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The Measure of Manhattan: The Tumultuous Career and Surprising Legacy of John Randel, Jr., Cartographer, Surveyor, Inventor
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The Measure of Manhattan: The Tumultuous Career and Surprising Legacy of John Randel, Jr., Cartographer, Surveyor, Inventor

3.25  ·  Rating details ·  93 Ratings  ·  16 Reviews
John Randel Jr. (1787–1865) was an eccentric and flamboyant surveyor. Renowned for his inventiveness as well as for his bombast and irascibility, Randel was central to Manhattan’s development but died in financial ruin. Telling Randel’s engrossing and dramatic life story for the first time, this eye-opening biography introduces an unheralded pioneer of American engineering ...more
ebook, 336 pages
Published February 18th 2013 by W. W. Norton Company
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Jan 22, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book is about the work of the man who made the famous map of the street grid of Manhattan, before the street grid existed on the ground.
Eugene Leventhal
Jan 22, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ny, bio
This book offers some very interesting insights into the development of the grid system in NYC, a topic that initially lured me to this book based on the title and cover. I have a (potentially questionable) habit of wanting to know as little as possible about a book before I read it, so I was unaware that this book was focused more on Randel's life and work that was limited to New York. Though he is clearly someone who deserves more historic recognition then he gets, I was not particularly looki ...more
I wanted this book to be more than it is. John Randel, Jr. is the surveyor responsible for the New York grid system which has defined the city for two centuries. His compulsive nature gave us the grid the way it is today...carefully measured, right angles correct, departing from the system only when topography or previous streets intervened. This part of the book is most interesting.

Randel seems to have been at the top of his field as far as accuracy and detail were concerned. However, he didn't
Margaret Sankey
Jun 20, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved the Mannahatta Project, which attempted to use GIS mapping to recover what Hudson encountered in the early 17th century landing in New York. In order to do that, geographers had to get back to the grid system laid out by John Randel, an early 19th century surveyor, inventor, engineer and general innovator who imposed order on the landscape. Holloway is very good at explaining how Enlightenment science and American apprenticeships produced the legion of surveyors who mapped the frontier, ...more
Sep 14, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
As an NYC-phile, I was excited to read about the history behind its layout. However, I stopped reading this book 87 pages in because the text was hard to follow and of low interest. The author repeats herself - she described the same tangential story twice. That kind of thing irritates me. She also uses pronouns too much after introducing new people. I had to go back and reread frequently to determine which "he" she was talking about. What I wanted to get out of this book was an appreciation for ...more
Jul 17, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
I wanted to enjoy this book so badly. It's an inherently interesting subject, and knowing something of the author, I was hoping that I would be unable to put the book down. While it's clear that the author had great passion for her research, the book came across as a dry read, and she was unable to distill that passion into something more pleasurable. After the book sat untouched on my nightstand for several weeks, I knew it was time to move on.

I'm sorry, Ms. Holloway. I'll give your next book a
Alasdair Craig
Nov 30, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a surveyor I can't help but like this interesting book about a fascinating person. I like how it's correct in the survey details, not over-simplified. It gets very scholarly in parts and the final third almost too much so. Wonderful to have researchers like Holloway who allow us to remember times, places and people such as with this one.
Suzanne (suz&mark)
Feb 19, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: didnt-finish
The premise of this book was very good but it was so dry it read like a textbook. I thought at least there would be some cool older maps to look at but they are printed so small in the book you need a magnifying glass.
Apr 03, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a good biography of John Randel, one of the most persistent surveyors of Manhattan, and whose work paved the way for the Manhattan street grid. Those thinking this book is about the how the grid came to pass might be disappointed, as it comprises a relatively minor portion of the story.
David R.
Holloway does what she can with the poorly documented John Randel, Jr. but this fascinating character cannot sustain a whole book. Hence the author inserts (at odd intervals) rather less interesting content concerning modern GIS cartographers and their search for Randel's lost survey markers.
Jan 18, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So far so good, my expectations are on the high side because I love learning origin stories about my home.
Nov 12, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
When I could not sleep.... This author s writting about moe thing I really care about but his narrative lacks cohesion and is hard to follow.
Nick Jones
Started strong but did not sustain momentum
Marshall Robinson
A great history of an interesting character, his time in history (early 1880s) and most importantly, of NYC. This is the story of the layout of the NYC grid as we know it today.
Lynn Millar
Parts are most intriguing - about how we define space and ourselves through maps. But sometimes the book was so laden with technical details I couldn't finish.
Daniel Farabaugh
Jul 03, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very enjoyable book explaining the life and contributions of Randel to the mapping of NY. The only place where it falls short is towards the end when the author makes more general musing.
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Jun 09, 2014
Bryne Gondo
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Mar 02, 2013
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Nov 22, 2016
rated it it was ok
May 29, 2013
James Wood
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Sep 14, 2017
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Kevin Frisch
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Sep 18, 2013
rated it it was amazing
Apr 12, 2013
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Apr 30, 2014
Adrian Majlis
rated it it was ok
Dec 26, 2017
Natale Cozzolongo
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Nov 14, 2014
Jason Reeves
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Sep 24, 2013
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Apr 11, 2013
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Marguerite Holloway, the director of Science and Environmental Journalism at Columbia University, has written for Scientific American, Discover, the New York Times, Natural History, and Wired. She lives in Manhattan with her husband and two children.
More about Marguerite Holloway...

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