western Washington University ... suffered a serious theft. We eventually determined that at least 648 pages were stolen from 102 volumes. Seventy-five percent of them were maps. All but two of the books were from the Congressional Serial Set. [Details were posted to the Maps-L list at the time.]
        Since then, we have been working to identify the thief or thieves. In part due to our efforts and those of several people in the map librarian community, on December 12 the Department of Homeland Security (ICE)and Great Falls, Montana police executed a search warrant on the property of James Brubaker, who sold maps, Indian artifacts, and other material on ebay under the handle Montanasilver. To the best of my knowledge, Brubaker has not been arrested, however his ebay store has been closed down and he is no longer a registered user there. I have heard the authorities confiscated thousands of plates and maps, hundreds of books, and many Indian artifacts. I expect we will be hearing more in months to come in the form of federal indictments. When we get a photo of Brubaker we will be glad to distribute it. Rob Lopresti, Government Information Librarian - rob.lopresti(at) wwu.edu". [See also a later comment on the PhiloBiblos blog, 15 January 2008. Further update: 18 January, a photo of James Brubaker is now available.]
  • WWU Collection Vandalized (a report, in The Map Room weblog [13 March 2006], about developments relating to the razoring out of government documents, including maps from annual reports of the Department of the Interior, from Western Washington University. Details of the missing items have been posted to the < http://www4.uwm.edu/libraries/AGSL/welcome_to_mapsl%20forum.cfm > Maps-L list

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Biblioteca nacional, Madrid (2007-2008 - César Gómez Rivero)

  • New development in the Madrid map thefts case (17 August 2008) - a message to MapHist from Bert Johnson, refers to the another article, from El Pais, Montevideo, Uruguay, dated 8 August 2008 < http://www.elpais.com.uy/08/08/07/pciuda_362222.asp >. 'The article appears to discuss a series of thefts from libraries and archives in Argentia and Uruguay that may be linked to those who committed the Madrid theft. These occurred in Montevideo, Colonia, Salto, Buenos Aires and Mendoza. In addition to the Argentinian bookstore proprietor Daniel Guido Pastore and the Uruguayan thief Caesar Olvilio Gómez Rivero, the article mentions a second Uruguayan, Washington Luis Pereira, but says little more about him. There is a great deal of detailed information about apparently false identification documents that were used, which may be the basis for the suspected link with the Madrid theft, but the details are beyond my grasp. Again I am not sure, but I believe it discusses some persons who appeared in Montevideo about the same time as the Madrid thefts, claiming to be from the Vatican Library.'
  • < http://www.elpais.com/articulo/cultura/Procesado/Argentina/supuesto/ladron/mapamundis/Biblioteca/Nacional/elpepucul/20080708 elpepucul_4/Tes > 'Procesado en Argentina el supuesto ladrón de los mapamundis de la Biblioteca Nacional' (8 July 2008 [seen 17 August 2008]). As I understand the Spanish of the El Pais article, it was reported on 8 July (from 'judicial sources' in Buenos Aires) that there have been developments in the case of the 60-year-old Uruguayan, César Gómez Rivero. Two of his alleged accomplices have been named. The first, Daniel Guido Pastore, is head of the well-known antiquarian bookselling firm in Recoleta, which deals in books from the 16th-19th century and, significantly, incunabula. It is 'located in the most exclusive and sophisticated street of Buenos Aires'. Confusingly, the firm's name is < http://www.libreria-imagomundi.com.ar/index2.htm > 'Imago Mundi'. It has no connection with the respected scholarly journal of the same name.

    About the second alleged accomplice, Washington Luis Pereira, I have not found any information. The three have been granted bail, by the federal Argentinian judge, Ariel Lijo, for Gómez Rivero's self-confessed offence of stealing 10 world maps from the Biblioteca Nacional, Madrid. They face possible prison terms of between one month and six years, although it was also mentioned, by Gómez Rivero's lawyer, Fernando Soto, who is arguing against extradition to Spain, that the most his client could face was eight years. The thief, who is nicknamed 'el negro', apparently lives in a luxurious residential complex 'La Delfina', 50 km from Buenos Aires. According to the defendant's lawyer the case will not be 'resolved quickly'.

    There is much more on this case on Spanish sites. Perhaps somebody in Spain or Argentina can provide more details. With a link to < http://www.elpais.com/fotogaleria/mapas/recuperados/elpgal/20080505elpepu_1/Zes/2 > Fotogaleria: Los mapas recuperados (5 May 2008).

  • < http://news.theage.com.au/australia-returns-rare-1482-map-to-spain/20080204-1q0h.html > 'Australia returns rare 1482 map to Spain' (The [Melbourne] Age, 4 February 2008) - about the Ulm Ptolemy world map being returned today to Spain. 'Twelve of the 16 stolen maps have been recovered but the whereabouts of the remaining four are unknown.'
  • < http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/02/04/2154153.htm > 'Rare stolen map returned to Spain' (by Simon Santow, [Australian] ABC News, 4 February 2008). An interview with National Library of Australia map curator Dr Martin Woods.
  • < http://www.thinkspain.com/news-spain/13657/stolen-map-featured-on-national-library-christmas-cards > 'Stolen map featured on National Library Christmas cards' (ThinkSpain, seen 23 December 2007). 'The National Library has chosen one of the two 15th century world maps by Ptolemy whose robbery came to light last August for their Christmas cards this year. The image used is of a map that has been tracked down by Interpol at the home of a private collector in Sydney, but which remains in Australia. The second map was returned to the library last month along with nine of the sixteen other items stolen by 60 year old César Gómez Rivero, who is a Spanish citizen of Uruguyan origin, currently living in Argentina. Inside the Christmas cards is printed the following quotation by Petrach 'The many books which made some wise and some mad'. Among measures being implemented to prevent further priceless works from going missing from the library will be a full audit of the more than 25 million books included in its collection that will take place between the 14-19th January. New library director, Milagros del Corral, has pointed out that this will be the first audit for more than twenty years, and warns that further surprises "cannot be ruled out."
  • It now appears (15 November) that of the 15 (or 19) maps known to have been taken, eight were handed in by the presumed thief; two (a 1482 Ulm Ptolemy world map, and what sounds like the 1507 Ruysch map) were recovered in New York and have also been returned; and another example of the Ulm Ptolemy is due to be sent back from Australia. That leaves at least four unaccounted for .

  • Articles (12 & 13 November 2007) from El Mundo, in Spanish, reproduced in full via ExLibris: 'El ladron dice estar arrepentido. Rubalcaba revela que cinco paginas robadas en la Biblioteca Nacional siguen desaparecidas' < http://www.elmundo.es/elmundo/2007/11/12/cultura/1194858384.html >; and 'Cesar Antonio Molina en TVE. En la Biblioteca no se hace inventario desde 1988 y sí en cualquier ultramarinos' < http://www.elmundo.es/elmundo/2007/11/13/cultura/1194955194.html >
  • < http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/11/12/europe/EU-GEN-Spain-Stolen-Maps.php > 'Rare maps stolen from Spain's National Library returned after police action on 3 continents' (Associated Press, 12 November 2007) - 'The new director, Milagros del Corral, said a major audit would take place at the former royal library, founded in 1712, in January. "I can't discount that we'll find more unpleasant surprises," Del Corral said at a news conference. The last audit took place in 1988, Del Corral said.'
  • < http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2007/november/stolenmaps_110807 > 'Tesoros Nacionales. FBI Returns Stolen Maps to Spain' - from the FBI site (8 November), along with a < http://www.fbi.gov/pressrel/pressrel07/stolenmaps110807.htm > press release of the same date.
  • < http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article2708751.ece > 'Library map thief gives himself up' (Thomas Catan, in Times Online, 22 October 2007) - 'César Gómez Rivero, a Uruguayan-born Spanish citizen who is said to have lived in Buenos Aires for several decades, sent his lawyer to negotiate an immunity deal with an Argentine judge last week in exchange for handing over eight of the maps. "He is full of remorse because he involved people he knew and abused their confidence," Fernando Soto, his lawyer, said. The judge refused the deal, placing the maps in his vault but releasing Mr Gómez on bail. Spanish authorities are seeking his extradition to stand trial in Madrid, where penalties for the theft of historical items are much stiffer. Acting on requests from Spanish police, the FBI has retrieved another map from Richard Lan {Martayan Lan}, a dealer in New York, who had sold it to a private client. Australian police have recovered another from Simon Dewez, a dealer in Sydney, who bought it in America. Both men insist that they bought the maps in good faith.'
  • < http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/precious-stolen-map-turns-up-in-sydney/2007/10/19/1192301045420.html > 'Precious stolen map turns up in Sydney' (Philip Cornford, in the Sydney Morning Herald, 20 October 2007) - about the 1482 Ulm Ptolemy world map, purchased 'on the internet by Simon Dewez, owner of the Gowrie Galleries in Bondi Junction ... Mr Dewez declined to name the dealer from whom he bought the map but described him as a reputable dealer who had refunded him.'
  • < http://noticias.notiemail.com/noticia.asp?nt=11566257&cty=200 > 'The odyssey of the rare maps stolen from Spain' (Notiemail, 18 October 2007) - 'A team of experts from the National Library headed by the institution's director, Milagros del Corral, plans to travel Friday to Buenos Aires to examine the maps surrendered by Gomez Rivero, a 60-year-old Uruguayan-born Spaniard now living in Argentina.'
  • Full text (via ExLibris) of an article by Hernán Cappiello (18 October), 'Los incunables de la Biblioteca Nacional de Madrid' in the Buenos Aires 'La Nacion' - < http://www.lanacion.com.ar/cultura/nota.asp?nota_id=954198 >
  • < http://www.expatica.com/actual/article.asp?subchannel_id=81&story_id=45067 > 'Stolen maps by Ptolemy found in Argentina' (18 October 2007 - from Expatica), including the statement: 'Argentine police have located the suspect but have not arrested him since they have not received a request from Spain.'
  • < http://www.elpais.com/articulo/cultura/Recuperados/Argentina/mapamundis/siglo/XV/robados/Biblioteca/Nacional/elpepucul/ 20071017elpepucul_4/Tes > 'Recuperados en Argentina ocho mapamundis del siglo XV robados de la Biblioteca Nacional' (17 October 2007) - still more from El Pais about the Madrid thefts. As before, the details are far from clear. It is here reported that the lawyer acting for the presumed thief, César Ovilio Gómez Rivero, has offered to return eight of the 19 missing documents, but on condition that his client is not arrested. The Argentine judge refused this offer and the suspect is still being sought. For some reason, there is still no clarification about the status of the maps located in Sydney and New York. [See comments forwarded by Carla Lois on 18 October to the MapHist list about coverage in the Argentine papers; and a report from PhiloBiblos on 17 October linking to reports which claimed the suspect had been arrested.]
  • < http://www.elpais.com/articulo/cultura/Confiscado/Australia/mapas/robados/Biblioteca/elpepucul/20071012elpepicul_5/Tes > 'Confiscado en Australia uno de los mapas robados en la Biblioteca' (12 October 2007) - another article from the Madrid paper El Pais. The Gowrie Galleries in Sydney are named as the map dealers from whom one of the Ptolemy world maps has been confiscated, though it has not yet been confirmed that the map one of those stolen from Madrid. The named suspect has not yet been detained. [The full text also available via ExLibris.]
  • < http://www.elpais.com/articulo/cultura/FBI/rescata/Nueva/York/mapa/robado/Biblioteca/Nacional/elpepucul/20071009elpepicul_2/Tes > 'El FBI rescata en Nueva York un mapa robado en la Biblioteca Nacional. El autor de las sustracciones se apoderó de 12 páginas que contienen 19 valiosos grabados ' (by Jesús Duva, in El Pais 9 October 2007) - the Spanish text refers to another of the missing maps being sequestered from a collector in New York, the Ruysch world map from the 1508 edition of Ptolemy (with call number R-020753). It, or another example of the map, is illustrated in the article. In all, 12 leaves containing 19 early maps are known to have been removed between 2004 and August 2007 from the Biblioteca Nacional in Madrid. Investigations continue to establish whether the map in Sydney, which supposedly came via London, is one of the stolen items. [The full text also available via ExLibris.] For earlier articles in El Pais on this case, see: 'La Guardia Civil afirma que aún no ha localizado los mapamundis' (6 October) < http://www.elpais.com/articulo/cultura/Guardia/Civil/afirma/ha/localizado/mapamundis/elpepucul/20071006elpepicul >; and 'Identificado el ladrón de los mapas de la Biblioteca Nacional' (5 October) < http://www.elpais.com/articulo/cultura/Identificado/ladron/mapas/Biblioteca/Nacional/elpepucul/20071005elpepicul >.
  • < http://www.elmundo.es/elmundo/2007/10/05/cultura/1191538441.html > 'Identificado el autor del robo de dos mapamundis en la Biblioteca Nacional'; and < http://www.elmundo.es/elmundo/2007/10/05/cultura/1191555689.html > 'Descubiertos en Australia los mapas incunables robados de la Biblioteca Nacional' - two further articles in Spanish (both dated 5 October 2007) from El Mundo about the Madrid theft of the two Ptolemy world maps. These identify the thief by name and report that the maps have been traced to a dealer in Sydney, Australia.
  • More on the Madrid Ptolemy thefts (see entry below), in an article, 'Library head resigns after rare maps stolen', on September 1 by Thomas Catán in the Times Online. < http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article2364259.ece >
    'The head of the library, the writer Rosa Regàs, quit her post this week after it emerged that two valuable world maps from its rare 1482 editions of Ptolemy’s Cosmographia had disappeared from the Cervantes Hall. Police who searched the hall, which is restricted to professional researchers, found pages torn from four other books, dating from the 16th and 17th centuries.' The maps have been valued at $100,000 each. 'Ms Regàs told reporters that police had asked the library not to divulge information about the losses for fear of hurting the investigation, before volunteering that they had identified the culprit. All the evidence pointed to an Argentinian researcher, she said, who was authorised by the Spanish Ambassador in Argentina and had already fled. The Spanish Ambassador promptly denied the accusation. Experts said that whoever took the maps was not an amateur opportunist ... Library authorities said they noticed that the maps had gone missing during a routine stock check on August 23 but did not know when they were taken. Library officials said that the thief had managed to cheat security measures that were installed in the mid1990s, thought to include CCTV cameras. Ms Regàs said that she had been made a scapegoat for the loss, adding that other libraries around the world had suffered similar thefts. The National Library has been hit by thieves before. In 1988 police recovered 200 stolen books, dating from the 16th and 18th centuries, from a collector’s house.' See also the account in the [London] Independent by Graham Keeley, 31 August, 'Spanish library in turmoil over stolen maps', including the comment that 'the embarrassment of the thefts in a library with a supposedly hi-tech security system led deputies in the Spanish Congress to ask questions about the whole affair' < http://news.independent.co.uk/europe/article2914407.ece >.
  • A posting (24 August 2007) to the ExLibris list announces that the Biblioteca Nacional in Madrid has had two world maps taken from separate copies of the 1482 Ptolemy Cosmographia. This referred to a report, 'Roban dos mapamundis de sendos incunables de 1482 en la Biblioteca Nacional', on El Mundo, which described earlier thefts from the library in 1981 and 1988 < http://www.elmundo.es/elmundo/2007/08/24/cultura/1187979891.html >.

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Books, articles, etc.

  • Michael Blanding. The Map Thief: the Gripping Story of an Esteemed Rare-Map Dealer Who Made Millions Stealing Priceless Maps (Los Angeles: Gotham Press - due May 2014). 288 pp. ISBN: 9781592408177.
  • Unusual Suspects: The Case of Insider Theft in Research Libraries and Special Collections (by Todd Samuelson, Laura Sare & Catherine Coker, in College & Research Libraries 73, 6 (November 2012): 556-8)
  • Lessons from a Theft (by Robert Lopresti, Government Information Librarian, Western Washington University, 1 August 2011, updated 7 March 2013)
  • Everett C. Wilkie Jr (ed.). Guide to security considerations and practices for Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collection Libraries (Chicago: American Library Association Publishing, 2011). ISBN: 9780838985922.
  • Replevin and the Recovery of Public Records in the United States: A Review of the Literature (by Nora Mattern for the ARMA International Educational Foundation - a 30-page pdf article, 2010?)
  • The November-December 2008 issue of Fine Books & Collections magazine carries an article by the regular contributor, Derek Hayes. It is entitled 'Buying stolen maps'. Access is by subscription and I have not seen this.
  • 'Sharing Information: Report on the LIBER Library Security Network (LSN) Since 2002' (by Erland Kolding Nielsen, reviewing the history of the LIBER Library Security Network set up in 2002 'to create a safe information and communication network, based on e-mail, for European library directors and security managers', in LIBER Quarterly 18,2 (September 2008): 90-100)
  • LIBER Library Collection Security Conference. This page provides access to the presentations of the eight speakers at the conference held at the British Library (May 2008). For Peter Barber's presentation about the BL project, see the very large < http://www.bl.uk/aboutus/stratpolprog/ccare/events/peterbarber.pd > Powerpoint file. The LIBER Quarterly 18 (2), September 2008, includes some of those LIBER papers and a report on the subsequent International Roundtable Meeting on Collection Security. One of its recommendations was that 'there would be benefit if the LIBER collection security network could be extended to include the major research libraries of North America'. If achieved, this long overdue step would be very welcome.
  • The British Library's Vulnerable Collection Items Project, by Kimberly C. Kowal & John Rhatigan, in the LIBER Quarterly 18 (2), September 2008: 76-9 - describing, in the wake of the Smiley affair, a 9-month project to provide documentary and photographic evidence about 3,126 rare pre-1700 maps of the world and of the Americas. They explain how back-light digital shots are particularly effective.
          'Digital backlighting adds a new dimension to collection security; the ability to reveal hidden identifiers embedded in a collection item has huge implication for collection security and holds the key to the identification of disputed collection items. The digital fingerprint reveals unique information not visible to the naked eye or in direct front-light photography. The most revealing images proved to be backlit shots which showed exactly how, in a specific case, the map image lay on the paper in relation to watermarks, chain lines, stains, insect infestation and other paper defects which (unlike the colouring, stamps and size of the maps) could not be altered by a potential thief. The use of digital backlighting technique as a security measure is a new security tool to enhance the traditional approach of cataloguing and ownership marking.'
          This is a major initiative and one that should be imitated elsewhere. While it is understandable that access to the digital images needs to be restricted, it would be good if information about the 3,126 maps could be shared with the other research libraries which will hold them as well. Mention is made of the 'carto-bibliographies of early printed maps of the world and of the Americas' used by Smiley, but also that 'a better awareness has been gained of the BL's holdings of these formerly unknown treasures'. Of particular value would be information about the less well documented items. Knowledge of these would help rare book curators (in whose care this material is usually found) to protect what otherwise might remain both hidden and unknown.
  • Stolen maps & books by George Ritzlin (about Joshua McCarty, who was implicated in the Ted Canaday and Hayes Presidential Library thefts (see above) - mounted 8 October 2008)
  • Travis McDade, 'Throwing the Book: The Recent Evolution of Federal Punishment for "Cultural Heritage" Crimes', Library & Archival Security 21:1 (July 2008): 3-12.
  • Library Security for Maps. Report on the program sponsored by the Map and Geography Round Table (MAGERT) of the American Library Association, held in Washington DC on Sunday 24 June 2007, by April Carlucci (the summaries of the four presentations include the surprising remark by Chris Schmeisser (Assistant US Attorney General and prosecutor in the Forbes Smiley case) that 'Federal officials asked Smiley what he would do to improve security for maps in libraries,' and he told them.
  • 'Keeping it safe, keeping it available: theft prevention in special collections' (with particular reference to maps; by Joel Kovarsky in Library Student Journal, 2007, 23 July 2007 - University of Buffalo, Department of Library and Information Studies)
  • For links to lists of missing maps issued by the Sterling Library (Yale), Harvard, Beinecke Library (Yale), New York Public Library, British Library, and Boston Public Library, with my comments, see The E. Forbes Smiley III map thefts: reports and news stories (under 19 July, 1 August, 28 September, 3 October, 9 October and 14 November 2006 respectively). These can also be picked up from the bulleted library list at the top of that page
  • Travis McDade's The Book Thief: The True Crimes of Daniel Spiegelman is being published in October 2006 by Praeger. See their description, which does not mention that Spielgelman is thought to have stolen more than 250 maps (as related by Miles Harvey, The Island of Lost Maps, p.166). The case was celebrated because of Judge Kaplan's decision to base his sentence on the potential harm inflicted on society as a whole by the theft of "rare and unique elements of our cultural heritage." The implications for the Forbes Smiley case are clear [sentencing is due 21 & 22 September]. [Via the Map Room blog.]. Since November 2006, Travis McDade has been maintaining a < http://travismcdade.com/blog/ > blog. [For a review, see above under 'News Stories', 7 October 2007]
  • "Does That Document Belong in the [US] National Archives?" - a free colour brochure that may be obtained by writing to Public Affairs, NARA, 700 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington, DC, 20408-0001, or by calling 202-357-5300. [Via ExLibris, 9 March 2006].
  • 'What can the International Map Collectors' Society do to deter map thieves?' (a message from the IMCoS President, Roger Baskes, originally published, in the wake of the Forbes Smiley affair, in the Journal of the International Map Collectors' Society 103 (Winter 2005), pp.3-4 - posted to the web 25 February 2006)
  • 'Rogues Gallery: an investigation into art theft...and the Curator did it' (a disturbing piece about 'insider theft', including some references to maps - a 12-page pdf presentation, with separate file of illustrations, by Ton Cremers, Museums Security Network, November 2005 - given at an AXA Art Conference in London in October 2005)
  • 'Can One Man Make a Difference?: An Analysis of the Effects of the Crimes of Gilbert Bland on Rare Book and Special Collection Security Measures and a Review of the Evolution of Recommended Security Guidelines' (36-page Master’s Paper by Alison M. Foley, School of Information and Library Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, April 2005)
  • '"A Learned Congress": A Closer Look at Book and Manuscript Thieves' (103-page Master’s Paper by Margarite Annette Nathe, School of Information and Library Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, April 2005)
  • 'The secret inside your library's atlases: Reexamine your collection and how to protect it - before someone else does', American Libraries, October 2003, pp.49-51 (by Kathleen Weessies, Map Librarian at Michigan State, East Lansing)
  • 'Early map thefts: why the injured libraries are themselves a large part of the problem'; Tony Campbell in The Cartographic Journal, 39, 2 (December 2002), pp.167-70 [closely related to: How should we respond to early map thefts?]
  • Miles Harvey, The Island of Lost Maps (Random House, 2000) [about the Gilbert Bland affair - the author's website has removed the earlier comments on the book but retains review snippets; see also a review on the Paper Frigate blog, 2 March 2005]
  • 'The saying and the doing: the literature and reality of theft prevention measures in U.S. Archives - Part 1'; 'The saying and the doing - Part 2: the real world and the future'; Abigail Leab Martin in Library & Archival Security 15:2 (2000), 27-76, 16:1 (2000), 7-46
  • Mr. Bland's Evil Plot to Control the World; Miles Harvey in Outside magazine, June 1997
  • 'Cut and run: cartographic thievery' (F J Manasek in Mercator's World 1:2, 1996)

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