Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Smiley-Stolen Map Returned to Yale

Another shoe has dropped in the E. Forbes Smiley case, Kim Martineau reports in today's Hartford Courant. A 1524 Hernán Cortés woodcut map of Tenochtitlan and the Gulf of Mexico has been returned to Yale University from a New York map dealer who purchased the item from Smiley. The map is believed to have been stolen from Yale in May, 2005 when Smiley requested to see it, and has been missing since.

It seems that Smiley took the map to New York City, where he sold it to Harry Newman of the Old Print Shop for "mid-five figures," according to Newman. Newman originally thought that the map he'd purchased was safe, but after a close examination realized that it matched a picture of the stolen Yale copy. He returned the map "before Christmas, for the last weeks of an exhibition on the mapping of early Mexico," Martineau notes.

"The case is closed, but another mystery remains. Smiley confessed to stealing Harvard's copy of the Cortés map, but no one knows how two facsimile reproductions found their way into the book the map came from. Harvard discovered the two facsimiles - and its missing map - after Smiley's arrest.

New York Public Library, it turns out, is missing a Cortés facsimile. Did Smiley steal it and put it in the Harvard book to disguise his earlier theft? If so, what about the second facsimile?

Four maps handled by Smiley have turned up since his sentencing, including Harvard's 1578 world map by British explorer George Best and New York's 1535 world map by Carthusian monk Gregor Reisch. Federal authorities insist Smiley cooperated in good faith. A U.S. attorney's spokesman said he couldn't comment on whether charges might be brought, but it appears unlikely."

Of course it does (argh!). How many more stories like this are going to have to dribble in over the next x number of years before the "federal authorities" realize that what they got out of Smiley was only the tip of the iceberg?