Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2016 Issue

Valuable Map Stolen from Boston Library Returned. One Down, 34 To Go

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Champlain's 1613 map of New France.

This has been a difficult year for the Boston Public Library. There was the lost, feared stolen $600,000 print that turned out to be misplaced, the resignation of the library's president as a result of that fiasco, a highly critical report on library practices by an outside evaluator, and an attack of mold in the Rare Books Department which forced its shut down for several weeks. So, it is good to see the year end on a high note for the Boston Library. A highly valuable map, missing for over a decade, has been recovered.

 

The map in question is the Carte Geographique de Nouvelle France and it was being offered for sale by a New York dealer for $285,000. The map had been taken from the book Les Voyages du Sieur de Champlain, the 1613 account of French explorer Samuel de Champlain's early voyages to North America. In 2009, two copies of this book sold at auction, the largest difference being one had the map, the other did not. The copy with the map sold for $780,000, the one without for $68,500. Recovering the map that came with the BPL's copy is a very big deal.

 

Map theft is the most insidious form of book theft. If a book is missing, librarians should be able to notice. When a map is neatly sliced from the internal pages of a book, only someone very familiar with that book has a chance of noticing, and even that requires a thorough inspection. Whenever this map was stolen, it slipped past the notice of BPL's librarians. In fact, many maps were stolen from books, and they all slipped past the the awareness of the library.

 

In 2005, Ronald Grim was hired as curator of the library's map center. That was at the time the huge map theft at the Yale University Library by map dealer E. Forbes Smiley was exposed. Smiley dropped a razor blade as he prepared to exit the library. An alert librarian noticed, he was stopped, and Smiley's career as a map thief came to an abrupt halt. Other libraries Smiley had visited began inventorying their own maps. By the time he finished, Grim had discovered that 69 maps were missing from the BPL's collection of books and atlases.

 

Caught razor-handed, Smiley pled guilty to stealing 97 maps, and received a three-year prison sentence, half of what me might otherwise have received. The FBI was satisfied that he had identified all of the maps he had taken. Others were not so sure. The British Library thought the sentence too lenient. Smiley completed his sentence and was released from prison in January 2010.

 

This past year, Grim became aware of the map being offered by the New York dealer. It had been advertised in an antiques magazine. There aren't very many copies of this map separated from the book floating around, so he concluded it was worth a look. Fortunately, a digital image had been taken of the Champlain map back in 1992, which the BPL still had. This is an exception. Grim examined the image of the BPL's map and the one offered by the dealer and discovered they had the same markings. It had a few tears and a small hole in specific places. Despite conservation efforts made after the map was taken from the BPL, they were still noticeable. An outside conservator was brought in to examine the images and confirmed Grim's conclusion that the maps were the same. The BPL reported that the dealer, who was selling the map on behalf of a third party consignor on a commission basis, was "fully cooperative" during the process. The map has since been returned to the library and will be on display through February 29 at the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Library's Central Library.

 

This still leaves BPL with 34 missing maps, and here the outlook is not so bright. Only one of them was photographed by the library. There is no easy way to identify the remaining maps as having come from their books. This is not to say it will always be impossible. There may be matching features between the maps and the BPL copy of the book missing the map, such as folds, stains, or the like. Still, there may be no such identifying markings, making it nearly impossible to demonstrate a match.

 

The finding of this map should open the door to further investigation, though the FBI seemingly closed that door when they agreed to a plea deal with Smiley a decade ago. Although the consignor has not been publicly identified, the New York dealer knows who he is, and that person knows from whom he purchased the map. This was no casual purchase considering it's value. He has not forgotten. Since this book was last viewed in 1993, and presumably the map was still present at the time, we are not talking about some long chain of provenance that is difficult to trace back. While it is not known whether it was Smiley who took this map and failed to list it in his inventory of 97 stolen items, he would certainly be the victim of a most unfortunate coincidence if it was someone else. BPL records show Forbes Smiley as the last person to view the Champlain book. Indeed, he was last to view many of the 34 books which still have maps missing.

 

Additionally, there is another copy of the Champlain map missing. Harvard University is missing a copy. Smiley admitted to taking eight maps from Harvard, but they have five more still missing, at least some of which were viewed by Smiley. Smiley did admit to stealing a copy of the Champlain map, but that copy was identified as belonging to the New York Public Library. He never admitted to stealing more than one copy of any map, but this is a particularly valuable map, and librarians at BPL and Harvard have long been suspicious.

 

Hopefully, a concerted effort will now be made to trace the post-BPL provenance of this map. If it leads back to Smiley, it will show that he was not truthful in his dealings with the FBI. That ought to provide a source of pressure to make him more forthright. It may also help trace where some of the other BPL, Harvard, and other library maps went. If it turns out that Smiley was not the thief, it should enable authorities to determine who was responsible for taking the remaining maps. It will also be very surprising if it is someone else. Very, very surprising.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ian Fleming, <i>Goldfinger,</i> first edition, inscribed to Sir Henry Cotton, MBE, London, 1959. Sold for $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Joseph Brant, Mohawk Chief, ALS, writing after pledging support to King George III against American rebels, 1776. Sold for a record $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Sonia Delaunay, <i>Ses Peintures</i> . . ., 20 pochoir plates, Paris, 1925. Sold for a record $13,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Diana, Princess of Wales, 6 autograph letters signed to British <i>Vogue</i> editor, 1989-92. Sold for $10,400.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Alexander Hamilton, ALS, as Secretary of the Treasury covering costs of the new U.S. Mint, 1793. Sold for $12,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Benjamin Graham & David L. Dodd, <i>Security Analysis,</i> first edition, inscribed by Graham to a Wall Street trader, NY, 1934. Sold for $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> George Barbier & François-Louis Schmied, <i>Personnages de Comédie,</i> Paris, 1922. Sold for $9,375.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Alphonse Mucha, <i>Ilsée, Princesse de Tripoli,</i> Paris, 1897. Sold for a record $13,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ralph Waldo Emerson, <i>The Dial,</i> first edition of the reconstituted issue, Emerson’s copy with inscriptions, Cincinnati, 1860. Sold for a record $3,250.
  • <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Darwin, Charles. <i>On the Origin of Species.</i> Presentation Copy. Sold for $500,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Darwin, Charles. Autograph Letter Signed, 3 pp, negotiating the 2nd American edition with Appleton. Sold for $21,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Hemingway, Ernest. Autograph Letter Signed, 8 pp, Paris, 1924, to his father discussing Bullfighting, Stories, and his new baby. Sold for $25,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Shakespeare, William. <i>Corialanus.</i> London, 1623. 1st printing [Extracted from the First Folio]. Sold for $50,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Swift, Jonathan. <i>Gulliver's Travels.</i> London, 1726. 1st edition, Teerink's A edition, fine, large copy. Sold for $21,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Fitzroy, Robert. Autograph Letter Signed to agent Thomas Stilwell, informing him of the progress of H.M.S. Beagle. Sold for $17,575.
    <center><b>Bonhams<br> Property from the Collection of Nicole and William R. Keck II</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Shakespeare, William. <i>Sonnets.</i> 1901. 2 volumes. Printed on vellum and illuminated by Ross Turner, bound by Trautz-Bauzonnet. Sold for $13,825.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Beardsley, Aubrey. <i>The Birth, Life, and Acts of King Arthur.</i> 1893-94. 2 volumes. Contemporary painted vellum gilt by Chivers. Sold for $5,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Assisi, St. Francis. <i>The Canticle of Brother Sun.</i> Illuminated on vellum, for the Grolier Society. Sold for $7,575.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Rackham, Arthur. <i>Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.</i> 1/500 copies signed by Rackham. Sold for $4,825.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Proust, Marcel. <i>Du coté de chez Swann.</i> 1st edition, 1st issue. Inscribed by Proust. Sold for $8,825.
  • <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini. June 27</b>
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini:</b> KENNEDY ONASSIS, JACQUELINE Typed letter signed to Oleg Cassini. $400 to $600
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini:</b> [CASSINI-KENNEDY FASHIONS] Important archives related to the development of fashions for Mrs. Kennedy… $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini:</b> [CASSINI-KENNEDY FASHIONS] Detailed ledger of the Kennedy White House years… $500 to $800
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini:</b> KELLY, GRACE. Four autograph letters to Oleg Cassini. $5,000 to $8,000
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini. June 27</b>
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini:</b> CASSINI, OLEG. Group of Kennedy-era original fashion sketches. $1,000 to $1,500
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini:</b> KENNEDY ONASSIS, JACQUELINE. Autograph letter signed to Oleg Cassini. $800 to $1,200
    <b>Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini:</b> CASSINI, OLEG. Fashion sketch titled “Mrs. Kennedy-Palais de Versailles-State Dinner.” $800 to $1,200
    Doyle, The Estate of Oleg Cassini: [CASSINI, OLEG - KENNEDY, JACQUELINE.] Group of approximately 130 original fashion designs… $800 to $1,200.
  • <b>Christie’s Paris:</b> Blaise Cendrars and Fernand Léger, <i>La Fin du monde filmée par l’ange N.-D.,</i> Paris, Editions de la Sirène, 1919
    <b>Christie’s Paris:</b> André Breton, <i>Second manifeste du Surréalisme,</i> Paris, Editions Kra, 1930
    <b>Christie’s Paris:</b> Paul Eluard and Pablo Picasso, <i>La Barre d’appui,</i> Paris, Editions « Cahiers d’Art », 1936
    <b>Christie’s Paris:</b> Blaise Cendrars and Fernand Léger, <i>La Fin du monde filmée par l’ange N.-D.,</i> Paris, Editions de la Sirène, 1919
    <b>Christie’s Paris:</b> Hans Bellmer, <i>Die Puppe,</i> Paris, G.L.M., 1936
    <b>Christie’s Paris:</b> Salvador Dali, <i>La femme visible,</i> Paris, Editions Surréalistes, 1930
  • <b>Christie’s London, Jul. 9:</b> Pushkin, Alexander. <i>Evgenii Onegin. A novel in verse.</i> A first edition of the most important work in Russian literature in its original parts, 1825–32. £120,000 to £160,000
    <b>Christie’s London, Jul. 9:</b> Gogol, Nikolai. <i>Evenings on a Farm near Dikanka.</i> A rare first edition of Gogol's first masterpiece, 1831–32. £70,000 to £100,000
    <b>Christie’s London, Jul. 9:</b> Darwin, Charles Robert. <i>On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.</i> First edition, owned and read by two contemporaries of Darwin. London: John Murray, 1859. £140,000 to £200,000
    <b>Christie’s London, Jul. 9:</b> Galilei, Galileo. <i>Sidereus Nuncius.</i> First edition, announcing the first astronomical discoveries made with the telescope. Venice: Tommaso Baglioni, [March] 1610. £300,000 to £500,000
    <b>Christie’s London, Jul. 9:</b> The seal of Wulfric. England, first half 11th century. £70,000 to £100,000
    <b>Christie’s London, Jul. 9:</b> Bible, <i>Ezechiel</i> in Latin. [Northern Italy, 5th century]. £120,000 to £180,000
    <b>Christie’s London, Jul. 9:</b> Blaeu, Jan and Willem Blaeu. <i>Grooten Atlas [Atlas Major]</i>. Amsterdam: Johannes Blaeu, 1664. £450,000 to £650,000
    <b>Christie’s London, Jul. 9:</b> Petites Heures of Charles VIII use of Paris, in Latin. An exquisite Hours illuminated by the Master of the Chronique Scandaleuse. [Paris, 1490s]. £300,000 to £500,000

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