Work of Art : Restoration of a Rare NYC Map

Maybe it’s my cartographic DNA (ancestor and renowned map-maker Christopher Saxton was commissioned by the 16th century Elizabethan court to survey the whole of England and Wales) that makes this feel so thrilling.

Original "Plan of the City of New York"

Alright, “thrilling” may be over the top. But it’s a juicy find, and stirs my designer/illustrator blood.

The story goes that a frail, crisp, tattered map was discovered last May, tucked in with some other old prints at the Brooklyn Historical Society ~ but this particular map happened to be crafted by master surveyor and draftsman Bernard Ratzer (known, according to the NY Times article, as the “DaVinci of New York cartography”). And there are only 3 existing copies of this map.

The map, “Plan of the City of New York”, dates back to 1770. The restoration process itself was a magnificent feat of skill and patience ~ and no doubt involved a good pinch of love and respect as well. (Click on either picture to see full images that can be magnified onscreen.) It’s quite the gem!

Restored "Plan of the City of New York"


Of course, I can’t let this writing end without showing one of Christopher Saxton’s pieces. (… maybe I’ll write a little more on him in another post.)

Christopher Saxton / "Map of Cornwall" / 1579

Patricia Saxton

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