This bird's eye view of New York City was drawn by artist Hermann Bollmann to celebrate the 1964 New York World's Fair. His drawing of New York City is based on research that included aerial photography done in preparation for this large scale, detailed map of New York. Bollmann emigrated to the United States from Germany where an earlier, 19th century tradition of angled, aerial views of cities could be found in published maps. He introduced the style of an aerial, angled city view with this map that was seen and used by visitors to the 1964 World's Fair in New York. Bollmann's New York City is a busy place on land and on water, with its densely developed blocks of office buildings, stores, parks and apartment buildings all reaching for the sky. The viewer is invited into the map, to explore Manhattan's wonders.
The reverse side of the map offers a view of Manhattan and surrounding boroughs in plan view.
Hermann Bollman's map, commissioned for the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair is accompanied by its World's Fair Guide to Mid-Manhattan and the boroughs. Tucked in the Guide are two unused Daily Passes to the New York World's Fair. Bollman's colorful, large map is a modern compilation of the traditional hand drawn 19th century bird's eye view of a city and the technical style of 20th century isometric drawing. Bollmann's design bears some aesthetic kinship to his contemporary M.C.Escher's finely wrought perspective drawings of buildings and of common objects in uncommon relationships. The Bollmann map perspective speaks to us in 21st Century visual terms as well as it unwittingly anticipated the Google Earth perspective that permits the elevated viewer to look down from the sky at streets, roof tops, sidewalks and local features imagining what it would be like to immerse oneself in the digitally photographed scene presented.
According to the description of this map in the Official World's Fair Edition of the New York Map and Guide, Bollmann's map is the first bird's eye view of New York since 1866, and it required Bollmann's large staff to build special cameras that took 67,000 individual photographs of the City, 17,000 of which were taken from the air. According to the Guide, these photographs were one basis for his art, as Bollmann drew all of the map by hand, using skills developed over decades as a professional artist and engraver. The Guide notes that, Bollmann's repertoire since 1948 included thirty-nine drawings of European cities in this same style.
Bollmann's Map of New York on a sunny day invites us to imagine a ride on one of the many ferries traversing the busy Hudson River, or standing with the host of a penthouse balcony enjoying a private view of Central Park, or simply taking in at once all of the vitality of street life in New York City, a visual experience otherwise impossible to achieve on the ground. The map itself has become an icon of Manhattan.
References: David Rumsey Map Collection