Living History

Historic Urban Plans recently joined the Association for Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museums (ALHFAM), an organization that supports the preservation and interpretation of places and cultures associated with our pre-industrial past.

AmericanSE1606DetailAs a vendor that’s had long-term relationships with several open air museums in the Northeast and Southern United States – such as Colonial Williamsburg – we want to support ALHFAM’s mission to bring history to life using exciting, hands-on teaching methods. Traditional building, farming and manufacturing; heritage plants; oral history and authentic reenactment – all this and more is important to keeping our past alive and relevant to visitors today.

Our reproduction antique maps are a rich source of information that can be key to the interpretation of a place, people or cultural practice. Whether the map depicts Native people in the early years of North American exploration, like this detail from Jodocus Hondius’s 1606 map of Virginia and Florida, or a survey of the terrain surrounding early settlements in coastal Virginia, such as this section from the seminal Jefferson-Fry map of 1755, these were actual physical objects created and used by people in the past to make sense of the world around them.VAMD1755Detail

Visitors to living history museums can see, touch, and experience life as it was lived in the past. Our maps are a piece of that past that visitors can take away with them to continue a lifelong process of learning and understanding.



Search Words

Historic Urban Plans Word Cloud For those who don’t know our URL, Historic Urban Plans is found online using a wide range of search words, from the broad to the specific. “Antique city plan” and “maps for sale” are common, as is the straightforward “old maps.” But those looking for something specific during the latter part of 2014 used an interesting mix of terms, such as map-makers (“Currier and Ives,” “Louis Prang”), cities (“Washington DC,” “Constantinople,” “Montreal”), and dates (“1754,” “1820,” “1892”). Certain eras were of interest (“Spanish Colonial”), as was the entire world (“Eastern and Western Hemispheres”).

The size of the terms in this word cloud created using these expressions indicates the frequency of their use. And these terms correlate to the most popular maps sold late last year – John Melish’s influential 1820 map of the United States and Abbé Delegrive’s detailed plan of Paris’s Ile de la Cité in 1754 are two examples. Of course, you can browse our catalog for the historic map that you like best. Or consider buying a favorite city plan as a gift for a friend or colleague. Whatever you choose, it’s sure to be worth searching for.


Our Founding in 1964

Historic Urban Plans -  Catalog Front CoverWhen Professor John Reps was researching his landmark book about the history of city planning, The Making of Urban America (Princeton University Press, 1965), he found that most original antique maps were held by libraries and archives, but some were in the hands of rare book and print dealers for increasingly higher prices. Few facsimiles were available for study and enjoyment by city planners, scholars, geographers, librarians, novice collectors and the general public.

He resolved to see if publishing facsimiles would be commercially successful, beginning with six plans and views, ranging from Matthew Merian’s 1620 plan-view of Paris to Thackara and Vallance’s famous 1792 engraving of the new capital city, Washington, D.C. A small catalog illustrating and describing these maps was sent to college and university libraries, city planning offices, and fellow academics in November 1964. A detail of the Washington, D.C. plan was used to illustrate the front cover of the catalog (illustrated above).

Enough orders were received to make it possible to add another dozen or so maps for a second catalog and to expand the mailing list. By 1970, more than 300 titles were made available, approximately two-thirds of which were North American subjects.

Today, Historic Urban Plans offers over 400 titles and sells through a website instead of a catalog. Whatever the medium, our maps, plans and views are still faithful representations of rare originals significant in the history of urban development, exploration and discovery. The prices of antique maps – and some “vintage” titles – have skyrocketed within the past decade, making our high quality, reasonably priced facsimiles even more attractive to anyone interested in cartography, geography, design, genealogy and history.

Browse our catalog and purchase for yourself or as a gift for a friend or colleague. We know you will be delighted by anything you select.


Welcome New and Returning Customers

In 1995, when Historic Urban Plans first went online, we were at the forefront of the online shopping experience. Minor tweaks and upgrades in the intervening years didn’t take advantage of all the possibilities of visually improving our website. So this summer has been spent preparing for a major overhaul.

The “new” website you see here has been upgraded so it operates on multiple platforms, including desktops, tablets and mobile devices. The Catalog and Shopping Cart have been significantly improved and we’ve incorporated PayPal into the Cart so placing an order is easy, safe, and secure.

We appreciate your business and hope you enjoy this shopping experience. Please take time to peruse the catalog and place an order. If you like the website and our maps, “like” us and tell others on our Facebook page, “Historic Urban Plans, Inc.” By liking us, you’ll be the first to hear about discounts, special offers, antique map news and occasional reports about our wholesale customers. If, however, you run into difficulties or cannot find what you’re looking for, please tell me at or (607) 272-MAPS.

To our returning customers, welcome back! If you’re new to us, enjoy your introduction to the world of facsimile antique world maps, sea charts, city plans, and bird’s-eye views.

Julee Johnson


Miami International Map Fair

nwworlddetail-copyA spectacular annual event, the Miami International Map Fair draws dozens of dealers from around the country and the world to exhibit during three days in early February. Held at HistoryMiami, the city’s premier museum dedicated to Florida history, culture, and education. One of the lectures taking place during the Map Fair highlights the work of William G. DeBrahm, a German engineer who undertook the first scientific survey of the southern coast in the mid-1700s and completed the survey of Florida in 1775. Historic Urban Plans offers DeBrahm’s 1757 survey of South Carolina and Georgia in a single sheet, reduced in size from the 4-sheet original in the collection of the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts at Old Salem Museum. For more information about the Map Fair and HistoryMiami, visit