The E-Sylum:  Volume 8, Number 36, August 21, 2005, Article 15


Regarding last week's item about the theft of maps from libraries,
Bob Leonard writes: "You might be shocked to learn that there
is a numismatic connection to the following item, one of those
"Whatever became of So-and-so?" stories. An entire book
has been written on the subject of map theft, The Island of
Lost Maps, A True Story of Cartographic Crime, by Miles
Harvey (Random House, 2000). On p. 159 we discover
"Charles Lynn Glaser, one of the most notorious Jekyll-and-Hyde
figures in cartographic crime....he was...a compulsive map thief
with a criminal career that spanned three decades. Even before
his legal troubles began, Glaser exhibited a curious fascination
with fraud. In his 1968 book, Counterfeiting in America: The
History of an American Way to Wealth, he took lengths to
praise the 'few great of unusual skill or
cunning' who 'ennobled the crime by demonstrating vision and
industry.' It's not clear why Glaser himself turned to crime.
He did sell the maps he stole...

"In July 1974 Glaser was arrested for stealing eight sixteenth-,
seventeenth-, and eighteenth-century atlases...from Dartmouth
College. Sentenced to a three-to-seven year prison term, he
spent seven months behind bars before being paroled....Upon
his guilty plea [for stealing two maps from the University of
Minnesota] in 1982, Glaser, who also admitted stealing two
maps from the Newberry Library in Chicago, was given six
months in prison....he pleaded guilty in March 1992 to stealing
a map...housed at the Free Library of Philadelphia. Less than
one month later, while on probation, he was discovered again--
reportedly while wearing surgical gloves and carrying a hammer
--in the stacks of Leheigh University...."

These brief excerpts give the barest summary of his frightening
career as a map thief, which may not be over yet. Perhaps it
is just as well for numismatics that he turned his attention from
coins to maps, though the articles he wrote as a teenager
showed great insight and promise."

Katie Jaeger writes: "Your notice about someone being convicted
of stealing maps from priceless atlases reminded me of an excellent
book called Island of the Lost Maps: A True Story of Cartographic
Crime by Miles Harvey, Random House (hardback) and Broadway
Books (paperback). It details the story of map thief Gilbert Bland,
who destroyed hundreds of immensely valuable atlases in great
libraries in the U.S. and Canada, by slitting out their map plates
with an exacto knife.

This average looking, mousy little man never attracted the attention
of librarians. He would spend a few hours studying books and
taking notes, as though on a tightly focused research project, then
he'd request the book he intended to rob, take it to his table,
remove and roll its map plates into his sleeves. He sold them
from his map dealership in a strip mall near Atlanta. He infuriated
competing, legitimate map dealers with his "incredible luck" at
securing great rarities, and his reasonable prices. He got away
with it for years, and when he was finally caught leaving Johns
Hopkins' Peabody Library with two maps up his sleeves, an alert
was placed to all the other U.S. and Canadian libraries with
famous map collections. Nearly all of them determined they
had missing maps.

The best parts of this book to me were the in-depth look at
the culture of map collecting, its characters and personalities,
the fascinating chapter on the psychology of collecting, the
discussion of how rare books are repaired and restored, and
its excellent history of cartography. Bland's own story is never
satisfactorily told. Harvey was thwarted in his every attempt
to interview the guy while he was in prison, and he (Bland)
has since died."

  Wayne Homren, Editor

Google Web
The Numismatic Bibliomania Society is a non-profit organization 
promoting numismatic literature. See our web site at

To submit items for publication in The E-Sylum, write to the Editor 
at this address:

To subscribe go to:
Copyright © 2005 The Numismatic Bibliomania Society.



Copyright © 1998 - 2005 The Numismatic Bibliomania Society (NBS)
All Rights Reserved.

NBS Home Page
Contact the NBS webmaster