I have always been fascinated with maps (and have written about it here). Author Michael Blanding tells a compelling story about a once-respected map dealer, who, under financial stress, decided to begin a life of crime by stealing and then selling some of the world’s most renown and valuable maps. However, were this only a crime story one might not found it quite so interesting.
Instead, Blanding includes the history of map making and the explorers who used the early maps (and made some of their own). A reader who hasn’t ever thought much about maps before reading this book, will come away with a different perception. In the book’s preface, Blanding includes a quote by Captain John Smith: “As Geography without History seemeth a carkasse without motion; so History without Geography, wandreth as a Vagrant without a certaine habitation.”
Blanding pieced together details of the story without much cooperation from map thief E. Forbes Smiley III. Not that he didn’t try to obtain his cooperation – Blanding was the first reporter that Smiley agreed to speak to following his conviction and prison sentence. Apparently, though, after “paying his debt to society” Smiley just wanted to fade into the background. Still, Blanding made the decision to continue his book project, with or without Smiley’s help. The intriguing story and Blanding’s own love of geography and maps was just too compelling.
There’s a fair amount of history throughout the book, especially early American, as well. To me that just makes the book even more interesting. If you have an interest in cartography, its history, and love a good mystery, then you would enjoy this fascinating read.
Have a GREAT day . . . someday it will be HISTORY!
© Sharon Hall (Digging History), 2014.