‘To see at one glance all the centuries that have passed’ - early visualisations of historical time

This chapter focuses on the visualisation of historical time, illustrated by key examples from the eighteenth century when the modern timeline was invented. We are fortunate in having not only surviving examples of printed timelines from the period but also explanations written by their makers, revealing the ambitions they had for visualisation. An important divergence is evident, between those who want to use rhetorical visual metaphors to tell a graphical story, and those who prefer to let the data ‘speak for itself’, allowing patterns to emerge from the distribution of data points across a surface.

Keywords: timeline, chronographics