The Island of Lost Maps by Miles Harvey
When Gilbert Bland was caught stealing a map from a rare library book it was discovered that he had been stealing maps for some time from a whole list of different libraries. Miles Harvey tries to follow Bland’s path of crime to see how and why he did it. The search took Harvey not just through Bland’s history but the history of cartography too.
The Island of Lost Maps is sort of a true crime story. But not really. What got the author started down this road was the theft of maps from various libraries by Gilbert Bland. The author becomes fascinated with the story and ends up on a rather broader journey than expected. Harvey does go into the details of Bland's crimes and the history of the man himself (he also does some supposing about why Bland did what he did) but the book is not just about Bland. I wouldn't even say it is mostly about Bland. It isn't even just about maps. There is a lot of interesting (at least to me) information here about the history of mapmaking and the history of map thievery. It goes into the politics of maps and why they were so well guarded through history. It talks about why people today have such an interest in old maps and why people feel the need to collect them. It goes into the issues that libraries have with making rare books available to the public without making them vulnerable to theft and vandalism and how libraries can keep the books together and whole when there are no funds. Harvey's quest to find Bland led him all over the place and you have to be prepared to follow him there. Even when he goes on little detours. The book does tend to meander around a bit and follows Harvey's movements instead of having some, maybe, more cohesive style. I didn't mind because I found all his detours and musings interesting. Just beware that this book covers almost as much ground as the maps he's talking about