Surveying Books 1900s

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Prepared by:    Francois "Bud" Uzes


One important element in compiling a list of surveying books used in the United States is determining when surveying was first practiced in the colonies. The beginning of the 17th century corresponds with the first lasting settlement by the English in Virginia. That event took place in 1607 and was followed by the landing of the Mayflower in 1620 whereupon the colony of Plymouth was founded. Although the question of when surveying began remains unanswered, further insight is provided in a statement appearing in John Love's Geodaesia: or, The Art of Surveying and Measuring of Land Made Easie. (1688):

- - - and if you ask, why I write a Book of this nature, since we have so many very good ones already in our own Language? I answer, because I cannot find in those Books, many things, of great consequence, to be understood by the Surveyor. I have seen Young men in America, often nonplus'd so, that their Books would not help them forward, particularly in Carolina, about Laying out Lands, when a certain quantity of Acres has been given to be laid out five or six times as broad as long. This I know is to be laught at by a Mathematician; yet to such as have no more of this Learning, than to know how to Measure a Field, it seems a Difficult Question: And to what Book already Printed of Surveying shall they repair to, to be resolved?

While the information is meager it seems certain that surveying was being practiced in the American colonies during the 17th century. Lacking evidence of earlier work it was decided to begin the present compilation with the year 1600.

Surveying book entries dated before 1800 include all English-language works that were either used or were susceptible to having been used in America. Those after 1800 are limited to ones published in the United States with the exception of a few specialty books for which no local counterpart was then available. This compilation contains instructional or "how-to" books and does not include such items as manufacturer's catalogs, etc. The inclusion of government surveying manuals is limited to individually published works having either widespread application or particular significance.


Beginning 1900

Wilson, Herbert M., Topographic Surveying including Geographic, Exploratory, and Military Mapping with Hints on Camping, Emergency Surgery, and Photography, 1st ed., (New York & London, 1900, 1904), 910 pages with 1 folding plate. Wilson was Geographer and Chief Engineer for the U.S. Geological Survey and presents here a very comprehensive treatment of the subject. A second edition was published in 1905 and a third in 1908 with the revised title Topographic, Trigonometric and Geodetic Surveying including Geographic, Exploratory, and Military Mapping with Hints on Camping, Emergency Surgery, and Photography.

O'Donahue, T.A., Colliery Surveying, (London and New York, 1901), 163 pages. This small-sized work presents English methodology for conducting mine surveying.

Philbrick, Philetus H., Field Manual for Engineers, (New York and London, 1901), 388 pages. This work is intended for railway surveyors and focuses on the layout of curves.

Webb, Walter Loring, Problems in the Use and Adjustment of Engineering Instruments, (New York and London, 1901), 136 pages. This book is intended as a supplement to be used in conjunction with a book of general instructions. It provides definite directions for the for the student in performing the technical aspects of surveying.

Nugent, Paul C., Plane Surveying, (New York and London, 1902), 577 pages. This is a well-illustrated basic text on the subject. It provides details on instruments and their use and treats subjects not ordinarily included in books of this type. Included are sections on phototopographic surveying, solar and mine surveying instruments, and public lands surveys.

Lupton, Arnold; A Practical Treatise on Mine Surveying, (New York & London, 1902), 414 pages, illustrated.

Merriman, Mansfield, Elements of Precise Surveying and Geodesy, (New York, 1903), with 261 pages. This book includes a section on history as well as treating precise triangulation, leveling and baseline measurement. A second edition appeared in 1910..

Smith, Leonard S., Notes and Problems on the Adjustment and Use of Surveying Instruments, 2nd ed., (Madison, 1900, 1904), 65 pages. This little work presents survey problems for students.

Barton, Samuel Marx, Elements of Plane Surveying (Including Leveling), (Boston, 1904), 255 pages. This is a rarely seen text although having good content. It was published as late as 1913.

Taylor, T.U., Field Book of Surveying, (Austin, 1904), 89 pages. This is a college workbook for students of surveying.

Frye, Albert I., Railway Right-of-Way Surveying, (New York, 1904), published by the Engineering News Publishing Co., this 45 page book treats specific issues related to the subject and identifies deficiencies in existing practice such as improper use of rails as center lines.

Lea, Samuel Hill, Hydrographic Surveying, Methods, Tables and Forms of Notes, (New York, 1905), 172 pages. This book describes the methods and instruments for hydrographic surveying, including the tide gauge, sextant, stream gauge, etc.

International Textbook Company, (Miscellaneous books on various elements of Surveying), (Scranton, 1905, 1906). These are a series of textbooks prepared for the use of students of the International Correspondence Schools. They provide excellent basic treatment of the respective subjects and were sometimes published separately and sometimes bound together in groups. They are well illustrated and ideal for self-study.

Breed, C.B. and Hosmer, G.L., The Principles and Practice of Surveying, (New York, 1906), 526 pages. This is one of the major surveying texts of the 20th century and subsequent editions continue for over a half century. The first copies were larger and bound in blue cloth.

Lavis, F., Railroad Location Surveys and Estimates, (New York, 1906), 270 pages. This is a substantial work regarding railroad surveying and contains detailed descriptions of field work.

Underhill, James, Mineral Land Surveying, (Denver, 1906), 218 pages and 1 folding plate. This nice little work treats the surveying and patenting of mineral land, and was designed for U.S. Mineral Surveyors and mining engineering students.

Ives, Howard Chapin, and Hilts, Harold Ezra, Problems in Surveying, Railroad Surveying and Geodesy, with Appendix on the Adjustments of the Engineer's Transit and Level, (New York, 1906).  This book has 136 pages with contents including chaining, leveling, compass and transit, miscellaneous field and office problems, railroad surveying, and geodetic and astronomical surveys.

ICS Staff, City Surveying, (Scranton, 1907), 57 pages. This is one of the home study series published by International Textbook Company.

Nagle, J.C., A Field-Manual for Railroad Engineers, 2nd ed., (New York and London, 1897, 1907), 403 pages. This book gives brief treatment to various types of railroad surveying before settling in on laying out curves.

Phillips, Alfred E., Surveying, A Manual of Practical Instruction in the Art of Plane Surveying, including Plotting, Leveling, Triangulation, Line Running, Cross-Sectioning, Traversing, and other Details of Field Work, (Chicago, 1907,1908), 207 pages. This gives instruction in the practical aspects of surveying and was published by the American School of Correspondence. This work was also divided into sections and published separately by the school.

Lovell, William H., The Plane Table and its Use in Surveying, (New York, 1908), 49 pages. Lovell was a topographer with the U.S. Geological Survey and in this little book gives details for performing large scale mapping.

Logan, George Wood, Elements of Hydrographic Surveying, (Annapolis, 1908), 176 pages with 2 folding plates. This is a small basic treatment of the subject prepared as a text book for midshipmen at the Naval Academy. It was reprinted in later years.

Rees, Thomas H., Topographical Surveying and Sketching, (Fort Leavenworth, 1908), 408 pages. This is an instructional book for student officers of the Army Service School at Fort Leavenworth. It includes much practical information on the subject.

Taylor, T.U., Surveyor's Hand Book, (New York & London, 1908), 310 pages. This is a light treatment of the basic elements of surveying. Its small size lends to being carried in the field.

Tracy, John Clayton, Plane Surveying, A Text-Book and Pocket Manual, (New York and London, 1906,1908), 794 pages and 3 folding plates. A comprehensive treatment of the subject coupled with a dark flexible leather covering and gilt-edged pages caused it to be known as the Surveyor's Bible. It was a very popular work and was republished into the late 1920's and perhaps beyond. Beginning in 1909 there was a companion book Exercises in Surveying for Field and Office Work. At times the two books were published in a single binding.

Trumbull, Loyal Wingate, A Manual of Underground Surveying, (New York and London, 1908), 251 pages. This is a substantial treatment of mining surveying with practical field guidelines. It includes several pages of inserted diagrams on translucent paper velum. An abridged version of the book was also published by McGraw-Hill as Vol. 7 of its Mining Library.

Merriman, M. and Brooks, J.B., Handbook for Surveyors, 4th ed., (New York and London, 1895, 1908), 246 pages. This is a handy pocket-sized book that would be convenient to take into the field.

Lockyer, Sir Norman, Surveying for Archaeologists, (London, 1909), 120 pages. This is a specialty book with a distinctly English approach to the work.

Pence, W.D. and Ketchum, M.S., A Manual of Field and Office Methods for the Use of Students in Surveying, (New York, 1910), 3rd ed., (1904, 1910), 256 pages with 1 folding plate. This is a hand pocket-sized book with good treatment of the subject. It had widespread popularity. The 4th edition was a larger work of 388 pages and was titled Surveying Manual.

Lefax, (Various leaflets about surveying topics), (Philadelphia, various dates c. 1910's - 1940's), loose leaf articles include Logarithms, Useful Shortcuts in Surveying, Barometric Leveling, Topographic Survey Cost Data, Topographic Surveys for Logging Operations, Using Aneroid Barometer, Surveying Instrument Adjustment, Standard Vertical Curves and Safe Sight Distances, Cutting a Given Area from an Irregular Piece of Land, Tables for Expressing Areas in Square Feet or Acres, Conventional Symbols for Map Drawing.

Crandall, C.L. and F.A. Barnes, Field Book for Railroad Surveying, (New York & London, 1919, 1910), 194 pages. This book contains information on curves, coordinates, leveling and other elements of railroad work.

Sherrill, Captain C.O., Military Topography for the Mobile Forces including Map Reading, Surveying and Sketching, 2nd ed., (Fort Leavenworth, 1910, 1911), 353 pages and 2 folding plates. This is a substantial treatment of the surveying encountered by the military.

Davis, J.B., Surveying for Beginners, 2nd ed., (Ann Arbor, 1911), 170 pages. This is a workbook of field problems for use at the University of Michigan Dept. of Engineering.

Ingram, Edward L., Geodetic Surveying and the Adjustment of Observations (Method of Least Squares), 1st ed., (New York & London, 1911), 389 pages, an excellent work on the subject.

Briggs, Henry, The Effects of Errors in Surveying, (London & Philadelphia, 1912), 179 pages. This is a nice comprehensive treatment for treating errors in general, plus those specifically encountered in triangulation and traversing.

Comstock, George C., A Text-Book of Field Astronomy for Engineers, 2nd ed., (New York and London, 1902, 1912), 218 pages. This book provides instruction for determining position and time by astronomic measurements.

Durell, Fletcher, Plane Trigonometry, with Chapters on Plane Surveying, by Henry A. Converse, (New York, 1912), 295 pages plus in the same binding is a book by Fletcher Durell of Logarithmic and Trigonometric Tables with 121 pages. This is a pretty lightweight presentation of surveying practice and states that chains are usually made of brass because it does not rust.

U.S. Forest Service, Instructions for Making Forest Surveys and Maps, (Washington, 1907), 45 pages. A later edition of 85 pages was published in 1912.

Durham, Edward B., Mine Surveying, (New York and London, 1913), 391 pages. This was a popular work and includes a historical section on mine-surveying instruments.

Pickels, George Wellington, and Wiley, Carroll Carson, Text Book on Railroad Surveying, (New York and London, 1913), 263 pages with numerous tables, diagrams and illustrations.  This pocket-size book intended for students of railroad surveying.  In later years the authors published a book on Route Surveying

Shurick, A.T., Coal Mine Surveying, (New York and London, 1914), 81 pages. This work was published both separately and in combination with other technical works on mining. It attempts to deal with problems arising in the commonplace routine of every-day work.

Ives, Howard Chapin, Surveying Manual, (New York & London 1914), designed for the use of first-year students in surveying and especially for the use of non-civil engineering students.  The book contains 185 pages of text plus 111 pages of tables.

Davis, Raymond E., Manual of Surveying for Field and Office, (New York and London, 1915), 397 pages. This was the first writing of Mr. Davis who in later years collaborated with Francis Foote and W.H. Rayner to publish a much enlarged work on the subject. There was a second edition of this work in 1928, the same year as the first edition of Davis, Foote and Rayner.

McCullough, Ernest, Practical Surveying for Surveyors' Assistants, Vocational, and High Schools, (New York, 1915), 401 pages. This is a nice simplified work that includes content on surveying law and practice. Alternative methods are given for finding the center of a government section with the suggested preference differing from that advocated by the government.

Perkins, Lee, The Railroad Taper - The Theory and Application of a Compound Transition Curve Based upon Thirty-Foot Chords, (New York and London, 1915), 356 pages. This book is mostly tables but does contain instruction for the procedure.

Popplewell, William Charles, The Elements of Surveying and Geodesy, (London, New York and others, 1915), 244 pages. This work focus on the use of English-type geodetic surveying instruments that differ from those usually seen in the U.S.

U.S. Geological Survey, Topographic Instructions of the United States Geological Survey, (Washington, 1915), 228 pages. This little pocket-sized paperback provides detailed information on plane table work. There is also a 1918 version of this work.

Grieves, Capt. Loren C., Military Sketching and Map Reading, 3rd ed., (Washington, 1917), 120 pages. This book mixes in some old-fashioned techniques for use in sketching.

Webb, W.L., and Fish, J.C.L., Technic of Surveying Instruments and Methods, (New York and London, 1917), 319 pages. This pocket-sized book provides instructions to students of surveying.

Grunsky, C. E., Topographic Stadia Surveying, (New York, 1917).  This work of 99 pages has 9 chapters with topics of definitions, stadia formula, practice suggestions, how to use the stadia diagram, and more.  Grunsky was a prominent engineer and surveyor in California.

Carlock, Floyd D., Military Topography and Photography, (Menasha, WI, 1918), 309 pages. This book contains much information including instruction on the solar transit, stadia, baseline measure and astronomic positions.

Finch, J.K., Plane Surveying, A Practical Treatise on the Art of Plane Surveying, including Chaining, Leveling, compass and Transit Measurements, land and Construction Surveying, Topographic Surveying, and Mapping. (Chicago, 1918), 243 pages and 1 folding plate. This little work offers the benefit of the writer's experience in a handy format.

Stuart, Edwin R., Map Reading and Topographical Sketching, (New York and London, 1918), 139 pages and 1 folding plate. This small-sized work was prepared by a West Point instructor.

ICS Staff, Individual Booklets on Various Branches of Surveying, (Scranton, 1920). Topics include Chain Surveying, Compass Surveying, Transit Surveying, Leveling, Circular Curves, Stadia and Plane Table Surveying, Topographic Surveying, Mapping, Hydrographic Surveying, United States Land Surveys and Practical Astronomy. Some of these were published prior to 1920 and most were reprinted into the 1940's. They are excellent books and easy to understand for home study.

Beahan, Willard, The Field Practice of Railway Location, (New York, 1920), 252 pages and 6 foldout leaves numbered as 7 plates. This has content of railway engineering, topography and surveying.

Warner, C.A., Field Mapping for the Oil Geologist, (New York and London, 1921), 145 pages. This is a pocket-sized specialty item that includes methods of reconnaissance mapping and topography.

The General Service Schools, Engineer Course in Topography, (Fort Leavenworth, 1922), 154 pages. This is a military text on topographic sketching.

Wainwright, D.B., Plane Table Manual, (Washington, 1922), 97 pages with 1 folding plate. This is Special Publication No. 85 of the U.S. Coast & Geodetic Survey. It presents that agency's methods for topographic mapping.

Medaugh, F.W., Elementary Surveying, (Baltimore, 1925), 411 pages plus 88 pages of tables. This is a college level work and provides good coverage in an understandable format.

Talbot, Arthur N., The Railway Transition Spiral, (New York and London, 1927), 96 pages. This is a small pocket-sized book for laying out curves.

Hosmer, George S., Surveying, (New York 1927).  This 41-page paperback is among the Merit Badge Series of booklets published by the Boy Scouts of America.  A number of revised editions by other authors followed during subsequent years.

Beaman, W.M., Topographic Instructions of the United States Geological Survey, (Washington, 1928), 217 pages. This is Bulletin 788-E of the USGS, being a unit of Bulletin 788 compiled by C.H. Birdseye. This separately bound paperback portion comprises pages 161 to 178 of the larger work.

Davis, R.E., Foote, F.S. and Rayner, W.H., Surveying Theory and Practice, (New York and London,(1928), 1016 pages. This is a very substantial book and set the standard for several decades to follow. It has been reprinted in several editions and is one of the most popular of all American texts. Beginning with the 3rd edition it was prepared by Davis and Foote.

Hosmer, George L., Azimuth, 3rd ed, (New York and London, 1929), 63 pages. This handy little book provides instructions and necessary tables for determining surveying directions by astronomic methods. The first edition was published in 1909.

Davis, R.E., Foote, F.S., and Rayner, W.H., Elements of Surveying, (New York and London, 1930), 581 pages. This is an abridgement of the theory and practice book by the same authors.

Allen, C. Frank, Railroad Curves and Earthwork, 7th ed., (New York and London, 1931), 290 pages. This work was first copyrighted in 1899 and was a very popular work with good instruction in laying out curves.

Rubey, Harry, Engineering Surveys, (New York, 1934), 321 pages of text plus 109 pages of mathematical tables. This was first published as part of the Engineering Science Series of The Macmillan Company publishers. Later editions of this work were published including ones of larger scope that were co-authored with George Lommel & Marion Todd. Rubey also published the book Route Surveys in 1938.

Bouchard, Harry, Surveying, (Scranton, 1935). This was published by the International Textbook Company and subsequent editions were published into the late 1940's. It is well written and a good basic text.

Davis, Raymond E., Elementary Plane Surveying, Text and Manual, (New York and London, 1936). This book was widely used as a first-year surveying text and continued in print into the 1950's.

Cleary, John B. and ICS Staff, United States Land Surveys, Parts 1 & 2, (Scranton, 1936), 102 + 67 pages. This is part of the ICS home study series.

Barton, Samuel G., Determination of True Meridian, (Scranton, 1936), 68 pages. This is part of the ICS home study series.

Rayner, William Horace, Elementary Surveying, (New York, 1937), 380 pages. This work is well written and a good text for the period. In 1941 Rayner published the companion to this work titled Higher Surveying. They were offered as Volumes I and II of a set. They were published into the mid-1950's at which time the work was co-authored by Milton O. Schmidt.

Taylor, Warren C., Elementary Surveying, (Scranton, 1939), 236 pages. This is another of the well written texts published by the International Textbook Company. There was a 2nd edition published in 1949.

Staley, W. W.Introduction to Mine Surveying, (Stanford, 1939), 275 pages with numerous illustrations and tables.  This was a very popular text and went through several reprint editions.

Ives, Howard Chapin, Highway Curves,4th edition by Philip Kissam, (New York and London, 1958), 389 pages. The original work was first published in 1929 and treats various types of curves.


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