Cover image for Bird's eye views : historic lithographs of North American cities
Bird's eye views : historic lithographs of North American cities
Reps, John William.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Princeton Architectural Press, [1998]

Physical Description:
115 pages : illustrations (some color), maps (some color) ; 33 x 38 cm
General Note:
Contains panoramas of over 100 cities showing streets, buildings, churches, bridges, waterways, and surrounding countryside.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
NE2454 .R45 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Oversize

On Order



As new towns and cities spread across the American frontier in the nineteenth century, itinerant artists soon followed, documenting these growing urban centers by drawing aerial perspectives, also known as bird's eye views. Commissioned by land speculators, local businesses, civic organizations, and individual citizens, these renderings fostered both civic pride and local commerce. The use of color lithography, a recent invention popularized by such prominent publishers as Currier & Ives, allowed the inexpensive reproduction of the highest-quality drawings, so that a bird's eye view was within the financial budget of even the smallest towns. These extraordinarily detailed lithographs eventually numbered in the thousands and now serve as a rich pictorial record of North America as it stood a century ago.
This sequel to our highly acclaimed title An Atlas of Rare City Maps collects over 100 views dating between 1835 and 1902, showing the streets, buildings, churches, bridges, waterways, and surrounding countryside of North American towns, ranging from burgeoning metropolitan centers to small logging towns and mining camps. Baltimore, Brooklyn, Denver, Indianapolis, Memphis, Montreal, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Syracuse, and Washington are just a few of the cities presented in this collection. The exquisite color and fine detail of these bird's eye views have been reproduced in all their original glory; also included is an introduction by John W. Reps providing a background on the artistic process and on urban development in the nineteenth century.

Author Notes

John W. Reps is professor emeritus of city and regional planning at Cornell University. He is a renowned authority on the history of American urban planning and has written numerous books on the topic, including The Making of Urban America, Cities of the A

Reviews 1

Booklist Review

Five thousand aerial perspectives of cities were published during the nineteenth century, so the more than 100 reprinted here in color constitute the cream of the crop. The images, created by itinerant artists, reward both an aesthetic sense and, in close-up viewing, a historical sensibility for urban growth in the post^-Civil War decades. The latter applies more to the largest cities, of which bird's-eye views were made over time, which allows observation of the advent of railroads, factories, and large parks, such as Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Every small town's demand for a perspective view of itself sustained the market, and such places (Bismarck, North Dakota, to name one) in the resultant drawings sometimes look like nothing more than a street grid, a courthouse, and a few houses and stables. Thus, views commissioned on the basis of civic pride carried a promotional purpose of attracting new citizens to the vacant lots--whereas we can enjoy them as quaint visual time capsules. A pretty work for pleasant browsing. Gilbert Taylor