Behold a map of the birth of modern infographics, for it will cause in you a profound, Tuftean joy. Following a static poster he created earlier this year, RJ Andrews created this magnificent interactive based on John Ogilby’s 1675 road atlas of Britain, borrowing the same route-based design to chart the early history of data design.
It has everything you could hope for, like the first known graph of statistical data from 1644, which showed “the wide range of estimates of the distance in longitude between Toledo and Rome across a dozen maps.” There’s the first non-temporal quantitative bar chart, showing import and exports in Scotland and published in 1786, along with Minard’s classic “Successive Losses of Men of the French Army in the Campaign of Russia,” from 1869.
According to the author, choosing what to feature and what not was an arduous task. He says he stopped in 1904 because “chart innovation slowed in the early 20th century and so I knew I wanted to cut things off near the end of the golden age–certainly well before computers reignited the field.” He also points out at the beginning and the end of his roadmap: “Two charts that examine the migration of sunspots–one from 1630 and one from 1904–provided poetic bookends for this project.”
Andrews organizes the works as towns along the road, just as Ogilby did in the 17th century, with each town “named for key contributors whose charts make up said towns, and over waterways that mark important dates.”
The result is a neat data visualization example in itself, a simple map that allows you to see both the evolution of data visualization at a glance and to examine any milestone in detail by just clicking.