"The Ratzer Map evokes a halcyon period in the history of Manhattan" -- Manhattan in Maps
NEW YORK, NY -- Discovering and interpreting the history and material culture of New York City was the lifelong passion of Dr. Leo Hershkowitz. This pursuit is on full display in the selection of maps that survey the changing landscape, views that captured the city as it grew, and books that chronicled this history and presented the wonders, attractions and infrastructure of the great American metropolis. Dr. Hershkowitz's fascinating collection is a highlight of Doyle’s April 25th auction of Rare Books, Maps & Autographs.
The earliest and rarest map in the Collection, Bernard Ratzer’s Plan of the City of New York (Lot 53), has the distinction of also being considered "the finest map of an American city and its environs produced in the eighteenth century." The Ratzer map expanded upon a survey of Manhattan island begun in 1766 in the rush for a military plan of the city in the wake of the controversial Stamp Act. But perhaps not surprisingly, by the time Ratzer’s large, impressive and expensive map was first published in 1770 it was not a commercial success, as it appeared in a period of relative peace between the colony of New York and the mother country England (that first issue now known in only three copies).
In just a few years time though, as revolutionary fervor intensified in the colonies, there became great demand for topographical information about New York City and its environs for both military and illustrative uses for readers back in England. Ratzer's Plan was altered slightly and re-issued by the map and atlas publishers Faden & Jefferys in 1776, before the Battle of Long Island and related skirmishes enraptured the city for the first year of all out war with England.
The Ratzer map is sometimes encountered dissected and mounted on linen for easy folding and is known to have been used by British generals in the field in 1776. The map was also included in some, but not all, copies of Faden & Jefferys 1777 North American Atlas, and Dr. Hershkowitz’s copy was likely extracted from a copy of that atlas.
The Ratzer map is tour-de-force of 18th century urban cartography and is quite rare and sought after by collectors today. The present copy is in a very fine state of preservation, the three large engraved sheets have been joined and finely framed for presentation (See Cohen/Augustyn Manhattan in Maps, p. 73.)
The Hershkowitz collection also includes rare books that chronicle the changing city, such as prison reformer Thomas Eddy’s An Account of the State Prison, or Penitentiary House, in N. Y. City, 1801, with two plates that depict the massive Newgate Prison which once stood in today’s Greenwich Village. This rare, local imprint calling for prison reforms after the brutal conditions of the 18th century has only been offered once in twenty years (lot 29).
Other books highlight the growing infrastructure of the city, such as a group of three illustrated works on the newly constructed Croton Aquaduct in 1843, a feat of engineering that carried water to the thirsty city (lot 27). A group of volumes on the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge includes a volume of late 1870s pamphlets on elements of its design by engineer William Roebling and what is certainly a very rare newspaper titled Brooklyn Bridge Bulletin issued on the day the bridge’s opening ceremony, 24 May 1883 (lot 23).
Lastly, the collection features views of the changing city, such as the 1855 aquatint after John William Hill which depicts downtown Manhattan at a distance across New York harbor teeming with ships (lot 31) or the fine New York Historical Society facsimile of Hill’s New York with the City of Brooklyn in the Distance, which offers a view of Mathew Brady’s photography studio and P.T. Barnum’s American Museum (lot 32).
In all, the items from the Estate of Dr. Hershkowitz provide insight to New York City as it expanded into the metropolis we know today.
Rare Books Autographs & Maps
Auction Wednesday, April 25, 2018 at 10am
Exhibition on view April 20-23