Many years ago, when I made the transition from book collector to bookseller, a client asked me to locate a copy of “The Picture of New-York, Or The Traveller’s Guide Through The Commercial Metropolis of the United States, By a Gentleman Residing in the City” 1807, First Edition in the original binding, with laid-in map by William Bridges, and in Good condition.
This hard to find 223 page guidebook, which was written by Dr. Samuel L. Mitchill, also happens to be the very first published guidebook for New York City. I’ll spare any suspense and admit that I never did find a copy that met the client’s requirements. However, I recently heard about a rebound copy that sold for $1375 two months ago, as well as a complete digitized version at the Internet Archive.
If you are into early travel guides, it may be worth a look at the digital copy of this fascinating book which offers a rare glimpse into the life of America’s greatest city. The title of Dr. Mitchill’s seminal guidebook was, you will discover, a bit hyperbolic in 1807, as New York City had a population of just 60,000 and hardly qualified as “the Commercial Metropolis of the United States.” In fact, there wasn’t much to the city north of present day Soho except for farms and woods.