The Old Print Shop

Vassar College Grounds.


  • MEDIUM: Manuscript plan with printed title and text.

    DATE: c.1865.

  • EDITION SIZE: Sheet size, 18 1/4 x 21 3/4" (46.7 x 55.5 cm)

  • DESCRIPTION: No artist or surveyors name given. An early, unrecorded plan of the Vassar campus, combining both printed and manuscript elements, detailing the grounds and buildings, including Maria Mitchell's famous observatory—the first building to be constructed at this prestigious women's college (now co-ed).<br><br>This plan is quite detailed, drawn on a scale of fourteen rods to the inch (one rod measures 5 1/2 yards or 16 1/2 feet), it delineates the buildings, roads, driveways, trees etc.<br><br>Founded in 1861 by beer tycoon and advocate of women's education Matthew Vassar, the college's first classes began in September, 1865. This plan, drawn on a scale of fourteen rods to an inch, appears to have been executed around the time of completion. It includes printed text providing details on the College Edifice (now known as Main Building), including its length (472 feet), area of flooring (4 acres), and number of rooms (497). Construction costs are noted as well, including $250,000 for the College Edifice, $15,000 for the observatory and instruments, $40,000 for the gymnasium hall, and so on. The delicately drawn map depicts these buildings, and also provides considerable detail about the landscape, including gardens and tree plantings, roads and pathways, Mill Cove Lake (known today as Vassar Lake) and the circular and semi-circular “playgrounds” to the left of the Edifice.<br><br>The Maria Mitchell Observatory—which still stands today—is here shown above and to the left of Main Building. Mitchell (1818–1889)—the first American woman to work as a professional astronomer, and the first woman elected Fellow of both the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science—was the first professor appointed to the Vassar faculty, serving as professor of astronomy beginning in 1865 as well as director of the Vassar College Observatory. In 1868, Mitchell began recording sun spots by eye, and in 1873 she and her students started making daily photographic records of the sun, which stand as the first regular photographs of the sun. These photographs enabled Mitchell to investigate the hypothesis that sun spots were cavities instead of clouds on the surface of the sun. She taught at the college until her retirement in 1888, one year prior to her death. <br><br>Overall a fascinating piece.


  • CONDITION: Good condition. save for some minor soiling and sort tears, small losses of paper along sheet edges. Not affecting the image in any way.


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