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Cartographies of Time: A History of the Timeline

Overview

Now in Paperback! What does history look like? How do you draw time? Cartographies of Time is the first history of the timeline, written engagingly and with incredible visuals. The authors, both accomplished writers and historians, sketch the shifting field of graphic representations of history from the beginning of the print age through the present. They shed light on western views of history and on the complex relationship between general ideas about the course of events and the technical efforts to record and ...

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Cartographies of Time: A History of the Timeline

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Overview

Now in Paperback! What does history look like? How do you draw time? Cartographies of Time is the first history of the timeline, written engagingly and with incredible visuals. The authors, both accomplished writers and historians, sketch the shifting field of graphic representations of history from the beginning of the print age through the present. They shed light on western views of history and on the complex relationship between general ideas about the course of events and the technical efforts to record and connect dates and names in the past. In addition to telling a rich, forgotten story, this book serves as a kind of grammar of historical representation, uncovering the ways in which time has been structured in thought and in images, in the Western tradition. Written for both the academically curious and the general reader, Cartographies of Time provides a set of tools for understanding the evolution and the significance of graphic representations of time both in history and in contemporary culture.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Not all maps get us from A to Z; many chart decades of progress and centuries of change. This is a lavish guide to what makes us human, a sprawling, predominantly hand-drawn collection of infographics showing lyrical and linear ways to mark everything from the development of biblical thought to the spread of empires and the mapping of human sensation. Joseph Priestley's timelines of history and biography anchor themselves firmly in the middle." — The Guardian (UK)
The Barnes & Noble Review

Think about time and what comes to mind is probably not the abstract, directionless element in which you swim but time made concrete: the pages of a calendar, sand sifting through an hourglass, the sweep of the hand around a clock. At school, you drew a line across a sheet of paper and ticked off the dates of wars and inventions and presidents' terms. But what we think of as a humble procession of names and dates stripped of historical narrative and meaning was once "among the most revered of scholarly pursuits," write historians Daniel Rosenberg and Anthony Grafton. Tracing time's arrow on the page has long been an essential way of understanding the relationship of the past and present.

Rosenberg and Grafton's generously illustrated book investigates the ways that time has been represented graphically. They begin in the fourth century with the theologian Eusebius of Caesarea's Chronicle, a lengthy register of important dates that placed the story of Christianity -- and Rome's domination -- in the context of the histories of other nations. Significant advances in the development of the timeline are carefully explained, including Gerardus Mercator's incorporation of astronomical data in the fifteenth century and the eighteenth-century scientist Joseph Priestley's simple but groundbreaking charts of history and biography, which made the grand sweep of time immediately visible on a single page.

Cartographies of Time is at its most entertaining, though, when the authors highlight the inventive and sometimes eccentric ways time has been mapped, packaged, and sold. In the 1840s a French Canadian priest converted natives with his Catholic Ladder, a long scroll that used pictographs to mark events in the history of Christianity, and that was soon countered by a missionary's Protestant Ladder. Mark Twain, an erstwhile inventor, took out a patent for a rather dry looking game which he called a "memory-builder," in which players who could accurately cite event dates collected points by pushing pins into a sheet of paper.

Even the simplest records of time collected here can be visually arresting. A German seventeenth-century textbook writer turned allegorical figures -- a bear, an oil jar -- into historical maps, sprinkling the images with names, dates, and illustrated vignettes. A historical atlas published in 1828 visualized man's knowledge of the world by a sequence of maps that shrouded as yet unknown geography in stormy black clouds. Rand McNally's brightly colored Histomap, created by a factory manager who read history books on long business trips, looks like a work of outsider art.

Rosenberg and Grafton wind up their narrative with two recent timelines, created by museums on either side of New York's Central Park (and both, interestingly, funded by the same patrons). The Harriet and Robert Heilbrunn Cosmic Pathway at the American Museum of Natural History allows visitors to grasp "big time" by physically walking along a marked spiral. The average adult can cover six million years in a single step. Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History is located in virtual space, on the Internet. Its catalog of two million artifacts is constantly expanding and infinitely expandable -- like time itself.

--Peter Terzian

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781616890582
  • Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press
  • Publication date: 2/1/2012
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 298,263
  • Product dimensions: 8.50 (w) x 10.50 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Anthony Grafton is the Henry Putnam University Professor at Princeton University. He is the author of numerous books on European history and also writes on a wide variety of topics for the New Republic, American Scholar, the New York Review of Books, and the New Yorker.

Daniel Rosenberg is associate professor of history at the University of Oregon. He has published widely on history, theory, and art, and his work appears frequently in Cabinet magazine, where he is editor-at-large. With Susan Harding, he is editor of Histories of the Future.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 13, 2014

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