Book Review: "The Island of Lost Maps: A True Story of Cartographic Crime" |

Book Review: "The Island of Lost Maps: A True Story of Cartographic Crime"

This is an unusual true-crime story about stealing old maps that author Miles Harvey has wrapped in an intriguing and vastly interesting history of maps, mapmaking and mapmakers.

It seems there is a thriving business in antique maps, many of which are stolen from libraries. Harvey traces the progress of convicted map thief Gilbert Bland as he slips into prestigious libraries, surreptitiously razors old maps from old books then sells them to collectors.

Harvey profiles map dealers, including macho Graham Arader, his friends and his many enemies, and a series of librarians who were victims of map thieves.

And each time he talks about a map, Harvey delves into the past and spins a tale about its history and the life and times of the mapmaker. He covers John “The Pathfinder” Fremont, Lewis and Clark, Henry the Navigator, Vasco de Gama and, of course, Christopher Columbus.

In the case of Bland, crime does not pay, and he ends up in prison and losing his business. But Harvey also hints that collectors who want maps for their personal collections are not all that concerned about the origins of what they buy.

It is a fascinating look at maps and mapmaking through history and at the people who steal maps today.

Curt Sutliff

Nevada City

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