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Central Park, An American Masterpiece: A Comprehensive History of the Nation's First Urban Park Hardcover – April 1, 2003


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Central Park, An American Masterpiece: A Comprehensive History of the Nation's First Urban Park + Seeing Central Park: An Official Guide to the World's Greatest Urban Park + 212 Views of Central Park: Experiencing New York City's Jewel From Every Angle
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Harry N. Abrams; y First printing edition (April 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810939460
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810939462
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 1.2 x 10.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #30,618 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Miller is the park's official historian and photographer, and her authority shows, revealing some new facets to this most overexposed of urban spaces. Original plans and drawings (many published for the first time) sit alongside modern-day photographs among the more than 200 color illustrations, creating a sense of the history that underlies this man-made urban landscape. Frederick Law Olmsted, one of the park's designers (the other was Calvert Vaux), saw his plan as a balm to soothe the roiling city's ills. Miller finds him remarking that the park "exercises a distinctly harmonizing and refining influence upon the most lawless classes of the city-an influence favorable to courtesy, self-control, and temperance." Bethesda Terrace was Vaux's ideological baby and, according to Miller, was influenced by the work of John Ruskin, Alexander von Humboldt and Thomas Cole. Kenneth T. Jackson, president of the New-York Historical Society, writes in his preface that Central Park is not the oldest public open space in either the world or the United States, nor is it the largest, nor even the most beautiful, yet it has the most contrast to its surroundings, an expression of a city's life and exuberance, and is properly celebrated as such by Miller.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

There is more to Central Park than meets the eye or is seen at the movies: 843 acres of prime, green land in the middle of one of the most important cities of the world. And man-made too, the landscape sculpted by thousands of men over twenty years to create a haven in the midst of a bustling city. Originally designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, it has continued to evolve for 150 years and this superb book has been produced to celebrate this great piece of art, this American earthwork, in all its glory. Author and photographer Sara Cedar Miller, the official historian and photographer for the Central Park Conservancy, expertly leads the reader through its labyrinthine walkways, exploring the avenues, terraces, meadows and ravines, all beautifully encapsulated within her stunning photographs. Little known hideaways and gardens are revealed, accompanied by their history and examinations of their wildlife and flora. It is a marvel that this can survive in the midst of New York City and is a testament to the Conservancy of their care and management. Archival footage reveals the evolution of this great garden over the last century and a half and this work will no doubt become a valuable reference for future generations in its continuing development of this American masterpiece. - Lucy Watson

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Customer Reviews

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Ms. Miller is the parks official historian and photographer and has been since the mid-1980s.
Jana L. Perskie
If you have never visited Central Park or have visited and fell in love with it like so many others, you will love this book.
Shannon Deason
This book is chock full of history and trivia that is amazingly dense as well as beautiful photos of CP.
Jessica Van Doren

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Jana L. Perskie HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 15, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Commemorating the 150th anniversary of Central Park, photographer and historian Sara Cedar Miller celebrates the aesthetic, cultural and historic significance of America's first public park with the book "Central Park, An American Masterpiece." This is the park's definitive illustrated history, and offers some of the most gorgeous photographs I have seen on the subject - a difficult task given the number of pictures that have been drawn, painted and photographed of the Manhattan landmark. The book includes over 200 color illustrations, original plans and drawings alongside modern photos, giving the viewer/reader an historical perspective.
Accompanying Ms. Miller's work, portraying the park throughout the seasons, is a well written text which highlights the conception and creation of the park and its art and architecture. This is a big, beautiful picture book that would make a wonderful addition to any home or library. It's a wonderful gift idea. I know as I have given it numerous times.
Ms. Miller is the parks official historian and photographer and has been since the mid-1980s.
JANA
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Rocco Dormarunno on November 25, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Sara Miller has put together an outstanding book: a book as vast and detailed as the Great Park itself. For those not familiar with the park and its history, this is an invaluable introduction to the political, demographical, economic and, especially, aesthetic thinking that went into the creation of 800 acres of gorgeous park space in the middle of Manhattan. For those seasoned veterans of NYC history, this is a welcome reminder of the enormous vision and efforts of Calvert Vaux and Fredrick Law Olmsted, as they conceived the park.
Nota Bene: A lot of books have gorgeous photos but the print job is miserable ... Others have high-qualtity prints but the photos aren't that interesting ... This book has glorious prints and an expert print job. Pick up this book.
Rocco Dormarunno, author of The Five Points and The Five Points Concluded
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Flagg on February 19, 2006
Format: Hardcover
As an avid fan of Central Park who has been exploring it and studying the books on it for decades, I was amazed at what there was still to learn about it from Miller's book. For example, other historians allude to a connection between Central Park's design and the Hudson River School of landscape art: Miller provides actual sources of the designer's inspiration and shows the results explicitly in the photos. And all in a way that is not at all "bookish" but instead makes you want to go right in and see for yourself the scenes she shows so well in the book's illustrations. The beautiful photos and fascinating stories and the well chosen historical prints all work together in such a compelling and entertaining way that one might never realize one is being educated by a superb textbook in the field of art.

With her emphasis on the past of the park, and its present restored beauty, it is understandable that the author does not use very much of the book's valuable space on the remaining present-day problems, but she might at least have alluded to the incongruity of the city's insistence on using this artistic matepiece as a through route for motor traffic during the majority of daylight weekday hours. In effect, the city's Dept. of Traffic is providing a refuge from the chaos of the surrounding streets during rush hours - but for the cars, not for the people. If you want to appreciate the park shown in this book, go during the times when the traffic noise does not drown out the wind in the trees, the birdsong, and the happy voices of children!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By JLP on July 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Did you know that the elm lined mall leading to the Bethesda fountain and the view of the ramble are actually based on the layout of a church? Or that all of the lakes in Central Park are manmade. This and many other very interesting facts are interspersed with lovingly taken photographs of the park which were taken by the author of the book as well. Miller starts decribing how the park came to be and the leading ideas and ideals that lead to its creation by Olmsted and Vaux. She proceeds to describe systematically the various sections of the park providing historical information as well. She delves into the some of the controversies and compromises that Olmsted and Vaux encountered in the creation of one of the finest examples of 19th Century art but it is not a comprehensive history of the park. There is a 2 page map of the park at the of the book with a legend identifying each of the features discussed in the book. If you are first time visitor to the city wishing to explore the park in detail or a life long New Yorker this book will delight and surprise you.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A reader on November 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover
An Aesthetic Pleasure.

For anyone who uses Central Park and appreciates its open naturalistic, not natural, landscape as Ms. Miller points out in her beautifully written highly informative text, this is a masterpiece about "The Masterpiece" that is Central Park.The Park as I didn't know way back when, is the result of a successful artistic collaboration between its two designers and nature. In fact it is completely man made. Ms. Miller who has been C.P's official historian and photographer for over twenty years has captured with love and a keen eye in her photographs the essence of what Central Park means to New Yorkers of all ages, backgrounds, nationalities: Relief from the 'concreteness' of the city surrounding it.

In addition, to the aesthetic pleasure her exquisite photographs provide, the book answers questions many of us have while breathing deeply and getting lost in Central Park. This chance to get lost through careful design was one of many visionary choices the original designers made 150 years ago when Central Park certainly wasn't "central" to a city that only eventually caught up with it.

Ever since I discovered Ms. Miller's book I've given it many times as a present because there are so many of us who have criss-crossed the park and who certainly 'know' it yet might want to know more about it.
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