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Dealers sell things libraries want, and work for clients whose collections may be ultimately donated to a favored library. A dealer may bid on behalf of a library at auction, and libraries rely on dealers to find decent prices for items they want to deaccession. The number of rare-map dealers who work at that level is fairly small. For a couple of weeks this summer, virtually everyone in the trade disappeared: they were all in Budapest for a conference.
They are assuming the worst—that Smiley has been stealing maps for decades, flooding the market with dirty goods. Indeed, libraries, museums, galleries, and major collectors around the country have been suddenly forced to wonder if their collections have been plundered or corrupted. He did not apprentice with one of the established dealers but, rather, in , when he was twenty-three, went to work in the map department at B.
Altman, the old Fifth Avenue department store. The people who bought antique maps at B. Altman were not sophisticated collectors. They might be buying a wedding gift—a tastefully framed map of the Missouri Territory for a couple settling in St. But the head of the map department, Rosejeanne Slifer, was a serious collector and an independent scholar. Smiley was not reticent about sharing his enthusiasms and insights. On one occasion in the early eighties, Hudson brought a group of map lovers to B.
Altman, and Smiley dazzled them with his knowledge and fluency. And through his work at B. Altman he came to know Norman Leventhal, a wealthy real-estate developer in Boston with a newfound interest in antique maps, who was looking for maps of New England and, in particular, the Boston area. Smiley also met his wife, Lisa, whom he married in , at B.
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Altman, where she was working. She later became an interior designer. Smiley left B. Altman in the mid-eighties to begin working as a dealer on his own. In his early days, he seemed to be engaged primarily in finding maps to sell to Leventhal, who became his first important client. But his reputation grew, and he was soon buying and selling valuable maps for a range of collectors. He opened offices on East Seventy-ninth Street.
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It stands head and shoulders above the rest for its combination of rare material and scholarship. As he became established, Smiley used the library extensively in his business. Smiley conducted his business in a distinctly private way. He tended to concentrate on a few wealthy clients—serious collectors, like Norman Leventhal and Lawrence Slaughter—helping them to focus their interests, educate their tastes, and shape their legacies.
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Such work requires discretion and the instincts of a courtier, and Smiley had both. Secretiveness is built into the antiquarian trade generally. We also protect our clients, many of whom buy and hold very valuable things, which are not necessarily insured.
Old maps of many other places, for whatever reason, hold less interest, and thus less value. Leventhal, for his part, was determined to put together the most complete possible collection of early maps of Boston. Ashley Baynton-Williams, who comes from a well-established family of British map dealers, and who worked for Smiley for three years, found him to be gifted and charming.
There was a pause. During the Age of Discovery, maps were often highly classified.
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They were considered by European governments, rightly, to be the basis of their trading empires, proprietary in the extreme. Copying or sharing them with foreign powers was sometimes a capital offense. Even as that changed, the political, economic, and even theological agendas of maps and mapmakers remained paramount. Forbes Smiley excelled at interpreting those agendas—how an old map might advance the case of a large landowner in Colonial New Jersey locked in a rent dispute, or buttress British alliances with certain Native American tribes against the French.
Maps were not much prized by collectors until recently. But old maps began to catch on with high-end decorators in the nineteen-seventies and eighties. More recently, the atlases themselves have become scarce, reversing the value equation.
But demand continued to outrun supply. Alice Hudson told me that, at the N. And the Spencer Collection curator could care less about the contents. Or a map could be in the Arents Collection of tobacco history, because it has a cartouche with tobacco leaves on it. For an expert, the puzzle is less perplexing, and for a thief the incuriosity of non-map librarians is a great convenience.
The rare-map world has been inundated with stolen maps many times. And what if ancient beings that we've met before were still trying to protect us? And just what if the fate of Earth depended upon an average year-old girl with a few secrets of her own? Would she discover that the power of love was truly the strongest of all? A choice of true love.
And as she evades Mesmers, Tulpas, and the Fae's Inner Circle, she discovers the power of human thought. But then one of the three makes their Blue-Threaded decision, the decision of fate. Is it the right one? Toggle Dropdown Advanced Search.