A Few of my Favorite Maps

This past year I’ve had my hands on many different maps. As one of the map catalogers for our CLIR Hidden Collections grant I’ve gone through and closely examined much of our collection. Every map is interesting and historically valuable, but some have stuck in my mind more than others. Yes, I have favorites. These are not necessarily the rarest or most valuable pieces in our collection – they’re just maps I’ve had fun poring over. I hope you enjoy them too.

Indian Episodes

Indian Episodes of New York State. Robert Gribbroek. 1935. Brooklyn Historical Society Map Collection.

This map of “Indian Episodes of New York State” is packed with information and beautiful illustrations of notable people, events, and objects in New York State’s Native American history. I thought it was interesting to note Brooklyn’s designation as “Land of the Canarsies.”


Indian Episodes of New York State. Robert Gribbroek. 1935. Brooklyn Historical Society Map Collection.

The “Who Lives Where” map of New York City captures a snapshot of a different group of locals – New Yorkers of the 1980s. An ethnicity key at the map’s lower right helps you decipher the striped patchwork that makes its way across the 5 boroughs. I’ve probably spent more time than a reasonable person would, looking to see how neighborhoods have changed and how they have stayed the same.


Who Lives Where. Guenter Vollath. 1985. Brooklyn Historical Society Map Collection.

Finally, a map that is famous for its lack of illustrations and its refusal to help you decipher much of anything. When the MTA released its 1974 subway map, it was criticized for not being geographically accurate. I suppose the criticism was justified, since Brooklyn, for example, is not actually shaped like a square. The map also made no attempt to place the subway stops in relation to any streets or landmarks. Not so convenient for tourists – the very people who would be most likely to use a subway map. The map is beautiful though, and is regarded today as something of a modern classic. I would frame this and hang it on my wall; wouldn’t you?


The Metropolitan Transportation Authority Revised Map of Rapid Transit Facilities of New York City Transit Authority. New York City Transit Authority. 1974. Brooklyn Historical Society Map Collection.

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