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Missing Maps

© 2006, John Woram

The information on this page—including the Master List, was prepared in late November, 2006. Listed institutions have declined comment, nor have they reported items recovered since the lists were published. Therefore, it should be understood that these lists are no longer accurate indicators of the status of maps missing and/or recovered. In fact, the lists' only real value now is to serve as a historical record, and perhaps be used as a template in the future, if and when institutions feel there is some value in working together.—JW.

As reported on The Map Room: a Weblog about Maps “E. Forbes Smiley III pleaded guilty…” on June 22, 1996 to stealing a map from Yale University, and also admitted to taking almost 100 maps from other libaries. Some days later, PDF files of various court documents were released to the public. These included:

In subsequent discussion about the case, the quality of some evidence presented by the FBI was widely criticised. As one observer put it, “Any trainee map cataloger who produced a listing as incompetent as this … would be in line for a swift dismissal.” Indeed, a casual glance at the PDF files cited above reveals that although they may have served their purpose in court, they are pretty close to useless in identifying the actual missing maps.

In the weeks following the court case, various map libraries examined their collections to determine what items were missing from their own inventories, and several institutions have released their own lists to the public:

Although these lists are more informative than the government's “Exhibit A,” the only way to find a map of particular interest is to separately scan each list. And of course the list formats don't offer a “look” at the listed items (with the exception of the New York Public Library list).

As a searching aid, each list can be re-worked into a format that allows it to be sorted by any category, as shown by these three examples:

As a further aid, the lists from each institution can be merged into a single Master List format, as shown here:

If you have any information that would lead to the recovery of any of these items, please contact one of the following:


  1. The above lists are based on information derived from the original published documents, and should not be regarded as authoritative. For more accurate information, consult the original documents and not these electronic transcriptions.
  2. In some cases, the status of an item on the “Exhibit A” list was given as “Recovered,” yet a subsequent list published by one of the affected institutions listed the item as still missing. In such cases, the Master List offered here reports the status as given by the institution itself.
  3. A symbol next to a map title is a link to an image believed to resemble the missing item. It is important to keep in mind that each image is intended solely to show what the missing item looks like; unless otherwise noted, it has not been taken from the actual missing item. Additional images will be added as time permits.
  4. A + symbol in any column is a link to additional information.
  5. The institutions cited above have not participated in the preparation of this Master List, nor have they commented on the usefullness (or lack thereof) of information presented in this format. (Or to put it another way, Caveat Lector.)