“The Island of Lost Maps: A True Story of Cartographic Crime” by Miles Harvey (Broadway, 2001)

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Miles Harvey is a writer for Outside magazine and it was quite some time age that he was given the assignment to write a well-researched article on cartographic crime.  Having been obsessed with maps, order, and direction from a young age, the article was written, and then Harvey began researching the same subject for a book.  In his travels he discovered one of the most notorious and recent perpetrators of cartographic crime, Gilbert Joseph Bland, Jr.  The Island of Lost Maps is this man’s story.

Recently released in paperback, the Island of Lost Maps presents a healthy mixture of the nonfiction world of cartography and the crimes committed against it, as well as fictional work with Harvey’s exploration of Bland’s life.  Harvey has had to recreate the criminal career of this enigmatic person who abhors publicity and being known for who he is.  Through meticulous research, interviews, and actual years of study, the result is a most remarkable book.

But not only is this a book about how Bland with a small razor blade would cut out maps and then proceed to steal them from prestigious libraries and later sell them.  The reader also gets a full history lesson in when many of these magnificent cartographic pieces of art were created, how they were made, and what the currently fetch on the auction block at Sotheby’s and Christie’s.  For example, just a couple years ago, a 1492 print of Ptolemy’s Geographic was auctioned at Sotheby’s (with an estimated auction range of $200-300,000) for $1,150,000.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally published on April 29th 2002.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.

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