Published: June 27, 2006
Two blocks from where he was apprehended a year ago with maps that he later confessed to have stolen from Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Edward Forbes Smiley III, a specialist in early maps and atlases relating to the discovery and settlement of North America, arrived at United States District Court in New Haven on June 22 to plead guilty to single charge of the theft of a cultural property, a circa 1578 Flemish map of the world valued at about $150,000.
As part of his plea agreement, the 50-year-old Martha’s Vineyard resident and former Princeton divinity student known to his colleagues as Forbes, also admitted to removing an additional 96 maps from institutions in the United States and the United Kingdom between 1998 and 2005. He subsequently sold many of the maps to other dealers, who in turn sold them to collectors. The maps are worth between $1.8 to $3 million.
Wearing a crumpled, ill-fitting tattersall jacket and black chinos, the scholarly looking dealer told US District Judge Janet Bond Arterton, “Your honor, on June 8, 2005, while conducting legitimate research, I removed five maps, concealing them in my briefcase with the intent of removing them from the library. At 3 pm I left with them. I knew it was wrong and I apologize to the court and all the institutions harmed by my actions.”
“We submit that there are several sets of victims, including institutions and dealers,” said Assistant US Attorney Christopher W. Schmeisser, addressing the judge. “As part of the record, we approached dealers for their help. It’s the government’s position that dealers who spent money to acquire these pieces were defrauded. They are victims.”
Defense attorney Richard A. Reeve asked that his client’s willingness to cooperate with authorities be given full consideration at his sentencing, which is scheduled for September 21 in New Haven.
Reeve noted that without Smiley’s help, the government could only prove the theft of 18 of 97 maps. “The others are known from Mr Smiley’s assistance,” Reeve said.
All but six of the 97 maps have been recovered. The government considers five missing maps “unrecoverable,” either because their whereabouts are unknown or because current owners are unwilling to relinquish them without definitive proof that they were stolen.
Among the “unrecoverable” maps are two taken from the Map Division of the New York Public Library. One, a 1702-07 map of East and West New Jersey by John Thornton, is valued at $45,000. The other, a 1770 map of Pennsylvania by William Scull, is worth $25,000. Also listed as unrecoverable is a 1646 map of the Chesapeake from the book Dudley Chartsand a map of Carolina and part of Georgia, both from the Boston Public Library; and a Huttich/Fine Cordiform World of 1532 from Beinecke.
Defense counsel also cited Smiley’s willingness to pay restitution in excess of $1.8 million to his victims as proof of his client’s good faith. Said Reeve, “Mr Smiley has executed two mortgage deeds in Martha’s Vineyard and Maine. He assigns his 50 percent interest in these properties to the government for payment of the restitution.”
“I think it’s a decision by Mr Smiley, having done really bad acts against people and institutions who he likes and respects and has worked with for a number of years, to make them as whole as he can for the damage he has done,” said Reeve.
Those defrauded include antique map and book dealers Cohen & Taliaferro LLC, of New York, for between $879,400 and $886,400; English dealer Clive A. Burden, Ltd, owed between $390,770 and $403,520; The Old Print Shop of New York, due $460,740; Lawrence Fox, Esq, $19,000; The New York Public Library, $25,000 to $70,000; Beinecke Library, $10,000; Harold Osher, $37,500; and Boston Public Library, $39,000. The amounts are subject to change between now and sentencing if additional maps are returned.
“My guess is that they will get 30 or 40 cents to the dollar,” said antiquarian book dealer William Reese of New Haven, a longtime advisor to Yale museums who has been retained by Yale’s general counsel as an expert in the case.
Edward Forbes Smiley III was once a trusted insider at the New York Public Library with offices at 16 East 79th Street and galleries at 175 East 57th Street in Manhattan. He helped formed some of the largest collections in the country, including the Norman Leventhal Collection of New England maps and the Lawrence H. Slaughter Collection of English maps and atlases, now at the New York Public Library.
The case against him began at 11 am on June 8, 2005, when anX-Acto knife blade was found on the floor of the Beinecke’s RareDocuments Reading Room. After discovering Smiley’s name in thelibrary’s register and determining from the Internet that he was adealer in antique maps, a librarian notified security, whichinitiated video and direct surveillance of the dealer. When Smileyleft Beinecke, Yale police followed him, apprehending him severalblocks away at the Yale Center for British Art.
Mention of the X-Acto blade provided the only comic moment of last week’s proceeding. When US Attorney Schmeisser said that its discovery would have been presented as evidence had the case gone to trial, Reeve interrupted.
“Can I interject that we don’t disagree that the X-Acto knife was there and that it was his but it was not used on the maps?” the defense counsel asked.
Replied Judge Arterton, “But there was no disagreement on the worm holes?”
“No, your honor, these are very distinctive worm holes,” Reeve said with a laugh, referring to US Attorney Schmeisser’s earlier assertion that an expert witness would testify that worm holes on a recovered map matched those in one of Beinecke’s books.
Of the 97 maps that Smiley confessed to stealing, 66 were from the New York Public Library and the Boston Public Library. He stole the remaining maps from Beinecke and Sterling Libraries at Yale, Newberry Library in Chicago, Houghton Library at Harvard, and the British Library in London. The documents ranged from the 1532 Cordiform World by Huttich/Fine to John Wilson’s 1822 map of Ohio.
After agreeing to post $50,000 in bail and not leave New England before sentencing, Smiley, who had already surrendered his passport, walked two blocks to State court where he pleaded guilty to the theft of three other maps from Beinecke the same day.
Judge Arterton told Smiley that his cooperation might be taken into consideration at sentencing but she did not guarantee it. The dealer, who faces a maximum of ten years’ jail time and a fine of up to $1,610,400 on the federal charges alone, is expected to serve between four and six years in prison. The state sentence will be served concurrently.
Many experts fear that the 97 maps are just the tip of the iceberg. As detailed in William Finnegan’s extensive account of the Smiley case in the October 17, 2005, issue of The New Yorker, public collections of maps were vandalized by two Byzantine priests, caught in 1973 with volumes stolen from Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, Notre Dame and the University of Chicago; by Tulane professor Andrew Antippas, who pleaded guilty to stealing maps from Yale’s Sterling Library five years later; and by Florida dealer Gilbert Bland, who was caught in 1995.
William Reese, who stopped doing business with Smiley in 1983 after the dealer gave him a bad check for a 1790 Matthew Clark coastal atlas of the Eastern Seaboard that Reese agreed to sell him for $50,000, says Smiley’s motives were clear.
“The fact of the matter is that Smiley made millions of dollars by stealing and selling. That is the bottom line,” said Reese.
“It’s truly an eye-opening experience. Smiley had great knowledge. Sadly, a lot of good people were taken,” said Harry Newman of The Old Print Shop. The New York firm has known Smiley since the 1980s when he worked in the map department at B. Altman’s. The Old Print Shop began buying from him around 2000.
“This is a wake-up call for everyone – dealers, collectors, curators and institutions – to be more careful,” said Newman.
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