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Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City

1 rating: 5.0
A book by Eric W. Sanderson

Starred Review. In this brilliantly illustrated volume, Sanderson and Boyer recreate the ecology of Manhattan as it was that 1609 September afternoon when Henry Hudson first saw it, "prodigious in its abundance, resplendent in its diversity." The project … see full wiki

Tags: Book
Author: Eric W. Sanderson
Genre: History
Publisher: Abrams
1 review about Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York...

If I could turn back time . . . you might see something like this

  • Aug 13, 2009
Illustrations by Markley Boyer

Sanderson and Boyer turn detective to create a probabilistic time machine and show a plausible picture of what Manhattan could have looked like in 1609 when it was first seen by European eyes. While Boer's name is in smaller font on the cover, in reality he deserves at least equal billing because his photo-realistic overhead images of 1609 Mannahatta are spectacular enough to rate this a 5-star "What a classic!"

Sanderson's text is just detailed and scientific enough to enable the general reader to understand the difficulty of the effort and the detective nature of the work, without pulling the reader's eyes from the pictures too long. His explanation of finding the British Headquarters Map from the Revolutionary War and figuring out how to reference it to modern GPS data points to have a precise, high-resolution framework for the ecological extrapolations is better than the stuff of movies.

The paper, graphics, and binding are all first rate, making this book a pleasure to hold and study closely.

In some ways, this is a back-to-front version of The World Without Us, Alan Weisman's look forward to a post-human world. In both cases, the authors pick and extrapolate from available data, make realistic assumptions, and provide real-world comparative examples to show us interesting things about a world we will never be able to see without their vision.

Even if you are not from New York City and have only a passing interest in it as a place to live, work, or play, the rich natural and human history of the place make this a fascinating book to daydream over.

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