January 12, 2018
What to Expect From Daniel Crouch Rare Books at the Winter Antiques Show
Daniel Crouch Rare Books will be showcasing large-scale rare maps, including the 1776 Ratzer Plan of New York at the Winter Antiques Show 2018!
by New York Spaces
Daniel Crouch of Daniel Crouch Rare Books: Maps! Big maps (I mean REALLY BIG) maps of London, Paris and New York.
NYS: What is one of your favorite maps you will be showcasing and what makes it so rare?
Daniel Crouch: The 1776 Ratzer plan of New York—one of the most beautiful, important, and accurate early plans of New York.
Very few of these have survived because they were often mounted on walls with pins and without frames, and so their mortality rate was very high.
NYS: Tell us more about George and Walter Bromley's Atlas of the City of New York? What size are these and what makes it so important?
Daniel Crouch: It's a tour-de-fore of the mapmaker's art: A monumental fire insurance map of Manhattan, made at the tail end of the "Gilded Age". It's a 26-foot monster of a map that we have framed in 31 lazer-cut, custom-built irregular frames.
The phrase "gilded age" was coined by Mark Twain in his 1873 novel The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today, which satirized the promised 'golden age' after the Civil War, portrayed as an era of serious social problems masked by a thin gilding of economic expansion to the almost exclusive benefit of the robber barrons, such as the Astors, Carnegie, Frick, Mellon, J.P. Morgan, the Rockefellers, and the Vanderbilts. The era may also be defined culturally as the age of the Ziegfeld Follies (founded 1907), Henry James, Mark Twain, Edith Wharton, John Singer Sargent, and James Abbott McNeill Whistler, and architecturally, as depicted on the map, with icons such as Brooklyn Bridge (1883), Manhattan Bridge (under construction since 1901, but not open to traffic until December 31, 1909—a year following the map's publication), the Flat Iron Building (1902), the New York Times Tower (1905), and Grand Central Terminal (rebuilt between 1903 and 1913).
The map includes outlines of each building and outbuilding, street names, street and sidewalk widths, property boundaries, number of stories and basements, elevation above high tide, firewalls, natural features (rivers, canals, etc.), railroad corridors, building use, house and block number, as well as the composition of building materials, namely: "brick"; "stone"; "wood"; "iron"; "brick building with stone front"; "brick building with iron front"; "wood building with brick front"; "wood building covered with iron"; "brick stable or shed"; and "wood stable or shed".
Mapping for insurance—and specifically fire insurance—purposes had existed for a century before the Bromley map, first beginning in London in 1799 with Richard Horwood's map for the Phoenix Assurance Company. In the decades following the Civil War, fire insurance mapping grew rapidly, mirroring the flourish of growth in the country, the rebuilding of the South and massive expansion westward. Factors such as the Homestead Act, railroad construction, the Second Industrial Revolution, and massive immigration to the United States all fostered huge population growths, urbanization, and heightened demand for mapping.
The first fire insurance map of New York was made by engineer and surevyor Wiliam Perris after the Great Fire of 1835. "Perris' map included streets, blocks, tax lots, and current use classifications, as well as previous land uses, roads, and natural features. Although Perros pioneered the form, many others published fire insurance maps of the city, including Bromley and Company, Hyde and Company, G.M. Hopkins, and, most notably, the Sanborn Map Company, which produced finely detailed maps form the later 1800s tgo the 1950s," according to The Encyclopaedia of New York City.
In the 1950s, consolidation within the insurance industry, modern building construction methods, improved fire protection, and a change in underwriting practice meant that demand for fire maps gradually waned, and their publisher's perished. Today, however, such maps are invaluable resources for historical research, genealogy, planning, conservation and demography.
NYS: Why do you think maps are making a comeback in interiors gallery walls or as stand-alone art?
Daniel Crouch: We encounter maps and travel more than ever before. Think about it: not only do we emigrate and holiday more than our predecessors, but we see more maps in a day now than we would in a month, or even a year a decade or two ago: google maps show us where tonight's restaurant may be found, Uber lies to us about being 2 mins away on a map, and, I'm told by my friends on Tinder and Grindr, we even mate by cartography nowadays!
Maps are graphically dramatic and work as interior decoration in today's "starkitect"-inspired homes. Maps don't suffer from the "brown furniture" problem, and look equally at home in a brushed aluminium (you'd say aluminum) frame on a white wall as they do a gilt gesso one on William Morris wallpaper.
NYS: What is the most interesting aspect of Bernard Ratzer's 1776 "Plan of New York," map?
Daniel Crouch: It shows a city of c. 25,000 people—it stops a long way before where Central Park now stands, and most of Midtown is covered with hilly fields—some familiar names adorn the houses and plots: "Murray Hill" , "Stuyvesant" etc.
NYS: What else is Daniel Crouch Rare Books known for? What about these historical designs draw you to them?
Daniel Crouch: We are specialist dealers in antique atlases, maps, plans, sea charts and voyages dating from the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries. We also sell some navigational instruments and globes, and a selection of cartographic reference books.
I like maps because they tell stories. Whether it is the derring-do of Christopher Columbus, Francis Drake or John Falcon Scott, or the data visualization of Harry Beck's iconic map of the London tube, John Snow's famous map showing the outbreak of cholera around the Broad Street water pump, or Charles Booth's maps of London poverty; maps tell us stories in fascinating graphic detail.
NYS: What are you most excited about seeing at the Winter Antiques Show?
Daniel Crouch: Snow! And all our friends in NYC.
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