Frequently, I stumble upon a concept that fascinates me, and I lose track of what I’m supposed to be doing. My train has currently been derailed. Instead of designing rubrics this afternoon, I spent far too much time reading about cartography, the study of making and designing maps. Cartographies of time are graphic representations of historical events.
In the beginning of the 17th century, chronologers compiled the dates of historical events that schoolchildren were expected to memorize and created visual representations that served as memory aids to improve retention. The image of the knight (image 2) depicts four significant monarchies, each monarchy’s name and description placed on a part of the body that the cartographer deemed representative of the respective monarchy’s strengths and weaknesses.
Image 1 is an historical map of Italy. This is my favorite because it’s intuitive, quite beautiful, and metaphoric. The streams at the top of the map represent nations conquered by the Roman empire, and these streams connect to the lake at the center, representative of the empire itself.
The clouds in image 3 signify the extent of Earth’s surface that was known to the West. As the series of maps progresses (I’ve only posted one), the clouds retreat; more light shines through; and the map of the world known to the West is revealed through the clouds.
In a college history class, my professor discussed image 4. It might be the most elegant map created; intuitive and aesthetically pleasing, it conveys myriad kinds of information central to a comprehensive understanding of Napoleon’s march while retaining a degree of simplicity. It depicts the attrition of the army and its trajectory as it crossed the Alps to Russia. The width of the line is indicative of the number of troops in the army, and you can see that this line thins significantly as the black line (representative of temperature) grows.
If you’re interested in learning more (because who isn’t! ok, maybe you!), check out Cartographies of Time: A History of the Timeline. It’s fascinating to consider how different cultures conceived of their own histories and how they tried to convey both time and history in a visual medium. lv, molly
Images via Biblio Odyssey