Campus Security vs. The Million-Dollar Map Thief
E. Forbes Smiley stole nearly a hundred rare maps worth millions of dollars—but met his match in the darkened halls of an Ivy League library.
Photos courtesy Gotham Books
E. Forbes Smiley III couldn’t stop coughing. No matter how much he tried to suppress it, the tickle in the back of his throat kept breaking out into a hacking cough, drawing glances from the patrons sitting around him. The glass fishbowl of a reading room at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University was quiet except for the low hum of the air-conditioning and the clicking of fingers on keyboards, making Smiley painfully aware of the noise he was making. At one point, he pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket to muffle the sound. As he did, an X-Acto knife blade wrapped inside fell softly onto the carpeted floor. He folded the cloth and put it back in his pocket, oblivious to what had just happened.
When people thought of Forbes Smiley — as he was universally known by friends, dealers, librarians and clients — a few words inevitably sprang to mind: gregarious; jolly; larger-than-life. He spoke with the resonance of an Italian tenor man…