By: Hermann Bollmann for Pictorial Maps, Inc.
Date of Original: 1963 (Published) New York City
Original Size: 33.5 x 42.75 inches (85.73 x 108.6 cm)
This is a fine print reproduction of a unique bird' eye view map of Midtown Manhattan of New York City, by Hermann Bollmann. At first glance this remarkable linen-backed pictorial map reproduction of New York City is a particularly interesting work of modern art of a certain era, with striking visual impact. In fact, the map was part of the ‘Official World’s Fair Edition’ map and guide for the 1964 World’s Fair, and was the first such birds-eye-view of Manhattan to have been done since 1866, a map which has been described by some as ‘one of the greatest cartographic feats of all time’. Said description is not without merit.
The technique used for creating the map dates back to the 15th century, and developed in Germany into a fully flowered cartographic art form called Vogelschaukarten in Germany in the 1800s. The primary problem posed by the project was 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. At the time the map was published, over half the world’s skyscrapers were in NYC.
In order to solve both problems posed by the city’s skyscrapers and the high concentration of buildings by the mid-twentieth century, Bollmann and his staff used special cameras to take 67,000 individual photographs of the city, with 17,000 of them taken from the air. He then used the photos to hand-draw this oblique ‘optically modified’ axonometric projection which conveys fully the width and breadth of the city, the importance of the waters which surround it. Simultaneously, these then-secret cartographic techniques enabled Bollmann and team to depict the smallest details while simultaneously conveying the city's soaring, vertiginous beauty. At the same time, the map is highly accurate and detailed, and labeled with important buildings and tourist destinations. Bollmann’s approach puts viewers in a unique position to appreciate, providing a perspective which exceeds limitations imposed by other methodologies, even in the age of the internet. His map enables viewers to gaze on any part of the city, down to its smallest details at will.
Hermann Bollmann (1911-1971) was a German cartographer who brought his training as a graphic artist to bear on the German tradition of Vogelschaukarten (bird's-eye-view maps). His masterpiece map of New York attests to the remarkable quality both of his efforts and of the city that they took as their subject.