The Measure of Manhattan: The Tumultuous Career and Surprising Legacy of John Randel, Jr., Cartographer, Surveyor, Inventor
W. W. Norton & Company
Publication date: February 2013
Digital Book format: ePub (Adobe DRM)
The first biography of an unrecognized, nineteenth-century genius, the man who plotted Manhattan’s famous city grid.John Randel Jr. (1787–1865) was an eccentric and flamboyant surveyor. Renowned for his inventiveness as well as his bombast and irascibility, Randel created surveying devices, designed an early elevated subway, and laid out a controversial alternative route for the Erie Canal—winning him admirers and enemies. In The Measure of Manhattan, Marguerite Holloway explores the science and symbolism of surveying, a craft that begat a surprising number of modern technologies. Tasked with “gridding” what was then an undeveloped, hilly island, Randel recorded the contours of Manhattan down to the rocks on its shores. In his precision he sought to tame the land; Holloway explores this philosophy as well as contemporary efforts to envision Manhattan as a wild island again. Illustrated throughout with historical images and antique maps, The Measure of Manhattan is about the ways we envision and inhabit the world, and is also an eye-opening biography of a man who was central to Manhattan’s development yet died in financial ruin.