Boston Public Library Recovers Stolen Map Created in 1612

Courtesy: Creative Commons
Courtesy: Creative Commons

Photo credit: Creative Commons

By Demi Vitkute 12/7/2015

The Boston Public Library’s (BPL) curator recovered a 403-year-old map, stolen for the last decade, at an antiques dealer in New York City, library officials said on Friday.

Ronald Grim, the curator of Norman B. Leventhal Map Center, recognized the map, Carte Geographique de Nouvelle France, compiled in 1612 by explorer Samuel de Champlain, which was for sale for $285, 000.

“I was stunned to come across the map, and thrilled to determine it indeed belongs to the Boston Public Library,” said Grim. “I’m proud it’s been returned to its rightful home.”

The 17-inch-by-30 map portrays the coast of New England, the Canadian Maritime Provinces and an area as far west as the Great Lakes. Champlain made 20 voyages to the region in the 17th century. Even though he compiled several maps, the Carte Geographique de Nouvelle France was the first published map recording his early explorations.

Shortly after Grim joined BPL in 2005, he discovered that 69 maps were missing from the library’s atlases and books. The inventory was prompted by the arrest of E. Forbes Smiley for the theft of maps at Yale University in June 2005. Thirty-three of the missing items have since been recovered (not including the Champlain map), and Smiley confessed to stealing 34.

“I want to recognize Ronald Grim for his attention to detail and passion for his work at the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library,” said Mayor Walsh. “The library has one of the nation’s premier map collections, and I’m pleased we have restored this centuries old historic map to the collection.”

The antiques dealer, not identified by the library, had been retained by a third party to sell the map on commission and fully cooperated with the recovery, BPL officials said.

The map will be on display in the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Central Library in Copley Square from December 4, 2015 through February 29, 2016.