Chilmark Man May Plead Guilty in Rare Map Theft


A Chilmark man is expected to plead guilty next Thursday to one or more thefts of rare maps worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to published reports in Connecticut newspapers.

Both the New Haven Register and the Hartford Courant have reported that E. Forbes Smiley 3rd, a dealer in rare maps who lives on North Road, may make pleas in back-to-back appearances in U.S. District Court and state superior court in New Haven.

Mr. Smiley faces three felony larceny charges in superior court in connection with the theft of rare maps last June from the Beinecke Library at Yale University.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation also has been looking into additional thefts that may be connected to Mr. Smiley. The Hartford Courant has reported that the British Library in London, the Newberry Library in Chicago and the Boston Public Library have confirmed that maps are missing from books that Mr. Smiley had been handling, ostensibly as a scholar.

Thomas Carson, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney in New Haven, said that no federal charges have been filed nor has a federal indictment brought against Mr. Smiley. But Mr. Carson said people under investigation sometimes will plead guilty to criminal information filed with the federal court.

Reached by telephone Wednesday at his Chilmark home, Mr. Smiley declined comment on what, if anything, may occur in court next week.

"I have been told in the past that we've declined to speak to the press," he said. "I simply follow the good advice of my attorneys, and leave you guys to what you do."

The charges against and investigation of Mr. Smiley stem from an incident on June 8, 2005, at the Beinecke Library.

Yale University police arrested him after finding rare maps inside his briefcase which Yale officials subsequently identified as coming from the university's collection. His arrest followed a series of events that began with the discovery of an Exacto-brand knife on the library floor.

Library employees picked up the knife, wrapped it in white tissue for safekeeping, and later turned it over to Yale police.

Ellen Cordes, head of public services for the library, knew that the reading room is cleaned daily, which led her to suspect that the person who had dropped the knife still was in the library. She walked through the room, saw a man looking at books containing rare maps, and identified him from the library register as Edward Forbes Smiley.

The library then placed Mr. Smiley under surveillance. The security supervisor saw Mr. Smiley fidgeting with the inside pocket of his jacket and called Yale police.

A detective followed Mr. Smiley to the British Arts Museum at the university, stopped him, and asked him if he had just been at the Beinecke Library. When Mr. Smiley said that he had, the detective showed him the knife and asked if it were his.

Mr. Smiley said that it was. The detective then asked Mr. Smiley to open the briefcase he was carrying, and saw maps and old documents. He asked Mr. Smiley to return with him to the Beinecke Library.

When they arrived, Ms. Cordes showed Mr. Smiley a book that was missing a map dating from 1614. The detective noticed a bulge in a pocket of Mr. Smiley's jacket and asked him about it. The bulge turned out to be the map missing from the book, according to an arrest warrant filed by Yale police. The map is valued at $50,000.

The next day, Ms. Cordes informed the detective that of the seven maps found in Mr. Smiley's briefcase, three were the property of the Beinecke Library. The maps were Typvs Orbis Terrarvm, valued at $78,000; Part of America Part of China, valued at $50,000; and Vninersi Orbis, sevfterreni glo, valued at $150,000.

Following Mr. Smiley's arrest, the FBI entered the case, getting in touch with libraries in the United States and overseas that also had experienced the loss of rare maps.