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October 26, 2007

The Transval of New York City

150. [MAP]. VIELÉ, Egbert L[udovicus]. The Transval of the City of New York. New York: Johnson & Co. Printers, 2 Liberty Street, 1880. [2 blank], [3]-29 [1 blank] pp., folded lithograph map (The Transval of New York, on fine, thin paper, original full color (blue, green, and beige), neat line to neat line: 34 x 135 cm. 12mo, original teal blind-embossed cloth covers (16.3 x 11.5 cm) lettered in gilt on upper cover and blind-embossed on lower cover: The Transval of New York [seal of New York City] Vielé 1880. Map exceptionally fine, with contemporary pencil note “High level bridge off Harlem River now being completed by Park Department” (rough sketch of road and bridge pencilled in from the intersection of Tenth Avenue and 181st Street across the river). Text and pocket covers very fine except for minor chips to lining paper of gutter margin.

            First edition. Not in Stokes, The Iconography of Manhattan Island, 1498-1909. This large-scale map shows the northernmost end of Manhattan Island above 130th Street, along with the proposed ship canal meant to join the Harlem and Hudson Rivers. A manuscript sketch shows a new bridge to be built across the Harlem River at 181st Street, the present-day Washington Bridge. In the text Vielé explains his rationale for naming this portion the “Transval,” reviews crucial Revolutionary War battles that occurred in the area, and puts forth proposals to develop the area in keeping with its unusual topography. The last element, for example, will force the City to abandon the grid pattern prominent below 135th Street and require the building of streets and avenues that meander through the undulating landscape, as shown on the map. This an important and beautiful map that encompasses present-day Harlem and Washington Heights, revealing the vision of one of New York City’s most prominent engineers.

            Vielé (1825-1902), after serving in the military both in Texas and in General Scott’s army during the Mexican-American War, moved to New York City in 1853, where among other things he drew a topographical survey of New Jersey and helped found the American Geographical Society. He is best known, however, for his major role in the 1850s in developing Central Park. Although the Park was finally based on a design by Frederick Law Olmsted, Vielé served as Chief Engineer for the project. At the outbreak of the Civil War, he served in a New York Regiment of Engineers, eventually being promoted to Brigadier General. After the war he returned to New York City, where he was involved in politics and running the Department of Parks. For an obituary of Vielé, see Bulletin of the American Geographical Society, Vol. 34, No. 2, 1902, p. 184; see also DAB and Handbook of Texas Online: Egbert Ludovicus Vielé. Vielé’s wife Teresa was the first woman to publish an account of army life in the Transmississippi West (“Following the Drum”... New York: Rudd & Carleton, 1858). Handbook of Texas Online: Teresa Griffin Vielé. ($600-$1,200)

Sold. Hammer: $600.00; Price Realized: $705.00

Auction 21 Abstracts

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