Sept. 22-28, 2000
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The true story of the Alderman map thief

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The true story of the Alderman map thief

The Island of Lost Maps is an intriguing literary adventure story, written with flair, imagination and precision."

-- Susan Orlean, author of The Orchid Thief

Staff Report

The Island of Lost MapsAuthor Miles Harvey, who will be on Grounds Sept. 27, will tell about charting the story of an uncommon thief who was finally caught by U.Va. police five years ago when they cracked the case of maps missing from Alderman Library.

Harvey, former columnist for Outside, will be reading and signing his book, The Island of Lost Maps, in athe McGregor Room of Alderman Library at 5 p.m. next week. His visit is sponsored by the University Bookstore, in cooperation with the Associates of the University of Virginia Library.

The Island of Lost Maps is a true story of a curious crime spree: the theft of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of centuries-old maps -- often sliced from rare books -- from some of the most prominent research libraries in the United States and Canada, including Johns Hopkins, Northwestern, Dartmouth and U.Va. The perpetrator was an antiquarian dealer named Gilbert Bland Jr., whose cross-country slash-and-dash operation went virtually undetected until he was tracked down in December by Sgt. Thomas Durrer of the U.Va. Police Department. By the time all was said and done, Bland had become the most prolific map thief in American history.

Bland, a chameleon who changed careers and families without a backward glance, seemed like terra incognita, unknown territory, but Harvey became a surveyor -- scouting the world of explorers, map collectors and dealers, high-stakes auctions, and the libraries and museums that display antiquarian treasures -- as he traced the map of Bland's life. The Island of Lost Maps is the story of Bland's rise and fall as told by the antique dealers who schooled him and the curators whose collections fed his obsession.

"One thing I found out from Harvey's book," said Michael Plunkett, director of Special Collections, "is that Bland was not a map-lover. He was nothing but a common thief."

In conjunction with this event, Alderman Library will exhibit four of Western civilization's rarest maps and atlases from its holdings, including early world maps, Theatrum orbis terrarum by Abraham Ortelius, dating from 1570, and a 1513 edition of Ptolemy's Geographia. These are not retrieved maps that Bland cut out of books, but are mentioned in Harvey's work.



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