The Island of Lost Maps by Miles Harvey

The Island of Lost Maps

The Island of Lost Maps tells the story of a curious crime spree: the theft of scores of valuable centuries-old maps from some of the most prominent research libraries in the United States and Canada. The perpetrator was Gilbert Joseph Bland, Jr., an enigmatic antiques dealer from South Florida, whose cross-country slash-and-dash operation had gone virtually undetected until he was caught in 1995–and was unmasked as the most prolific American m...

Details The Island of Lost Maps

TitleThe Island of Lost Maps
Release DateOct 6th, 2010
PublisherBroadway Books
GenreNonfiction, History, Crime, True Crime, Cartography, Maps, Mystery, Science

Reviews The Island of Lost Maps

  • Lori
    Nothing ruins a good book more than an author confusing his quest to find the story with "the story."This book is best when Harvey is relating actual events. He includes several true stories about map thefts or about cartographers that I found interesting because 1. their effect on historical events is obvious, and 2. the stories are generally unknown to the average reader. There are some great stories in the first half of this book.But there is ...
  • Joe
    As a cartomaniac, a librarian, and a history lover myself, this book seemed to be just the ticket for me. I loved the digressions into the science of maps, notable historic maps, mapmakers, historic map thieves, explorers, map collectors and the map trade. However, I found the story of the map thief to be about as bland as the thief's own name. In fact, the author takes pains to illustrate that thief is a personification of his own name. His is a...
  • Peter Macinnis
    In June 2002, I arrived in Worcester, Massachusetts, where the courteous natives felt impelled to tell me that it was pronounced Wooster -- as though it would be anything else! (We Australians know and use the English pronunciation of such places.)There I entered the Goddard Library to get my paws on Robert Goddard's papers, and I was given firm instructions as to how I would sit, in relation to the librarian's desk. So I said brightly "You've re...
  • daniela
    I bought the book for a few reasons:- I liked the cover.- I like Islands.- I like maps.- I like some true stories.- It seemed totally random.Highly recommended because even if you like none of the above reasons, you will still love reading it. Yay cartography!
  • GoldGato
    This was certainly an interesting take on a cartographic criminal, namely one who steals maps from libraries. I have to admit I became a bit riled upon reading that rare books were destroyed in the guilty one's greed, so I didn't have much sympathy for him. But the author kept my attention by taking paths into the days of Columbus and Magellan and the great explorers, thus illuminating the constant crimes in search of rare maps.Librarians do not ...
  • Bettie☯
    (view spoiler)[Bettie's Books (hide spoiler)]
  • lethe
    This book had been languishing on my "I've started so I'll finish" shelf since forever, with the bookmark on page 289.The first part had been really interesting, the part that had been all about the map thief Gilbert Bland and his eventual arrest. But then the author, who had become quite obsessed, went off on a quest of his own, and the rest of the book turned into a rambling mess.When I finally picked it up again last night, I discovered that o...
  • Erik Graff
    This is one of those popular history/current affairs books which takes a theme, in this case the career of a antique map thief, and supplements it with excurses into other, related subthemes and topics. The thief in question here is one Gilbert Bland. The text begins with his arrest at the Peabody Library, an arrest which began the investigation revealing a whole series of thefts, spanning North America. This and the efforts of the author to retr...
  • Leslie
    I can’t believe I finally finished reading this book! I never thought I’d make it! Even Jake said he felt relieved when I was finally done. So I suppose it’s not hard to guess that I thought this book was pretty boring and way longer than it needed to be. I would repeatedly find myself at the bottom of a paragraph and realize I had no clue what I had just read. Or I would suddenly come to with a jolt and a major crick in my neck. Oy!The aut...
  • Mitch
    I suppose I was warned. After all, it says right in the title that this is a true STORY.Our intrepid journalist started out to track down information so he could write an article about some faceless guy who was caught making off with valuable old maps he'd razored free from rare books housed in a special university reading room.Over time, said intrepid journalist becomes obsessed just shy of stalking, and he amasses enough info. to write a 350 pa...
  • Roberta
    The book has a very attractive dust jacket. The sub-title of the book indicates that it is about "cartographic crime" presumably those thefts committed by Gilbert Bland. But the book was all over the place. There are a lot of anecdotes about explorers, old maps, map-collecting and map collectors. Some of these were related to the supposed subject and some weren't. At one point the author sees the name El Dorado on a map and just decides to drive ...
  • Gerry
    Map stealing has gone on from time immemorial; Christopher Columbus discovered America with the help of maps and charts stolen from the Portuguese and Sir Francis Drake went to the East Indies using captured Spanish maps. So what is new when Gilbert Bland decides that he has a new career as a map thief?Well, Bland does not steal them from his enemies, he steals them from public institutions ... and for profit! It is quite amazing to think that he...
  • Amerynth
    I am still shaking my head about Miles Harvey's "The Island of Lost Maps" -- what a wasted opportunity for an interesting book. I decided to read this one after reading Michael Blandings' excellent and far superior book "The Map Thief" and I just shouldn't have bothered.The book is supposed to be about map thief Gilbert Bland Jr., who ripped maps out of library books and made a pretty good living at it until he got caught. Harvey clearly doesn't ...
  • JulieK
    This is the story of Gilbert Bland, who was arrested after stealing historic maps from libraries all over North America. The author talks about how the popularity of eBay and the Antiques Roadshow is putting archival collections in more danger, as interest in -- and prices for -- old documents, maps, books, and so on continue to rise. He also claims that some libraries refused to admit they had anything stolen, presumably so as not to frighten of...
  • Lucy
    "For him that steals, or borrows and returns not, a book from its owner, let it change into a serpent in his hand and rend him. Let him be struck with palsy, and all his members blasted. Let him languish in pain crying aloud for mercy, and let there be no surcease to his agony till he sing in dissolution. Let bookworms gnaw at his entrails in token of the Worm that dieth not. And when at last he goes to his final punishment, let the flames of Hel...
  • Sue
    Very interesting story of a branch of literary theft -- specializing in taking maps, sometimes cutting desirable maps out of special collection edition books. As well as the hunters who track these thieves down. Interestingly, the thieves appear addicted to their pursuits, unable to stop even when they know they are close to being caught.
  • Betsy
    This book is nominally about a man named Gilbert Bland who made a living for a few years stealing antique maps from books in libraries across the U.S. and Canada. It starts out well, covering a variety of interesting topics: explorers and map creators, antique map and book restoration and map collectors. Unfortunately it gets off the track about half way through. First the author presents a strained analogy between the motivation of Bland and exp...
  • Larry Jansen
    I was surprised by this book, and myself for enjoying it so much. I chose this non-fiction piece to push myself outside my usual preference for novels with clever plots and quirky characters. I wasn't at all sure I'd persist with it, but I'd give it a start. It turned out to be engaging and profoundly informative. Fundamentally about Gilbert Bland's crime spree in the 1990s of stealing rare maps from libraries and archives, I became more fascinat...
  • Nancy
    I spend far more time on fiction than non-fiction reading, but this was rather interesting. It's a blend of a true crime story, a history of map-making, an exploration of the motivations and practices of map collectors, and the author's self-reflection regarding his own obsession with the map thief, Gilbert Bland. For me, the latter element was a bit over-done. The comparisons between Bland's personality and his own, and between Bland's and certa...
  • Beth
    This was a great surprise find. Its a good read and the topic is fascinating. I love looking at maps but had no idea it could be this much of a thing.
  • Sarah
    7/11 - I love a book about books, and while this doesn't actually appear to be a book about books, once I got reading I realised it is after all. This was origianally a book about maps (interesting enough to start with), but most of the maps Harvey talks about are located within books (or they were until horrible book destroyers ripped them out in order to sell the maps as individual plates, as they are worth more that way than as a whole). Readi...
  • Alleycatfan
    I started this book last night at about 9 p.m. I could not put it down until I was unable to keep my eyes open any longer at about 3:30 a.m. In other words it's great! I'm on page 175 and can't wait to finish up work so I can finish it. It's like a mystery/spy novel that is true a story. Any one who likes maps, legends, old books or just a well written non-fiction book will really enjoy this. It's along the lines of The Devil in the White City. D...
  • Erik Nelson
    What started as an intriguing story and interesting idea turns into something else by the end. The author realizes that he isn't going to be able to finish the story he has begun, so he tries really hard to interject himself and his experiences into the story. Some interesting historical stories here and there, but the author tried too hard to find meaning where there wasn't any. By the end, I wanted the book to be done
  • Nostalgia Reader
    2.5 starsGood map facts throughout, but nothing that you couldn't learn from reading any of the multitudes of other map history books out there.And while the focus on Bland was good in theory, because the author was unable to interview Bland directly (and Bland certainly wanted nothing to do with him), much of this part of the book takes on a purely speculative tone. In a way, it becomes more of a memoir of the author's search for information on ...
  • Debra Hale-Shelton
    I read this book while working for the AP in Chicago in 2000. I learned that the first-time novelist, Miles Harvey, lived in Chicago and set out to interview him in one of my own favorite places in the city -- the venerable Newberry Library, where he did much of his research for this non-fiction work. Along the way, I got to see and touch a map from the 1500s. So what? It turns out these old maps are quite valuable, and the prolific map thief who...
  • Corey
    Toted as the story of a cartographic criminal, Miles Harvey takes his time telling that story while interspersing the tale with mildly related essays on travel, books, people obsessed with their particular specialty and, as always, a love of antique maps. Since so little is known about the actual cartographic criminal, Harvey's travels across America to get ever-closer to the elusive thief provide just as interesting a narrative as if he were tel...
  • Book Concierge
    This is an absolutely fascinating true crime account of the cartomaniac who stole hundreds of priceless maps from the stacks of such illustrious libraries as The Peabody (at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore). The aptly named Gilbert Bland Jr used several aliases and was never questioned by security or librarians. He gave every appearance of being a mild-mannered scholar. But he sliced maps out of ancient books, and then sold them to collecto...
  • Meaghan
    As a librarian who works with rare books, I obviously found aspects of this book horrifying: the idea of a thief coming into a library with a razor blade and chopping out maps ... yikes. A few times while I read I found myself making mental notes about whether there's anything I can do to make sure this never, EVER happens where I work. The chapters of Harvey's book that actually deal with the libraries and the books themselves were very much of ...
  • Cat.
    This is all about map collecting as a hobby, a job, an obsession, and a way to steal & destroy history to make a quick buck. Ostensibly, it's about a guy who was caught cutting old maps out of their original books, from collections belong to specialized map libraries. The author is pretty critical of those map librarians, especially compared to the relatively light treatment given the thief & the businessman who has driven up the price of maps ov...
  • Cynda
    In -Island of Lost Maps- Miles Harvey writes of cartographic history, crime, printing challenges, auctions, and one particular cartographic criminal. I am convinced that map books need to join the archives or that map/rare books rooms need more security. Harvey fears that asking researchers why they want to do map research and asking for creditentials and letters of reference will limit individual'sender access to our Earth and cultural history. ...