Cartographies of Time – A History of the Timeline by Daniel Rosenberg and Anthony Grafton is a wonderfully insightful book. It charts the history and development of representing time in a visual form.
“From the most ancient images to the contemporary, the line has served as the central figure in the representation of time. The linear metaphor is ubiquitous in everyday visual representations of time–in almanacs, calendars, charts, and graphs of all sorts. Even our everyday speech is filled with talk of time having a “before” and an “after” or being “long” and “short.” The timeline is such a familiar part of our mental furniture that it is sometimes hard to remember that we invented it in the first place. And yet, in its modern form, the timeline is not even 250 years old.” - Princeton Architectural Press
I find representing the linear nature of time to be one of the most challenging aspects of data presentation, it never blends or breaks but always continues in a line. On reading this book I was truly inspired by the many inventive ways in which time and narrative come together to tell the story.
I would highly recommend that you purchase this book, I can’t shut up telling people about its wonder – its that good, worth shouting from the roof tops.
I have shared some of my favourites below from the many vintage timelines collected within the book. Some more examples can be seen here.
Complete Ecclesiastical Chart from the Earliest Records, Sacred and Profane, Down to the Present Day (1833) Richard Cunningham Shimeall
Anatomia statuae Danielis – An anatomy of Daniel’s statue Lorenz Faust – shows the genealogies of Jesus and the rules of Saxony
Wheel of Fashion (1844) J.J.Grandville
Additionally some more examples