Arrests Made in Pittsburgh Rare Book and Map Thefts

Arrests have been made in the case of the rare books and maps stolen from the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh, the New York Times and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report. Former library archivist Gregory Priore and John Schulman, the owner of the Caliban Book Shop, are accused of stealing some $8 million in items from the library over a 20 year period, about $1 million of which has since been identified and returned.

They both face numerous charges, including theft, receiving stolen property, conspiracy, retail theft and forgery; Priore has also been charged with library theft and criminal mischief, while Schulman is also facing charges of dealing in the proceeds of illegal activity, theft by deception and deceptive business practices.

Both men turned themselves in last Friday and were released on their own recognizance; a preliminary hearing is scheduled for 1 August. For his part Priore seems to be cooperating with the investigation.

Previously: New Details Emerging in Pittsburgh Rare Book and Map Thefts; 314 Rare Books and Maps Stolen from Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

New Details Emerging in Pittsburgh Rare Book and Map Thefts

Some developments in the case of the rare books and maps stolen from the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh, which came to light last April. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported last week that a former library archivist and a bookseller are the focus of the investigation.

The former archivist of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s rare book collection told investigators he conspired with the owner of an Oakland bookseller since the 1990s to steal and resell items taken from there.

Gregory Priore, who was terminated from the library on June 28, 2017, and John Schulman, who co-owns Caliban Book Shop, are under investigation for theft, receiving stolen property and criminal mischief, according to hundreds of pages of documents unsealed Thursday in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court.

Charges have not yet been laid. A search warrant was executed at the Caliban Book Shop’s warehouse last August and several of the items reported stolen from the library were apparently recovered.

Note the timeline: we first heard about this in April 2018, but the searches had already been executed the previous August. The thefts had apparently been going on for decades but were only discovered in April 2017. We’re not finding things out in real time. [WMS]

Previously: 314 Rare Books and Maps Stolen from Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

Osher Formally Donates Map Collection to USM

Harold Osher is formally donating his map collection to the University of Southern Maine, a gift with an estimated value of $100 million, along with a contribution to an endowment to support the collection (USM press releasePortland Press-Herald). Osher and his wife, Peggy (who died last month) donated “their initial collection” to the USM in 1989; the map library named after them opened five years later. The Oshers’ collection comprises more than 5,000 maps, the Osher Map Library comprises more than 60 collections and nearly half a million maps. I’m not entirely clear what’s being donated here: I gather the Osher has had access to the Oshers’ maps for some time, and this is a formal transfer of ownership; or perhaps these are additional maps being transferred from their private collection to the USM. Either way, this has some significance. [Tony Campbell]

Previously: Peggy Osher, 1929-2018.

A Gang of Hungarian Map Thieves on Trial in France

“French prosecutors on Thursday sought prison terms of up to seven years for a group of Hungarians on trial over accusations they stole rare maps worth millions of euros from a string of French libraries,” Agence France-Presse reported yesterday (Expatica France, The Local). The group of seven reportedly cut maps from books in libraries in cities like Lille, Nancy and Toulouse; they were caught when one of them was stopped by Hungarian customs officials. We usually talk about map thieves as single, even singular individuals, but a gang of map thieves? Move aside, Smiley. [Tony Campbell/WMS]

An 18th-Century Manuscript Map of the St. Lawrence River

Jean-Nicolas Bellin, Carte du cours du fleuve St. Laurent, ca. 1733. Manuscript map, 3 sheets, 44.8×61.1 cm. Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec.

Another one in French. Last month, Radio-Canada had the story of a manuscript map of the St. Lawrence River that was recently acquired by the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec. The 18th-century map takes three sheets to trace the course of the St. Lawrence from the Ottawa River to Anticosti Island, and the BANQ’s map librarians have concluded that it’s the work of French philosophe and cartographer Jean-Nicolas Bellin. The map can be viewed on the BANQ’s website, which those who can’t read French should be able to manage. [WMS]

Re-Analyzing the Vinland Map

The Vinland Map

The general consensus is that the Vinland Map is a modern forgery, not a pre-Columbian 15th-century map showing Norse explorations of North America. That doesn’t seem to stop Yale University from continuing to study the map, which is held in Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library. The map is being subjected to a battery of non-destructive tests to provide better and more precise physical data about its parchment and ink. The results will be published in a forthcoming book edited by Raymond Clemens, who for the record does not believe the map is authentic. (Neither do I, for what it’s worth.) [GeoLounge]

The Vinland Map is also being put on display for the first time in half a century. It’ll be at the Mystic Seaport’s R. J. Schaefer Gallery in Mystic, CT from 19 May to 30 September.

The definitive book on the Vinland Map, though it may have been overtaken by later investigations and claims, is Kristin A. Seaver’s Maps, Myths, and Men: The Story of the Vinland Map (Stanford University Press, 2004).

Texas A&M Acquires Copy of Austin’s 1830 Map of Texas

Stephen F. Austin, Map of Texas with parts of the adjoining states, 1830. Map, 74 × 60 cm. Library of Congress.

The Texas A&M University Libraries has acquired a rare copy of Stephen F. Austin’s 1830 map of Texas. Called “the first map of Texas printed in the United States” and “the first meaningful map of Texas” (presumably there’s an earlier map of Coahuila y Tejas out there), only eight copies of the 1830 edition are known to survive. (Above is a scan of the Library of Congress’s copy.) The map will be on temporary display from today through May 4th and will be the centrepiece of a future exhibition. KBTX-TV, press release. [Tony Campbell]

314 Rare Books and Maps Stolen from Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

In April 2017, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh made a shocking discovery in the course of a routine insurance appraisal of its rare book holdings in the library’s main Oakland branch: some 314 rare books, folios, maps and plates were missing. News of the thefts was finally made public last month: see coverage from CBS PittsburghHyperallergic, Library Journal, Pittsburgh Post-GazettePittsburgh Tribune-Review and Smithsonian magazine, among others. The police do have suspects in the thefts, which had apparently taken place over a long period of time; the total value of the stolen items is around $5 million. A full list of the stolen items (PDF) has been posted, and includes maps by Hondius, Jefferys, Ogilby and Ortelius, as well as two copies of the Italian translation of Ptolemy’s Geography. Make no mistake: as thefts of rare maps and books go, this is a staggeringly large incident. [Tony Campbell]

‘Art of the Spheres’ at the Osher Map Library

From L. W. Yaggy, Yaggy’s Geographical Study: Comprising Physical, Political, Geological and Astronomical Geography (1887). Map, 90.5 × 59 cm. Osher Map Library.

An exhibition of astronomical maps and illustrations opened this week at the Osher Map Library in Portland, Maine. Art of the Spheres: Picturing the Cosmos since 1600 is, at least in its online version, divided into two categories: Works of Scientific Investigation features chromolithographs of various astronomical phenomena, the moon, planets and deep sky objects from The Trouvelot Astronomical Drawings (1881); Popular and Pedagogic Works includes celestial globes, charts and other graphical representations of the universe. Runs until 6 October.

Helen Wallis

It’s International Women’s Day, and the British Library is taking a moment to mark the life of Helen Wallis (1924-1995), who headed the Library’s map collections between 1967 and 1986.

Helen Wallis was one of the leading figures in map librarianship who pioneered the study of cartography. She was the first woman to hold the position of Map Librarian, following on from her predecessor R.A. Skelton (1906-1970) in 1967. Over 19 years she made the British Library the centre for map studies through research, publications and exhibitions including the Cook bicentenary exhibition of 1968, the American War of Independence exhibition of 1975 and the Francis Drake exhibition of 1977.

A research fund for visiting scholars has also been set up in her name; details at the link.

How the James Ford Bell Library Fingered the Fake Waldseemüller Globe Gores

More on the cancelled auction of the Waldseemüller globe gores from Minneapolis-St. Paul TV station KARE, which looks at the work by the James Ford Bell Library that raised questions about the authenticity of the gores that Christie’s was set to auction last week. And a seriously buried lede: another set of Waldseemüller globe gores may not be authentic either: “During this process, experts also discovered that a copy at the Bavarian State Library in Germany may not be authentic, as well. Ragnow said that copy matches closely with the 2017 Christie’s one.” [WMS]

Previously: Waldseemüller Auction Cancelled After Experts Suspect FakeryMore on the Waldseemüller Globe Gores AuctionSixth Waldseemüller Globe Gore to Be Auctioned Next Month.

The Library of Congress Acquires the Codex Quetzalecatzin

Codex Quetzalecatzin, 1593. Manuscript map, 90 × 73 cm. Library of Congress.

The Library of Congress has acquired the Codex Quetzalecatzin, an extremely rare 1593 Mesoamerican indigenous manuscript that depicts, using Nahuatl hieroglyphics and pre-contact illustrative conventions as well as Latin characters, the lands and genealogy of the de Leon family. John Hessler’s blog post describes the codex and helps us understand its significance.

Like many Nahuatl codices and manuscript maps of the period it depicts a local community at an important point in their history. On the one hand, the map is a traditional Aztec cartographic history with its composition and design showing Nahuatl hieroglyphics, and typical illustrations. On the other hand, it also shows churches, some Spanish place names, and other images suggesting a community adapting to Spanish rule.  Maps and manuscripts of this kind would typically chart the community’s territory using hieroglyphic toponyms, with the community’s own place-name lying at or near the center. The present codex shows the de Leon family presiding over a large region of territory that extends from slightly north of  Mexico City, to just south of Puebla. Codices such as these are critical primary source documents, and for scholars looking into history and  ethnography during the earliest periods of contact between Europe and the peoples of the Americas,  they give important clues into how these very different cultures became integrated and adapted to each others presence.

The Codex has been in private hands for more than a century, but now that the Library of Congress has it, they’ve digitized it and made it available online. [Tony Campbell/Carla Hayden]

Cartografías de lo desconocido

Cartografías de lo desconocido (Cartographies of the Unknown; Google Translate) an exhibition of some two hundred maps and related pieces at the Biblioteca Nacional de España in Madrid.

Cartografías de lo desconocido persigue dos objetivos. Primero, hacer que el espectador se fije más en el mapa y menos en el territorio, pues sucede a menudo que el mapa—como cualquier buen truco de magia—suele esfumarse, tiende a borrar las convenciones visuales y espaciales sobre las que se apoya para susurrarle al espectador y mostrarle con aparente trivialidad: “Usted está aquí”, “así es la Tierra”, “este es su país”.

Sin embargo, nada es lo que parece. Por eso, en segundo lugar, queremos ofrecerle al visitante un recorrido por algunos de los recursos y los temas más frecuentes en esta historia del conocimiento y el ilusionismo, cómo han gestionado los mapas la información improbable, las novedades, los hechos inciertos, las regiones ignotas, los fenómenos invisibles.

The exhibition runs until 28 January 2018. More at El País (Google Translate). [GEHC]

A Giant Map of the Battle of Vimy Ridge

McMaster University’s Daily News has a piece on a large-scale map of Vimy Ridge—a World War I battle fought by Canadian troops that has since entered the national folklore—that reproduced from McMaster’s extensive collection of trench maps. The map, created by Canadian Geographic and 17 × 13 feet in size, is currently on display in the foyer of the university’s Mills Library, but it’s been on tour for at least the past year: the Vimy Ridge map is one of several giant floor maps produced by Canadian Geographic’s education division; each can be booked for a three-week loan period. [WMS]