October 2: Michael Blanding, “The Map Thief”

  • Thursday, October 2, 7 pm: Lecture: Michael Blanding: “The Map Thief: The Gripping Story of a Dealer Who Made Millions Stealing Priceless Rare Maps”

Maps have long exerted a special fascination on viewers—both as beautiful works of art and as practical tools to navigate the world. But to those who collect them, the map trade can be a cutthroat business, inhabited by quirky and sometimes disreputable characters in search of a finite number of extremely rare objects.
 
Once considered a respectable antiquarian map dealer, E. Forbes Smiley spent years doubling as a map thief —until he was finally arrested slipping maps out of books in the Yale University library. The Map Thief delves into the untold history of this fascinating high-stakes criminal and the inside story of the industry that consumed him.

Acclaimed reporter Michael Blanding has interviewed all the key players in this stranger-than-fiction story, and shares the fascinating histories of maps that charted the New World, and how they went from being practical instruments to quirky heirlooms to highly coveted objects. Though pieces of the map theft story have been written before, Blanding is the first reporter to explore the story in full—and had the rare privilege of having access to Smiley himself after he’d gone silent in the wake of his crimes. Moreover, although Smiley swears he has admitted to all of the maps he stole, libraries claim he stole hundreds more—and offer intriguing clues to prove it. Now, through a series of exclusive interviews with Smiley and other key individuals, Blanding teases out an astonishing tale of destruction and redemption.

 

October 16: Katherine Howe, “The Penguin Book of Witches”

  • Thursday, October 16, 7 pm: Lecture: Katherine Howe: “The Penguin Book of Witches”

From a manual for witch hunters written by King James himself in 1597, to court documents from the Salem witch trials of 1692, to newspaper coverage of a woman stoned to death on the streets of Philadelphia while the Continental Congress met, The Penguin Book of Witches is a treasury of historical accounts of accused witches that sheds light on the reality behind the legends. Bringing to life stories like that of Eunice Cole, tried for attacking a teenage girl with a rock and buried with a stake through her heart; Jane Jacobs, a Bostonian so often accused of witchcraft that she took her tormentors to court on charges of slander; and Increase Mather, an exorcism-performing minister famed for his knowledge of witches, this volume provides a unique tour through the darkest history of English and North American witchcraft.

November 13: Peter Duffy, “Double Agent”

  • Thursday, November 13, 7 pm: Lecture, 7 pm: Peter Duffy, “Double Agent: The First Hero of World War II and How the FBI Outwitted and Destroyed a Nazi Spy Ring”

From the time Adolf Hitler came into power in 1933, German spies were active in New York. In 1937, a German national living in Queens stole the blueprints for the country’s most precious secret, the Norden Bombsight, delivering them to the German military two years before World War II started in Europe and four years before the US joined the fight. When the FBI uncovered a ring of Nazi spies in the city, President Franklin Roosevelt formally declared J. Edgar Hoover as America’s spymaster with responsibility for overseeing all investigations. As war began in Europe in 1939, a naturalized German-American was recruited by the Nazis to set up a radio transmitter and collect messages from spies active in the city to send back to Nazi spymasters in Hamburg. This German-American, William G. Sebold, approached the FBI and became the first double agent in the Bureau’s history, the center of a sixteen-month investigation that led to the arrest of a colorful cast of thirty-three enemy agents, among them a South African adventurer with an exotic accent and a monocle and a Jewish femme fatale, Lilly Stein, who escaped Nazi Vienna by offering to seduce US military men into whispering secrets into her ear.
A riveting, meticulously researched, and fast-moving story, Double Agent details the largest and most important espionage bust in American history.