Hermann Bollmann: Manhattan, 1948

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Pearsall’s London A-Z project was intended to make the city legible for everyday life. We might contrast it with an entirely different but contemporary mapping of the modern metropolis of the German, Hermann Bollmann. Armed with a technique known to 19th-Century artist-cartographers as Vogelschaukarten, which dates back at least to Jacopo de’ Barbari’s 1500 map of Venice, Bollmann confronted modernity’s most demanding urban landscape: Manhattan Island. Using 67 ,000 photographs, 17,000 taken from the air, he created in 1948 a hand drawn map image that captures precisely the soaring quality of New York’s skyline, while rendering streets and buildings with remarkable accuracy.

“Carto-city” by Denis Cosgrove,
Else/Where: Mapping

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One of the greatest cartographic feats of all time, this 1963 axonometric (‘bird’s eye view’) map of New York City was the first such since 1866. The technique dates back to the 15th century, and developed in Germany into a fully flowered cartographic art form called Vogelschaukarten in Germany in the 1800s. This particular map was prepared by Herman Bollmann for the 1864 New York World’s Fair, where it was sold at information and tourist kiosks.

In making the map in the 1950s, Herman Bollmann and his staff faced a seemingly insurmountable problem, one never before encountered by his few predecessors in axonometric cartography: how to show New York’s many and densely concentrated skyscrapers from the same angle and relative height, while not obscuring most of the city behind them?

He and his team designed and built special cameras to take 67,000 photos, 17,000 from the air. Using these photos as a base, they then began to hand draw the entire city. Using then-secret cartographic techniques, Bollmann and team managed to depict the smallest details while simultaneously conveying the city’s soaring, vertiginous beauty.

The viewer is thus placed in the position of an Olympian God, a perspective that no other technologic and artistic form offers, even in the Internet age: with this map spread out before you, you have the ability to look upon any part of the city at will, down to its smallest detail, without waiting for a camera to pan or zoom or cut, without waiting for the next web page to load or zoom.

via Geographicus