Library Curators Puzzle Over Many Rare Maps Still Missing


Officials from libraries whose rare maps were targeted for theft by Chilmark resident E. Forbes Smiley 3rd plan met yesterday in New Haven, Conn., to discuss concerns with federal officials that he may know something about a number of maps that remain missing.

Library representatives participated in closed-door meetings yesterday with officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Attorney's office.

On June 22 in federal court in New Haven, Mr. Smiley admitted to stealing 97 rare maps and documents between 1998 and 2005 from institutions including the British Library in London, the Boston and New York public libraries, and Harvard and Yale universities.

Following his arrest in June 2005, he spent months cooperating with federal officials to document his thefts.

He is scheduled to be sentenced twice for his admitted crimes: Sept. 21 in federal court and the following day in Connecticut superior court.

For the federal felony, Mr. Smiley can be sentenced to a maximum of 10 years in prison, and fined up to $1.6 million.

For the state offense, where he faces three felony counts, Mr. Smiley likely will be sentenced to three five-year sentences, which would run concurrently with each other and the federal sentence. He could be sentenced up to 60 years in prison and/or fined $45,000.

He also has agreed to pay restitution of $1.8 million or more to the libraries and rare-map dealers damaged by his actions.

But the libraries, which conducted inventories of their rare maps following Mr. Smiley's arrest June 8 at Yale, say a number of maps remain missing. In some cases, records show that Mr. Smiley examined the books from which maps are missing.

"We continue to entertain serious doubts about the completeness of the investigation and the extent of Mr. Smiley's cooperation with the authorities," the director of scholarship and collections at the British Library, Clive Field, recently wrote in a letter to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which investigated the Smiley thefts.

"We note that he has admitted to stealing only one map from our collections but are not persuaded that this exhausts the limits of Mr. Smiley's involvement in our thefts," Mr. Field wrote.

The document that Mr. Smiley admitted taking from the British Library is a world map drawn by Peter Apian in 1520.

But in a telephone interview yesterday, Mr. Field said the library has discovered that four historic maps are missing from its collection.

They include not only the Apian map but a world map drawn by George Best published in 1578, and two copies of a map of New England and the Canadian Maritimes prepared by Sir William Alexander. One copy was published in 1624, with the other copy published in 1625.

While library records show that a number of individuals looked at each of the maps, Mr. Field said those records also show that Mr. Smiley is the only person since 1997 to examine all four maps.

"They are some of the earliest examples of maps of North America and the wider world," Mr. Field said of the maps in question.

Beth Brainard, communications director for the Harvard library system, said Thursday that 13 rare maps officially remain missing from Houghton Library, even though Mr. Smiley admitted taking eight of them.

In some cases, Ms. Brainard said, multiple copies of the maps are known to exist. So maps stolen by Mr. Smiley and subsequently returned to Harvard might in fact have been taken from other institutions, she said, with the fate of the maps owned by Houghton still unknown.

Thomas Carson, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Kevin O'Connor, confirmed Thursday that officials from libraries with missing maps planned to meet yesterday in New Haven with FBI agents and assistant U.S. attorney Christopher W. Schmeisser, who prosecuted the federal case against Mr. Smiley.

Mr. Carson said the FBI and the U.S. attorney's office have received a lot of information about the case since Mr. Smiley pleaded guilty in June.

But Mr. Carson also said: "At this point, we have no reason to believe that Mr. Smiley is not being forthcoming in this matter."

Reached last Thursday at his home in Chilmark, Mr. Smiley had no comment on the concerns being raised by the libraries.

"For now and in the past, we have not made any comment, and we're going to stick with that," he said.

Richard Reeve, the New Haven attorney who represents Mr. Smiley, was out of his office and unavailable for comment. A spokesman in Mr. Reeve's office said the attorney would not have commented on the matter anyway.

But in an article published July 30 in the Hartford Courant, Mr. Reeve said Mr. Smiley told the FBI everything concerning the thefts and is worried that the libraries have found in him a scapegoat for the additional thefts.

"Either the maps have legs themselves or there are other people taking maps," Mr. Reeve told the Courant.

Library officials, however, are not being so quick to give Mr. Smiley a pass.

"I think all of the affected institutions believe [Mr. Smiley] took other maps," the president of the Boston Public Library, Bernard Margolis, told The Boston Globe in a story published last Tuesday.

Mr. Smiley admitted taking 34 maps from the Boston Public Library. Mr. Margolis told the Globe that the maps, drawn from the 1500s through the 1700s, have been valued at more than $500,000. He declined to say which maps still are missing from the library. Mr. Margolis could not be reached for comment.

Over at Houghton, Harvard's main depository of rare books and maps, missing maps include Carte Geographiqve de la Novvelle Franse faictte par le Sievr de Champlain, a map drawn by explorer Samuel de Champlain dating from 1612, and a 1625 map drawn by Samuel Purchas showing New England and New France.

Last Tuesday, Yale University posted a list of 78 maps and documents on the Web under the title, "Maps identified as missing from the map collection in the Sterling Memorial Library, Yale University, as of August 1, 2006." The map can be found at

The Yale list excludes the 11 documents that Mr. Smiley admitted taking from Sterling and the nine from Beinecke Library, the Yale library where Mr. Smiley came under suspicion on June 8, 2005, after he dropped an X-Acto knife on the floor.