Item #16000125 Humphrey PHELPS.

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PHELPS, Humphrey
Rare, Richly Embellished Plan of New York City
[New York, 1857]

PHELPS, Humphrey [New York: 1857]  Phelps' New York City Map, With Portions of Brooklyn, Jersey City, Williamsburgh, Greenpoint, Astoria, and Hoboken… 25 x 45 ¾ inches.  25 x 45 ¾ inches.  Lithographed wall map with fine original color, refreshed; professionally conserved & re-backed, with some stabilized tears and a few areas of upper decorative border replaced in facsimile; still a very attractive and overall very good example. In a handsome, archival frame.                                                                                

This very rare map depicts a dynamically expanding city, both geographically and culturally.  Its many finely detailed vignettes of key public buildings are presented as emblems of civic achievement and architectural significance.  Also, a highly detailed bird’s-eye view at bottom center, along side historical images to the left, highlight the city’s dramatic development.  The last example of this map found in market records was 25 years ago.

When this map appeared in 1857, Vaux and Olmstead’s Greensward Plan was adopted as the official blueprint for Central Park.  There was certainly no project more ambitious and expressive of the city’s confidence in its future than the creation of this sprawling public park in what was at the time a fairly remote part of the city.  Quite remarkably, Central Park as delineated on Phelps’ map embodies the intertwining roads and pathways and large open spaces of the Greensward Plan.  As the city's population surged, there was a growing recognition of the need for an expansive public space to serve as a recreational and aesthetic haven for its residents. Central Park was thus envisioned as a pastoral escape from urban congestion, embodying the Romantic ideal of nature within the metropolis.  1857 also witnessed other changes in the city. The street grid continued its march uptown, and infrastructural developments, including roads and public transport, were evolving to accommodate the burgeoning populace.

The vignettes of structures selected by Phelps, ranging from "The City Prison, called The Tombs" to "The Merchants' Exchange, Wall Street," present a cross-section of New York's multifaceted urban life—educational, penal, religious, and mercantile.  Perhaps most notable are the substantial structures devoted to civic philanthropy to aid the blind, the orphaned and the “deaf and dumb.”  "The Union, or Cooper Institute" (i.e., Cooper Union) and "The New York Free Academy" represent educational institutions.

The map includes Mount Morris Park, currently known as Marcus Garvey Park, an historically important green space in Harlem. Covering over 20 acres, the park is home to the Mount Morris Fire Watchtower, the last remaining cast-iron watchtower in the city. Throughout its existence, the park has served as a cultural hub for Harlem residents, hosting numerous events, festivals, and community gatherings.

The map shows the city’s wards at the time as well as helpful annotations explaining the ward numbers.  Fire districts and roads throughout Manhattan are shown.  Also included as insets are the comprehensive "Map of Hudson River" (from NYC to Troy) and a circular regional map at lower right--"Thirty Miles Around New York City, with the Town and County Boundaries"—showing an already considerable metropolitan region knitted together by a dense transportation network.

Haskell, Manhattan Maps, 1056, citing copies at NYPL and NYHS.

Price: $13,500.00

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