In December 1995 Gilbert Bland was chased from a rare book room of Johns Hopkins University, clutching a 232-year-old map. He turned out to be one of the greatest map thieves in history.
Miles Harvey traced Bland's journey from middle-class anonymity to dark criminality, to understand what drove Bland to steal some of the rarest cartographic treasures in the world.
Since men have drawn maps, others have stolen them. Columbus discovered America with the help of charts purloined from the Portuguese; Francis Drake shattered Spain's hold of the Americas and made smooth passage to the East Indies with captured Spanish maps.
Miles Harvey returns to the libraries whose collections were so depleted by Gilbert Bland's thieving, to try to fill the gaps in this enigmatic man's life.