4434 entries. 93 themes. Last updated August 28, 2014.

Chronicles & Timelines Timeline

Theme

300 BCE – 30 CE

The Earliest Surviving Example of a Greek Chronological Table Circa 264 BCE

The Oxford fragment of the Parian Marble. (View Larger)

The earliest surviving example of a Greek chronological table, the Parian Marble (Marmor Parium) or Parian Chronicle, covers the years from 1581 BCE to 264 BCE, inscribed on a marble stele.

"Found on the island of Páros in two sections, and sold in Smyrna in the early 17th century to an agent for Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel, this inscription was deciphered by John Selden and published among the Arundel Marbles, Marmora Arundelliana (London 1628-9) nos. 1-21, 59-119. One of the sections published by Selden has subsequently disappeared. A further third fragment of this inscription, comprising the base of the stele and containing the end of the text, was found on Paros in 1897.

"The two known upper fragments, brought to London in 1627 and presented to Oxford University in 1667, contain entries for the years 1581–322/21 BC. The surviving upper chronicle fragment currently resides in the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford. It combines dates for events we would consider mythic, such as the Flood of Deucalion (equivalent to 1528/27 BC) with dates we would categorize as historic. For the Greeks, the events of their distant past, such as the Trojan War (dated to 1218 in the Parian inscription) and the Voyage of the Argonauts were historic: their myths were understood as legends to the Greeks. In fact the Parian inscriptions spend more detail on the Heroic Age than on certifiably historic events closer to the date the stele was inscribed and erected, apparently in 264/263 BC. 'The Parian Marble uses chronological specificity as a guarantee of truth,' Peter Green observed in the introduction to his annotated translation of the Argonautica of Apollonios Rhodios: 'the mythic past was rooted in historical time, its legends treated as fact, its heroic protagonists seen as links between the 'age of origins' and the mortal, everyday world that succeeded it.'

"The shorter fragment base of the stele, found in 1897, is in a museum on Páros. It contains chronicle entries for the years 356–299 BC" (Wikipedia article on Parian Chronicle, accessed 11-22-2010).

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30 CE – 500 CE

Eusebius Introduces His Tabular Timeline System Circa 308 CE – 326 CE

Between 308 and 311 Eusebius Caesariensis (Eusebius of Caesarea, Eusebius Pamphili), a Roman historian, Christian polemicist, and Bishop of Caesarea in Palestine, wrote The Chronicon, or Chronicle (Greek, Pantodape historia, "Universal history").  For the next 18 years Eusebius continued to revise this work, and though Eusebius's Greek text was lost, the work was preserved in Eusebius's final draft (326) by its translation into Latin by Jerome, and by its translation into Armenian.  

One of Eusebius's innovations in this work was a tabular system to coordinate events drawn from several distinct historiographic traditions. His use of the tabular format was influenced by the columnar arrangement of Origen's Hexapla, with which he was familiar. Eusebius's Chronicon became a fundamental text for the development of historical writing in the Middle Ages. 

As Anthony Grafton and Megan Williams wrote in Christianity and the Transformation of the Book (2006, p. 136), Eusebius's Chronicle made it possible "to fix a whole world on paper" by aligning data from various strands of biblical and Near Eastern historiography. Eusebius divided his Chronicle into two parts, the Chronography and the Canons. The Chronography is a tabular list of synchronisms of Greek, Roman, and Jewish history; the Canons is a systematic chronicle of world history and following nineteen ancient states down through time, culminating in one column representing the Roman empire. To Grafton and Williams the importance of the Hexapla for Eusebius was that it trained him to read parallel texts "word by word", comparing them closely and allowing the discrepancies to remain (pp. 169-170).

As first compiled, the Chronicon consisted of two parts: in the first (‘the chronography’),

"Eusebius treated the history of each ancient people or empire separately, listing their rulers or magistrates, the years of their reigns, and the events which took place in those years; in the second (‘the chronological canons’), he tried to reconcile the various chronologies and historical narratives current in the ancient world, by laying out their histories in a tabular format which would allow the reader to look across the columns and to compare what was going on in the different kingdoms at the same time. It was second part which was revolutionary, and it was this section which was translated and made available to the Latin West by Jerome. Eusebius’ Chronicle no longer survives in the original Greek. An Armenian translation exists in two versions, though the end of book one and start and end of book two are lost in both.  

"The tabular layout was achieved by making use of a new type of manuscript, the codex. Consisting of sheets folded and stitched together in the manner of a modern book, this type of book largely supplanted the scroll between the second and fourth centuries. Eusebius took each ‘opening’ in his codex and divided it up into vertical columns. The events of the period were listed in two broad columns, one at the centre of each of the opposing pages. To their left and right were columns of numbers giving the years according to the regnal chronologies current in the period in question. Into the column to the extreme left Eusebius put an index of years divided into ten year intervals, the next he headed as [Kings] of the Persians (or of whichever empire was dominant at the time), and that to the extreme right he headed [Kings] of the Egyptians for as long as they lasted. When a new power came along he added an extra column for them, and when they failed their column vanished with them. The ascent of a new king was placed in the column of his kingdom, but, given a horizontal line of its own, as though it had happened between years. Thereafter the series of numbers in this kingdom’s column would be restarted, running 1, 2, 3, 4 and so on.  

"Merton 315 illustrates this layout. Consider, for example, fols. 49v and 50r, which cover the years 1196–1182 BC in Eusebius’s reckoning. It is to these years that Eusebius assigns the Trojan War. In this opening three rulers come to the throne: the judges of the Jews Esebon and Labdon, and the pharaoh of the Egyptians Thuoris. Some attempt has been made to distinguish the columns by using different coloured inks—red, green and black. Notice also that the entries on folio 49v are very much concerned with issues of chronology: ‘In the book of Judges [11:26], Jephthah says from the era of Moses to himself is reckoned to be 300 years’; ‘After Hesebon in the book of the Hebrews, Aelon is considered to have ruled as Judge over the people for ten years, which the seventy translators do not have.’  

Further into the text, once the Romans have overrun the other major empires of the Mediterranean world, the need for multiple columns is reduced, and the work proceeds on single pages rather than by two-page openings. Note also that Eusebius starts his tables, not with the date of Creation, but with the earliest date in the Biblical narrative which he could correlate securely with the chronologies of the other peoples—namely, the birth of Abraham. He places this event in the 43rd year of the reign of Ninus, king of the Assyrians—2016 years before the birth of Christ. Writing in 379 or 380, Jerome, for his part, extended Eusebius’s coverage from AD 327 to 378—or as he puts it in his preface, from the twentieth year of Constantine to the second of the Emperor Valentinian. But note also that Jerome claims to have modified and added much to the annals between the Fall of Troy and 327/the twentieth year of Constantine.  

"Theories as to the purpose of this chronicle vary. One common view is that Eusebius produced the work as a preparatory step towards the writing of his Ecclesiastical History, because he needed to reconcile the chronological data from various Greek sources—Porphyry, Castor, Erastothenes, and so on—with that found in Scripture. The problem with this view is that the chronological scope of the two works is so very different. Another view is that the aim was to show how the national histories of the Mediterranean world fitted into the overarching scheme of Salvation History—how, that is, they fitted into God’s grand plan for the redemption of humanity. The problem with this theory is that Eusebius starts, not with creation, but with the birth of Abraham—at a point when the world was already, according to his reckoning, 3,184 years old. Another approach focuses on Eusebius’s revision of the received Christian chronology of Sextus Julius Africanus. Whereas Sextus had placed Christ’s death in the 5,500th year of world, Eusebius’s chronology implied that Christ was born in its 5,199th year. This can be seen as an attempt to deflate millennial expectations, because the former dating when combined with the belief that the world would last six millennia—an idea that Sextus had helped to promote—implied that the Second Coming would take place in AD 500. Eusebius’s revised chronology, on the other hand, rejuvenated the world, implying that the sixth age would continue until 799/800. The problem with this theory is that Eusebius does not use annus-mundi chronology as his fundamental system of reference, nor does he make mention in his chronicle of the dangers of millennarianism. There were chroniclers who were much involved with countering this danger, such as Bede and Isidore of Seville, but they are wholly explicit about their concerns, and they use annus-mundi chronology to organise their annals.  

"Another view is that the purpose was to help new converts to the faith to assimilate the historical traditions of the Middle East and the Jews—traditions which would have been alien to those who had been educated according to the established norms of Greco-Roman education. ‘Visually and succintly’, as McKitterick puts it, ‘it sets out and locates in time the relationship between the various elements of an educated Christian’s universe.’ Of the various theories this one is the most in keeping with the words of Eusebius’s preface, which stresses the simple utility of his tabular arrangement for translating dates from one chronological system to another. We have, he explains, placed the series of years in opposition to each other ‘so as to provide a simple method for discovering in which era, Greek or barbarian, the prophets, kings, and priests of the Hebrews existed, likewise when falsely-believed gods of various nations existed, when demi-gods, when any city was founded, concerning illustrious men, when philosophers, poets, princes, and writers of various works appeared, and any other ancient event, if it was thought deserving of recording’ "(http://www.lancs.ac.uk/staff/haywardp/hist424/seminars/Merton315.htm, accessed12-23-2012).

"Ancient and medieval historians had their own techniques of chronological notation. From the fourth century in Europe, the most powerful and typical of these was the table. Though ancient chronologies were inscribed in many different forms, among scholars the table form had a normative quality much as the timeline does today. In part, the importance of the chronological table after the fourth century can be credited to the Roman Christian scholar Eusebius. Already in the fourth century Eusebius had developed a sophisticated table structure to organize and reconcile chronologies drawn from historical sources from all over the world. To clearly present the relations between Jewish, pagan, and Christian histories, Eusebius laid out their chronologies in parallel columns that began with the patriarch Abraham and the founding of Assyria. The reader who moved through Eusebius's history, page by page, saw empires and kingdoms rise and fall, until all of them—even the kingdom of the Jews—came under Rome's universal rule, just in time to make the Savior's message accessible to all of humanity. By comparing individual histories to one another and the unform progress of the years, the reader could see the hand of providence at work.

"Eusebius created his visually lucid Chronicle just when he and other Christians were first adopting the codex, or bound book, in place of the scroll. Like other Christian innovations in book design, the parallel tables and lucid, year-by-year, decade-by-decade order of the Chronicle reflected the desire of early Christian scholars to make the Bible and the sources vital for understanding it available and readily accessible for quick reference. The Chronicle was widely read, copied, and imitated in the Middle Ages. And it catered to a desire for precision that other popular forms—like the genealogical tree—could not satisfy" (Rosenberg & Grafton, Cartographies of Time. A History of the Timeline [2010] 15-16).

One of the earliest surviving manuscripts of Jerome's translation is Bodleian Codex  Lat. Auct. T. II. 26, most of which was written in Italy in an uncial hand about the middle of the fifth century (Lowe, Codices Latini Antiquiores II [1935] No. 233a.)

"Ff. 1-32 years, are in a late (s.XV?) hand in the priores (long-lines) format. The remainder (A. Abr. 555-2394) is in a fifth century hand, the last leaf is missing, and the one-leaf summary replacing it is either by the same or a contemporary hand. There are marginalia dating from around 1400.

"The manuscript was acquired from an unknown source by Jean de Tillet, Bishop of Meaux, who died in 1570. Du Tillet had obtained authority from Francis I to collect Mss from French libraries; there are reasons to suppose that the Ms. was in the South of France ca. 1400. Pontacus borrowed it from him and cites it by the name of the Meldensis (M). Sirmond, in his edition of Marcellinus (1619, 1696) refers to it as being in Tillet's library. It then passed to the Jesuit College of Clermont at Paris. This library was sold in 1764, when it was acquired by Meerman. On the sale of his library in 1824, it was bought by Gaisford for the Bodleian." This was edited and published in facsimile by John Knight Fotheringham as The Bodleian Manuscript of Jerome's Version of the Chronicle of Eusebius Reproduced in Collotype (1905). In December 2012 an online English translation of this manuscript was available at this link.

Eusebius's Chronicon was first published in print by Philippus de Lavagnia of Milan about 1474-75. The text published was the Latin translation of Jerome with the continuations of Prosper Aquitanus and Matthaeus Palmerius Florentinus. The first printed edition is undated, and the Incunabula Short Title Catalogue (ISTC) ie00116000 states that the edition is "also recorded as [not after 1468?]." As explanation for their estimation of the date of this undated edition, the ISTC states:

"The printer's name appears on the first leaf. The copy in Parma Palatina belonged to Nicodemo Tranchedini who listed this book, among others, in his Zibaldone [an early form of commonplace book] under the date 19 June 1475 (P. Parodi, in Giornale storico delle province parmensi 20 (1920) pp.162-64)

"P. Scapecchi, in L. Fabbri and M. Tacconi (edd.), I libri del Duomo di Firenze (Firenze, 1997) pp.168-70, reports the MS. date 1468 in the copy at Firenze N. Cf. also Ganda(Lavagna) pp.87-88."

Carriker, The Library of Eusebius of Caesarea (2003) 38-40.

(This entry was last revised on 01-05-2014.)

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The First Full Length Historical Narrative Written from the Christian Point of View Circa 313 CE – 326 CE

Between 313 and 314 CE Roman historian and Christian polemicist Eusebius (Eusebius of Caesarea, Eusebius Pamphili) wrote Historia ecclesiastica or Historia ecclesiae, a chronological account of the development of Early Christianity from the 1st to 4th century. This was the first full length historical narrative written from the Christian point of view. Eusebius prepared his final edition of the work from 325 to 326.

Eusebius wrote in Koine Greek, but the earliest surviving texts of the work are Latin, Armenian, and Syriac manuscripts, one of the earliest of which, National Library of Russia, Codex Syriac 1, dates to 462 CE. 

"In the early 5th century two advocates in Constantinople, Socrates Scholasticus and Sozomen, and a bishop, Theodoret of Cyrrhus, Syria, wrote continuations of Eusebius' church history, establishing the convention of continuators that would determine to a great extent the way history was written for the next thousand years. Eusebius' Chronicle, that attempted to lay out a comparative timeline of pagan and Old Testament history, set the model for the other historiographical genre, the medieval chronicle or universal history.

"Eusebius had access to the Theological Library of Caesarea and made use of many ecclesiastical monuments and documents, acts of the martyrs, letters, extracts from earlier Christian writings, lists of bishops, and similar sources, often quoting the originals at great length so that his work contains materials not elsewhere preserved. For example he wrote that Matthew composed the Gospel according to the Hebrews and his Church Catalogue suggests that it was the only Jewish gospel. It is therefore of historical value, though it pretends neither to completeness nor to the observance of due proportion in the treatment of the subject-matter. Nor does it present in a connected and systematic way the history of the early Christian Church. It is to no small extent a vindication of the Christian religion, though the author did not primarily intend it as such. Eusebius has been often accused of intentional falsification of the truth; in judging persons or facts he is not entirely unbiased" (Wikipedia article on Church History (Eusebius), accessed 12-23-2012).

Eusebius's Historia ecclesiastica, as translated by Rufinus Aquileiensis, was first published in print by Nicholaus Ketelaer and Gerardus de Leempt of Utrecht in 1474. ISTC No.: ie00124000.

Carriker, The Library of Eusebius of Caesarea (2003) 38-40.

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The Earliest Dated Codex with Full-Page Illustrations 354 CE

Title page from the Chronography of 354. (View Larger)

The Chronography of 354, also known as the Calendar of 354, is an illuminated manuscript produced for a wealthy Roman Christian named Valentius for the year 354. It is the earliest dated codex with full page illustrations; however none of the original survived. It is thought that the original may have existed in the Carolingian period, when a number of copies were made, with or without illustrations. These were copied during the Renaissance.

♦ The Calender of 354 is signed by Furius Dionysius Filocalus, with the word "titulavit," as creator of the titles which "display great calligraphic mastery. Whether or not he also executed the drawings is unknown" (Alexander, Medieval Illuminators and their Methods of Work [1992] 4), but Furius Dionysius Filocalus is the first known name associated with the production of a specific book.

"The most complete and faithful copies of the illustrations are the pen drawings in a 17th century manuscript from the Barberini collection (Vatican Library, cod. Barberini lat. 2154.) This was carefully copied, under the supervision of the great antiquary Nicholas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc, from a Carolingian copy, a Codex Luxemburgensis, which was itself lost in the 17th century. These drawings, although they are twice removed from the originals, show the variety of sources that the earliest illuminators used as models for manuscript illustration, including metalwork, frescoes, and floor mosaics. The Roman originals were probably fully painted miniatures.

"Various partial copies or adaptations survive from the Carolingian renaissance and Renaissance periods. Botticelli adapted a figure of the city of Treberis (Trier) who grasps a bound barbarian by the hair for his small panel, traditionally called Pallas and the Centaur.

"The Vatican Barberini manuscript, made in 1620 for Peiresc, who had the Carolingian Codex Luxemburgensis on long-term loan, is clearly the most faithful. After Peiresc's death in 1637 the manuscript disappeared. However some folios had already been lost from the Codex Luxemburgensis before Peiresc received it, and other copies have some of these. The suggestion of Carl Nordenfalk that the Codex Luxemburgensis copied by Peiresc was actually the Roman original has not been accepted. Peiresc himself thought the manuscript was seven or eight hundred years old when he had it, and, though Mabillon had not yet published his De re diplomatica (1681), the first systematic work of paleography, most scholars, following Schapiro, believe Peiresc would have been able to make a correct judgment on its age" (Wikipedia article on the Chronography of 354, accessed 11-25-2008).

In December 2013 a digital facsimile from the Codex Vaticanus Barberini latinus 2154 (=R1) as reproduced in Josef Strzygowski, Die Calenderbilder des Chronographen vom Jahre 354, Series: Jahrbuch des Kaiserlich Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts. vol. 1. Berlin:G. Reimer (1888), was available at this link. That website also included much valuable scholarly apparatus. A digital version of Strzygowski's complete work was available at this link.

The standard printed edition is Salzman, On Roman Time: The Codex-Calendar of 354 and the Rhythms of Urban Life in Late Antiquity (1990).

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Jerome's Chronicon Circa 380 CE

In Constantinople about 380 CE Roman Christian priest, confessor, theologian and historian Jerome (Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus) composed The Chronicon or Temporum liber, The Book of Times. This was a translation into Latin of the chronological tables which compose the second part of the Chronicon of Eusebius, with a supplement covering the period from 325 to 379.

"In spite of numerous errors taken over from Eusebius, and some of his own, Jerome produced a valuable work of universal history, if only for the impulse which it gave to such later chroniclers as Prosper, Cassiodorus, and Victor of Tunnuna to continue his annals. Following the Chronicon of Eusebius (early 4th century), Jerome dated Creation to 5199 BC.

"The Chronicle contains a chronology of the events of Greek mythology, based on the work of Hellenistic scholars such as Apollodorus, Diodorus Siculus, and Eusebius. While the earlier parts are clearly unhistorical, there may be scattered remnants of historical events of late Mycenean Greece from entries of the 12th century BC. (See the historicity of the Iliad. Notably, Jerome's date for the capture of Troy of 1183 BC corresponds remarkably well with the destruction layer of Troy VIIa, the main candidate for the historical inspiration of legendary Troy, dated to c. 1190 BC.) Homer himself is dated to 940 BC, while modern scholarship usually places him after 800 BC" (Wikipedia article on Chronicon (Jerome), accessed 12-15-2012).

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800 – 900

The First Continuous History Written by Europeans in their Own Language 890

The initial page of the Peterborough Chronicle, marked secondarily by the librarian of the Laud collection in the Bodelian Library. The manuscript is an autograph of the monastic scribes of Peterborough, and the opening sections were likely scribed around 1150. The section displayed is prior to the First Continuation. (View Larger)

 

About 890 Alfred the Great, King of Wessex, an Anglo-Saxon kingdom in south-west England, ordered monks to compile the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a collection of annals narrating the history of the Anglo-Saxons and their settlement in Britain. The original manuscript of the Chronicle was probably created in Wessex. Copies were were distributed to monasteries across England, where they were independently updated. In one case, the Chronicle was still being actively updated in 1154.

Much of the information in these documents consists of rumors of events that happened elsewhere and may be unreliable. However for some periods and places, the chronicle is the only substantial surviving source of information. "After the original chronicle was compiled, copies were kept at various monasteries and were updated independently. Sometimes with items important to the locals, such as the fertility of the harvest or the paucity of bees, would be eagerly recorded, whereas distant political events could be overlooked. A combination of the individual annals allows us to develop an overall picture, a document that was the first continuous history written by Europeans in their own language."

There are nine surviving manuscripts of the Chronicle, of which eight are written entirely in Anglo-Saxon, while the ninth is in Anglo-Saxon with a translation of each annal into Latin. The oldest (Corpus Christi MS 173) is known as the Winchester Chronicle or the Parker Chronicle, after Matthew Parker who once owned it. This manuscript, preserved in the Parker Library at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, dates from the actual time of compilation—the last decade of the ninth century.

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1100 – 1200

The Only Surviving Illustrated Manuscript of a Greek Chronicle Circa 1150

An illustration of a naval battle in the Madrid Skylitzes, showing Greek marine flamethrower technology. (View Larger)

A heavily illustrated illuminated manuscript of the Synopsis of Histories (Σύνοψις Ἱστοριῶν), by John Skylitzes, covering the reigns of the Byzantine emperors from the death of Nicephorus I in 811 to the deposition of Michael IV in 1057, the Madrid Skylitzes is the only surviving illustrated manuscript of a Greek chronicle. It includes 574 miniature paintings. The manuscript was produced in Sicily in the 12th century, and is now at the Biblioteca Nacional de España in Madrid, where it is known as the Madrid Skylitzes, Codex Græcus Matritensis Ioannis Skyllitzes, or Skyllitzes Matritensis.  It is unclear whether the miniatures are copies of Byzantine images or original to the manuscript.

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1450 – 1500

Probably the Best-Selling 15th Century Printed Book by a Living Author 1474

In 1474 printer Arnold Ther Hoernen of Cologne, Germany issued the first printed edition of the Fasciculus temporum by Werner Rolevinck, a monk in the Carthusian Monastery of Santa Barbara in Cologne. A world chronicle from the creation to Pope Sixtus IV,  the title of Rolevinck's book may be translated as Bundle of Dates.  When his book was first printed Rolevinck was 49 years old; he lived until 1502.  During the 15th century there were 33 different printed editions and translations of Fasciculus temporum, making it one of the greatest best-sellers in print of the 15th century, and most probably the best-selling printed book of the 15th century by a living author.

Rolevinck's work also contains some of the earliest evidence of collaboration between an author and his printer in the design of printed books. A few contemporary manuscripts that have survived, such as those for the Nuremberg Chronicle, are similar to the complex typography and woodcuts of the printed edition, but none have been demonstrated to be the author's exemplar for the printer. (Wilson, The Making of the Nuremberg Chronicle [1976] 38-41).

In the colophon of the 1474 first edition of Rolevinck's book printer Arnold Ther Hoernen stated that he was printing from a manuscript provided by the author. A translation of that reads: "following the first exemplar which this venerable author himself wrote by hand completely." Perhaps this manuscript also provided a model layout for Ther Hoernen to follow.  If so, he seems to have had great difficulty with the complicated page designs:

"The Fasciculus temporum, a fifty-age linear chart that moved from the Creation to the present, set out to give readers an overview of world history: a readable visual presentation that they could treat as both a memory system and as the spark for religious meditation. Rolevinck used a system of coordinated circles to locate biblical, classical and modern rulers and writers in the flow of historical time—a system so complicated that the first printer who grappled with it botched the job, producing an unintelligible text; later printers reasurred readers that they had followed the author's manuscript. And the results were most impressive: a neatly designed, powerfully horizontal line of time plunging forward from the Creation to the present. Around it nearly arranged and coordinated name bubbles and extracts from historical texts put meat on the book's numerical bones" (Rosenberg & Grafton, Cartographies of Time [2010] 28-30, with illustrations).

Regarding the art of printing Rolevinck wrote:

"This is the art of arts, the science of sciences, through the swift practice of which the valuable treasures of wisdom and of knowledge, instinctively desired by all men, leap as it were from the deep shadows of their hiding places, and enrich and illuminate this world in its evil state. The unlimited virtue of books which formerly in Athens or Paris and the other schools or sacred libraries was made known to a very few students is now spread by this discovery to every tribe, people, nation, and language everywhere, a true fulfillment of Proverbs, ch. 1" (http://www.lib.rochester.edu/index.cfm?PAGE=3422, accessed 06-15-2012).

For the 1474 Cologne printing see ISTC No. ir00254000.  In December 2012 a digital facsimile of the first edition was available from from the website of the Universität zu Köln.

According to the catalogue description of a fifteenth century manuscript of Fasiculus temporum sold at auction by PBA Galleries for $102,000 on June 21, 2012, thirteen manuscript copies of the work survived.

(This entry was last revised on 03-17-2014.)

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One of the Earliest Acknowledgments of Gutenberg's Invention September 13, 1483

Printer Erhard Ratdolt's edition of Eusebius of Caesarea's (Eusebius Caesariensis) Chronicon issued from Venice on September 13, 1483 recorded an entry for the year 1440 added by the editor, Johannes Lucilius Santritter of Heilbronn, crediting Johann Gutenberg, with the invention of "an ingenious way of printing books." This was one of the earliest acknowledgments in print of Gutenberg's invention.

"This statement apparently influenced the account in the 1499 Cologne Chronicle, where it is stated that the printing process was 'developed' ('Wart undersoicht') in the year 1440 and after, whereas printing was 'begun' ('do began men tzo drucken') in the jubilee year 1450 and after.

"If this statement is correct, it must refer to the period when Gutenberg was living in Strasbourg and when, as now-lost Strasbourg documents show, he was involved in teaching certain investors several mechanical skills, including gem cutting and polishing. A deposition in a lawsuit brought against Gutenberg makes reference to 'four pieces lying in a press' and to Gutenberg's wish that they be taken out and separated so that their purpose would not be known. Many generations of investigators assumed that this statement referred to typographic experiments, and they have elucidated in detail what the four pieces 'must' have been. However, Kurt Köster has showed that Gutenberg's major Strasbourg undertaking of the late 1430s was the mass production of pilgrim mirrors in anticipation of the Aachen pilgrimage, and he has argued convincingly that all the vocabulary of the lawsuit in question could apply plausibly to this enterprise, not to typographic experiments. The argument does not entirely invalidate the possiblity that in 1440 Gutenberg was experimenting with typography. But there is no proof, and all the earliest physical survivals in typography have a Mainz, not a Strasbourg, context" (Paul Needham, "Prints in the Early Printing Shops," IN: Parshall (ed) The Woodcut in Fifteenth-Century Europe [2009] 44).

ISTC no. ie00117000. In 2012 a digital facsimile of physician Hartmann Schedel's copy of Ratdolt's edition was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, München at this link. The utility of Eusebius's text to Schedel, author of the Nuremberg Chronicle, is evident.

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The Nuremberg Chronicle June 12 – December 23, 1493

June 12, 1493 printer Anton Koberger of Nuremberg completed the printing and issued the Liber chronicarum written by the physician Hartmann Schedel. A large-folio compendium of history, geography and natural wonders, the Liber chronicarum contained 298 printed leaves, including 1,809 illustrations from 645 woodcuts by or after painter and woodengraver Michael Wohlgemut (Wohlgemuth), his stepson Wilhelm Plydenwurff, and possibly some by Koberger's godson, the young Albrecht Dürer, who was apprenticed to Wohlgemut until 1490. Certain woodcuts were reproduced more than once, sometimes for the depiction of different people or cities. The images included a full-sheet map of Europe, a Ptolemaean world map, large and small city views, biblical and historical scenes, and portraits.

In November 2013 a digital facsimile of the Latin edition was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

"From the outset, however, a German-language version had been planned. Translated by Georg Alt (c. 1450-1510), the city treasurer of Nuremberg, who assisted Schedel in compiling the Latin edition, the German edition was published on December 23, 1493. In addition to cosmetic differences (e.g., the Latin edition was printed using a typeface known as Antiqua Rotunda, while the German employed Bastarda Schwabacher), the German edition is very slightly abridged, with omissions that include certain abstruse thoughts as well as seeming repetitions. Occasionally, however, the German Chronicle includes minor but telling expansions on the Latin text. For example, in the Latin version one is told that a certain idea "can be found in Ovid" (folio IIr); the German version, however, informs its readers that this same idea "was elegantly expressed by Ovid, a poet." Such differences point to slightly different readerships: the Latin was aimed at the imperial, theological, and academic markets; the German at the upper middle class who did not possess a university education. Scholars estimate that approximately 1400-1500 Latin copies and 700-1000 German ones were printed. A document from 1509 has the final account of the sales of the two editions. It is interesting to note that 535 Latin and 60 German copies remained unsold. . . . " (http://www.beloit.edu/nuremberg/inside/about/editions.htm, accessed 11-06-2012). 

In November 2013 a digital facsimile of the German translation was available from the Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek, Weimar, at this link.

Though the information in the Nuremberg Chronicle was rapidly superceded, it remained famous for its extraordinary graphic design, its printing, its woodcuts and descriptions of cities. One of the woodcuts depicted the paper mill established in Nuremberg by Ulman Stromer in 1390.

Probably because it was such a large and impressive volume, the work was a great commercial success, with unusually large printings for a fifteenth century book:

"The Latin edition was printed in at least 1400 copies, of which more than 1200 still exist today" (Wagner, Als die Lettern laufen lernten. Medienwandel im 15. Jahrhundert [2009] no. 11 (describing the annotated copy of the author, Hartmann Schedel, which is preserved at the Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek, Munich).

Most probably fewer copies of the German edition were printed, as it remains rarer on the market. Between roughly 1980 and 2009 there were 188 auction sales recorded for the Latin edition and 35 sales of the German edition, some sales presumably representing the same copies being resold.

Remarkably, the original manuscript exemplars showing the exact arrangement of the text and illustrations for both the Latin and German editions, as well has other original documents pertaining to the publication of these works, were preserved. The exemplar for the Latin edition is in the Stadbibliothek Nürnberg. The exemplar for the German edition is in the Nuremberg City Library. Adrian Wilson, a book designer and historian of book design from San Francisco, issued an outstanding book in which he showed the relationship between these manuscript exemplars and the printed editions: The Making of the Nuremberg Chronicle (1976).

Perhaps in 1941 an English translation of the Nuremberg Chronicle was prepared by Walter W. Schmauch of Chicago. This existed as a typescript for many years, preserved in the Rare Book Department of the Free Library of Philadelphia.  The title page of the translation, of which I obtained a complete xerographic copy decades ago, reads: First English Edition of the Nuremberg Chronicle. Being the Liber Chronicarum of Dr. Hartmann Schedel, A. D. 1493. Translated from the First German Edition by Walter W. Schmauch of Chicago with Text Annotations and Woodcut Elucidations in Six Volumes.  The translation extends to at least 2000 pages of typescript. In 2003 Beloit College in Beloit, Wisconsin, and the University of Wisconsin collaborated on publishing Schmauch's entire translation online at http://www.beloit.edu/nuremberg/index.htm, accessed 11-06-2012).

ISTC no. is00307000 (Latin). ISTC no. is00309000 (German). Both of these entries provide censuses of the many institutions which hold copies of the respective editions.

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1550 – 1600

Probably the First Book Extensively Illustrated with Chiaroscuro Woodcuts 1557

Engraved portrait of Hubert Golzius by Simon Frisius c. 1610.

A self-portrait by Parmagianino c. 1524.

In 1557 German painter, engraver, and printer Hubert Goltzius, issued a folio volume from the press of Copen (?) Diesthem in Antwerp, Belgium, entitled Lebendige Bilder gar nach all Keyersern, von C. Julio Caesare, bisz auff Carolum.V. und Ferdinandum seinem Bruder, auxz den alten Medalien . . . . Goltzius also issued this book in Latin and Italian in 1557, in French in 1559, and in Spanish in 1560.  Besides illustrating medallic portraits of Roman emperors, Goltzius provided histories of their reigns. According to the Wikipedia, Golzius worked on this book for 12 years before it was published.

"Although the chiaroscuro woodcut was primarily a technique for making individual prints in imitation of drawings, it was occasionally used for book illustration. Hubert Goltzius, a pioneering numismatist, employed it to reproduce antique medals bearing portraits of the Roman emperors. . . .That book. . . was one of the earliest uses of chiaroscuro in a book and the first use of the technique in the Netherlands.

"The chiaroscuro process, with its different shades of the same hue and white highlights, defines light and tone but not local color; it was thus especiately appropriate for the reproduction of monochrome relief medals. One of the characteristics of Goltzius's work, the use of an etched plate for the black outlines and details, had earlier been invented by Parmagianino, but was not widely adopted by practioneers of chiaroscuro active in the sixteenth century. . . ." (Friedman, Color Printing in England 1487-1870 [1978] No. 2).

Strauss, Chiaroscuro. The Clair-Obscur Woodcuts by the German and Netherlandish Masters of the XVIth and XVIIth Centuries (1973) No. 113.

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Book Collector Matthew Parker Donates his Library 1574

In 1574 Archbishop of Canterbury Matthew Parker donated his library of about 480 manuscripts and about 1000 printed books to the library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.

"He was an avid book collector, salvaging medieval manuscripts dispersed at the dissolution of the monasteries; he was particularly keen to preserve materials relating to Anglo-Saxon England, motivated by his search for evidence of an ancient English-speaking Church independent of Rome. The extraordinary collection of documents that resulted from his efforts is still housed at Corpus Christi College, and consists of items spanning from the sixth-century Gospels of St. Augustine to sixteenth century records relating to the English Reformation.

"The Parker Library's holdings of Old English texts accounts for nearly a quarter of all extant manuscripts in Anglo-Saxon, including the earliest copy of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (c. 890), the Old English Bede and King Alfred´s translation of Gregory the Great´s Pastoral Care. The Parker Library also contains key Anglo-Norman and Middle English texts ranging from the Ancrene Wisse and the Brut Chronicle to one of the finest copies of Chaucer´s Troilus and Criseyde. Other subjects represented in the collection are music, medieval travelogues and maps, bestiaries, royal ceremonies, historical chronicles and Bibles. The Parker Library holds a magnificent collection of English illuminated manuscripts, such as the Bury and Dover Bibles (c. 1135 and c. 1150) and the Chronica maiora by Matthew Paris (c. 1230-50)" (Parker Library on the Web [Beta] accessed 11-27-2008).

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Historia general del Piru Circa 1585 – 1616

Historia general del Piru, written by the Basque Mercedarian friar and missionary Martín de Murúa, is an early illustrated treatise on the history of Inca and early colonial Peru, surviving in two manuscript copies. Murúa's chronicle, written during his missionary work in Peru, includes a history of Peru before and after its conquest by the Spanish.

The two surviving manuscripts of Murúa's work are the Galvin Murúa, also known as the "Loyola Murúa," sold to John Galvin by antiquarian bookseller Warren Howell of John Howell - Books in San Francisco, and the Getty Murúa, also known as the "Wellington Murúa". The Galvin copy is remains in the Sean Galvin collection in County Meath, Ireland while the Getty example is preserved at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles.

"The Galvin Murúa dates from the 1580s and was completed around 1600. This first version of the chronicle was compiled in Peru by Murúa with the assistance of local scribes and Indigenous artists (one of whom was Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala). By the eighteenth century, the Galvin Murúa ended up in the possession of the Jesuit College in Alcalá de Henares, Spain. Between 1879-1900, the manuscript was housed in a Jesuit enclave in Poyanne, France. Its association with the Jesuits gave the manuscript its title the "Loyola Murúa" (after Saint Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuit order). . . . 

"The Getty Murúa dates from 1615–16 and was the second version of the chronicle. Most of the text was compiled in Peru and present-day Bolivia, although it was most likely re-edited in Spain. This version received the final approbation for printing, however for unknown reasons it remained unpublished during the seventeenth century. Once in Spain, the manuscript was somehow acquired by Castilian statesman and bibliophile Lorenzo Ramirez de Prado. After Ramirez's death in 1658, it was incorporated into the library of the Colegio Mayor de Cuenca in Salamanca and finally the private library of King Charles IV of Spain in 1802. As a result of the Peninsular War, it came into the possession of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington. Thus the manscript acquired the title the "Wellington Murúa." It was later sold at auction to a collector in Cologne, Germany, changing hands once more before its "rediscovery" by Manuel Ballesteros Gaibrois in the early 1950s. Ballesteros Gaibrois published a two volume edition of Historia general del Piru in 1962 and 1964 " (Wikipedia article on Fray Martín de Murúa, accessed 07-21-2011). 

In 1983 the Getty Museum acquired the "Wellington Murúa" as part of the Ludwig collection of manuscripts (Ludwig XIII 16).

In 2004 a facsimile of the Galvin Murúa was published by Testimonio Compañia Editorial Madrid.

In 2008 the Getty Museum published a volume of research on both manuscripts together with a facsimile of the Getty manuscript. Among the research results were a demonstration that several images (including two by Guaman Poma) from the Galvin Murúa were removed and pasted into the Getty Murúa, although overall the Galvin Murúa contains more images than its counterpart. The images in both manuscripts were colored using paints, dyes, and silver from the Americas and Europe.

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1600 – 1650

The First Collection of Chronicles of the Crusades 1611

In 1611 French scholar and diplomat Jacques Bongars edited a number of chronicles of the crusades under the title Gesta Dei per Francos, Sive Orientalium Expeditionum et Regnifrancorum Hierosolimitani Historia, and had them published in Hanover, Germany. Bongars' work was the first of a long series of editions and publications devoted to the Crusades, and to the fateful history of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem.

"No other movement in the history of the Middle Ages has made such a strong appeal to posterity; no other cause has seemed inspired by so much valour and religious fervour. To contemporaries, the liberation of the Holy places from the yoke of the infidel had been God's own work; and the long series of calamities that followed were due to unaccountable evil forces. The unexpected success of the First Crusade appeared little short of miraculous; the establishment of a Christian State in the Holy Land, which managed to survive under the most adverse conditions for almost 200 years, was a proud achievement and an inspiration to western chivalry. Barbarossa's untimely death, the reconquest of Acre, during the Third Crusade, and the eventual collapse of the kingdom at the hands of the savage Mameluks of Egypt stirred the imagination of the Latin world for many generations to come. The opulent eastern way of life in which the Frankish setters indulged, the friendly relations that were formed between them and their Arab and Turish opponents, Saladin's magnanimity and his generosity towards their captured leaders were contrary to the Latin customs and practices of the time, and anticipated the standards and ideals of later centuries. The Crusaders' experiences, embellished with fabulous tales, figure prominenty in the contemporary chansons de geste, and the deep impression they made in the West remained well into modern times.

"The reappraisal of the Crusading movement which has taken place during the last hundred years or so has made us take a less romantic and more sober view of events. The relations between the Latin Kingdom, the Byzantine Empire, and the Moslem States appear as a game of power politics even more ruthless than subtle. The organization of the Kingdom as a feudal State on the western pattern, the crude intolerance of the Franks, and their complete failure to appreciate the guiding principles and traditions of Byzantine policy were fundamental weaknesses which were bound to aggravate antagonism and breed disaster. The history of the thirteenth century, especially, presents itself as an interminable succession of unco-ordinated exploits, inspired by personal jealousy, lust for power, cruelty, and greed. Frequently the affairs of the Kingdom were in the hands of high-minded and galant leaders who earned the respect of friend and foe alike; but their example remained without lasting influence on the course of events. No doubt the Crusades mark a turning-point in the intellectual hsitory of the western world. They ended its parochialism and self-sufficiency, and opened the way for new ideas which initiated the intellectual achievements of the Italian Renaissance. But Europe paid a terrible price. The wilful and irresponsible destruction of the political power of Byzantium led to the unchecked ascendancy of the Ottoman Turks, and to the untold humiliations and sufferings which it entailed" (Hugo Buchthal, Miniature Painting in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem [1957] xxvii-xxviii). 

(This entry was last revised on 05-05-2014.)

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1650 – 1700

Probably the Most Influential of Historical Chronologies: The World Was Created in 4004 BCE 1650 – 2012

In his Annales Veteris Testamenti, a prima mundi origine deducti, una cum rerum Asiaticarum et Aegyptiacarum chronico, a temporis historici principio usque ad Maccabaicorum initia producto. ("Annals of the Old Testament, deduced from the first origins of the world, the chronicle of Asiatic and Egyptian matters together produced from the beginning of historical time up to the beginnings of Maccabes") James Ussher, Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, deduced that the first day of creation began at nightfall preceding Sunday, October 23, 4004 BCE, in the proleptic Julian calendar, near the autumnal equinox. Ussher published a continuation of this work, Annalium pars postierior, in 1654. The work was first translated into English in London in 1658 as The Annals of the World

"Ussher's proposed date of 4004 BC differed little from other Biblically based estimates, such as those of Jose ben Halafta (3761 BC), Bede (3952 BC), Ussher's near-contemporary Scaliger (3949 BC), Johannes Kepler (3992 BC) or Sir Isaac Newton (c. 4000 BC). Ussher's specific choice of starting year may have been influenced by the then-widely-held belief that the Earth's potential duration was 6,000 years (4,000 before the birth of Christ and 2,000 after), corresponding to the six days of Creation, on the grounds that "one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (2 Peter 3:8)" (Wikipedia article on Ussher chronology, accessed 12-28-2012).

Ussher also provided exact dates for biblical and ancient history. He published dates in the margins of his work according to the year of the world, the Julian period, and the year before Christ. Because from the 1680s Ussher's chronology was published in the great many editions of the King James Bible, his chronology became enormously influential. Even though it was written in the seventeenth century, and aspects of its scholarship are obsolete, it remains influential today, particularly among Young Earth creationists in America who interpret the Bible literally.

"A 2011 Gallup survey reports, 'Three in 10 Americans interpret the Bible literally, saying it is the actual word of God. That is similar to what Gallup has measured over the last two decades, but down from the 1970s and 1980s. A 49% plurality of Americans say the Bible is the inspired word of God but that it should not be taken literally, consistently the most common view in Gallup's nearly 40-year history of this question. Another 17% consider the Bible an ancient book of stories recorded by man.'

"A 2012 Gallup survey reports, 'Forty-six percent of Americans believe in the creationist view that God created humans in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years. The prevalence of this creationist view of the origin of humans is essentially unchanged from 30 years ago, when Gallup first asked the question. About a third of Americans believe that humans evolved, but with God's guidance; 15% say humans evolved, but that God had no part in the process.' Adherence to young Earth creationism in the U.S. has been found to be the highest in the Western world" (Wikipedia article on Young Earth creationism, accessed 12-28-2012).

In December 2012 I purchased the outstanding new edition of Ussher's The Annals of the World, revised and updated by Larry and Marion Pierce and published by Master Books in Green Forest, Arkansas in 2003.  My copy, acquired from Amazon, is the ninth printing of August 2010.  This small folio volume, printed on Bible paper and bound somewhat like a Bible in attractive leather-grained plastic covered cloth, with gilt edges and a ribbon marker, is described by the publishers as "James Ussher's Classic Survey of World History." It is enclosed in an attractive slipcase that suggests that it contains currently useful historical information. It is evident from details in the appendices that the audience for this edition—clearly a rather large one in view of the number of printings—may include creationists. The enclosed CD-ROM includes some additional information attempting to reconcile aspects of modern science with the creationist view.

Rosenberg & Grafton, Cartographies of Time (2010) 65-67.

(This entry was last revised on 04-16-2014.)

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1700 – 1750

Popol Vuh, The Book of the People, Known from a Single Manuscript 1701 – 2012

Between 1701 and 1703 Domincan priest, scholar and linguist Francesco Ximénez, serving in the parish at Santo Tomás Chichicastenango, a town in the El Quiché department of Guatemala, transcribed the corpus of mytho-historical narratives of the Post Classic K'iche' kingdom known as Popol Vuh (Popol Buj, "Book of the Community", "Book of the Council", "Book of the People"). All editions of this work, written in the Classical K'iche' language, are based on the single manuscript that Father Ximénez transcribed, which is preserved in the Newberry Library, Chicago. Ximénez's manuscript recorded parallel texts in K'iche' and Spanish. What Ximénez transcribed was presumably a codex written shortly after the Spanish conquest by a Quiché native, who had learned to read and write Spanish, containing cosmological concepts and ancient traditions of this aboriginal American people, their history and origin, and the chronology of their kings down to the year 1550. The fate of the original manuscript after its transcription by Ximénez is unknown.

Prior to its arrival at the Newberry, the manuscript passed through several hands. In 1855, French writer, ethnographer, historian and archaeologist Charles Étienne Brasseur de Bourbourg found Ximénez's writings in the university library in Guatemala City, and perhaps absconded with the volume and took it to France. In 1861 Brasseur de Bourbourg published in Paris a French translation of the text as Popol Vuh, Le livre sacré et les mythes de l'antiquité américaine. After Brasseur's death in 1874 the Mexico-Guatémalienne collection containing Popol Vuh passed to French explorer, philologist, and ethnographer Alphonse Pinart, through whom it was sold to businessman and collector Edward E. Ayer, who donated his vast library on the history of native Americans in North and Central America to The Newberry Library in 1911. 

Father Ximénez's manuscript was reproduced online, with K'iche' text and Spanish and English translations by The Ohio State University

The first English translation of Popol Vuh was made by Delia Goetz and Sylvanus Griswold Morley from a translation into Spanish by Adrián Recinos and published in 1950 as The Book of the People: Popol Vuh. The National Book of the Ancient Quiché Maya. In 1954 this edition was reissued by the Limited Editions Club, finely printed by Saul Marks at The Plantin Press, Los Angeles. Late in 2012 I acquired copy of the the LEC edition. In their introduction to the translation (p. xv) the translators state that:

"Besides the Mansuscrito de Chichicastenango, the following are the original original Quiché documents which are preserved:

"1. The original manuscript of the Historia Quiché by Don Juan de Torres, dated October 24, 1580, which differens from the manuscript which Fuentes y Guzmán cites and which contains the account of the kings and lords, chiefs of the Great Houses, and of the chinamitales or calpules of the Quiché;

"2. The Spanish translation of the Títulos de los antiquos nuestros antepasados, los que ganaron las tierras de Otzoyá, written apparently in 1524 and bearing the signature of Don Pedro de Alvarado;

"3. The Spanish translation of the Título de los Señores de Totonicapán, dated 1554; and

"4. The Papel de Origen de los Señores included in the Descripción de Zapolitlán y Suchitepec, año de 1579.

"Despite thier brevity, these documents contain interesting accounts of the origin, political organization, and history of the Quiché people, which supplement the information given in the Popol Vuh."

♦ I had been unaware of the Popol Vuh until the later part of 2012 when various articles began appearing in the press concerning what was characterized as the 2012 phenomenon, "a range of eschatological beliefs that cataclysmic or transformative events would occur around 21 December 2012. This date was regarded as the end-date of a 5,125-year-long cycle in the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar, and as such, Mayan festivities to commemorate the end of the b'ak'tun 13 took place on 21 December 2012 in the countries that were part of the Mayan empire (Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador), with main events at Chichén Itzá in Mexico, and Tikal in Guatemala." Because 12-21-12 happened to be my daughter Alex's 21st birthday, the topic became a source of amusement around our house.

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1750 – 1800

The First Biographical Timeline Chart 1765

British theologian, dissenting clergyman, natural philosopher, educator, and political theorist Joseph Priestley published A Chart of Biography in London with text entitled A Description of a Chart of Biography in 1765. Priestley's work was the first biographical timeline chart, in which individual bars were used to visualize the life span of a person, allowing the comparison of the lifespans of many people.

"The Chart of Biography covers a vast timespan, from 1200 BC to 1800 AD, and includes two thousand names. Priestley organized his list into six categories: Statesman and Warriors; Divines and Metaphysicians; Mathematicians and Physicians (natural philosophers were placed here); Poets and Artists; Orators and Critics (prose fiction authors were placed here); and Historians and Antiquarians (lawyers were placed here). Priestley's 'principle of selection' was fame, not merit; therefore, as he mentions, the chart is a reflection of current opinion. He also wanted to ensure that his readers would recognize the entires on the chart. Priestley had difficulty assigning all of the people listed to individual categories; he attempted to list them in the category under which their most important work had been done. Machiavelli is therefore listed as a historian rather than a statesman and Cicero is listed as a statesman instead of an orator. The chart was also arranged in order of importance; 'statesmen are placed on the lower margin, where they are easier to see, because they are the names most familiar to readers' " (Wikipedia article on A Chart of Biography, accessed 03-16-2010).

Rosenberg & Grafton, Cartographies of Time (2010) 116-17, plate 19.

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The Most Influential Historical Timeline of the Eighteenth Century 1769 – 1770

In 1769 and 1770 British theologian, dissenting clergyman, natural philosopher, educator, and political theorist Joseph Priestley published A New Chart of History with A Description of a New Chart of History.

"Together with his Chart of Biography (1765), which he dedicated to his friend Benjamin Franklin, Priestley believed these charts would allow students to 'trace out distinctly the dependence of events to distribute them into such periods and divisions as shall lay the whole claim of past transactions in a just and orderly manner.'

"The Chart of History lists events in 106 separate locations; it illustrates Priestley's belief that the entire world's history was significant, a relatively new development in the 18th century, which had begun with Voltaire and William Robertson. The world's history is divided up into the following geographical categories: Scandinavia, Poland, Russia, Great Britain, Spain, France, Italy, Turkey in Europe, Turkey in Asia, Germany, Persia, India, China, Africa and America. Priestley aimed to show the history of empires and the passing of power; the subtitle of the Description that accompanied the chart was 'A View of the Principal Revolutions of Empire that have taken place in the World' and he wrote that:

"The capital use [of the Charts was as] a most excellent mechanical help to the knowledge of history, impressing the imagination indelibly with a just image of the rise, progress, extent, duration, and contemporary state of all the considerable empires that have ever existed in the world.

" As Arthur Sheps in his article about the Charts explains, 'the horizontal line conveys an idea of the duration of fame, influence, power and domination. A vertical reading conveys an impression of the contemporaneity of ideas, events and people. The number or density of entries . . . tells us about the vitality of any age.' Voids in the chart indicated intellectual Dark Ages, for example" (Wikipedia article on A New Chart of History, accessed 07-10-2011).

Rosenberg & Grafton, Cartographies of Time (2010) 116-17, plate 20.

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Foundation of Statistical Graphics: the Line Chart and Bar Chart 1785 – 1786

In 1785 Scottish engineer and political economist William Playfair issued in London a privately circulated preliminary edition of his The Commercial and Political Atlas; Representing, by Means of Stained Copper-Plate Charts, the Exports, Imports, and General Trade of England, at a Single View. 

The next year Playfair formally published the work in London with an even longer title as The Commercial and Political Atlas; Representing, by Means of Stained Copper-Plate Charts, the Exports, Imports, and General Trade of England, at a Single View. To which are Added, Charts of the Revenue and Debts of Ireland, Done in the Same Manner by James Correy.  For this work Playfair invented the line chart or line graph or times series plots, present in the book in 43 variants, and the bar chart or bar graph, represented by a single example. The first 10 plates were engraved by Scottish engraver and cartographer John Ainslie in 1785 for the preliminary edition; the remainder were engraved by Samuel John Neele. It is thought that Playfair, often short of funds, may have hand-colored the charts himself—the coloring process that he curiously designated as "staining" in the titles.

As one inspiration for his information graphics concerning economics and finance, Playfair cited Priestley's timelines as published in his New Chart of History.

"Over the course of the next half century, Plafair's line graph, which counterposed two quantitative axes, (one for time, the other for economic measures such as exports, importants and debts) became on of the most recognizable chronographic forms" (Rosenberg & Grafton, Cartographies of Time [2010] 136).

"Playfair had a variety of careers. He was in turn a millwright, engineer, draftsman, accountant, inventor, silversmith, merchant, investment broker, economist, statistician, pamphleteer, translator, publicist, land speculator, convict, banker, ardent royalist, editor, blackmailer and journalist. On leaving Watt's company in 1782, he set up a silversmithing business and shop in London, which failed. In 1787 he moved to Paris, taking part in the storming of the Bastille two years later. He returned to London in 1793, where he opened a "security bank", which also failed. From 1775 he worked as a writer and pamphleteer and did some engineering work" (Wikipedia article on William Playfair, accessed 03-16-2010).

In 2005 the third edition (1801) of Playfair's atlas with the first edition (1801) of the breviary were reproduced in color as Playfair, The Commercial and Political Atlas and Statistical Breviary, Edited and Introduced by Howard Wainer and Ian Spence. 

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2000 – 2005

"Origins of Cyberspace" 2002

Jeremy Norman

In 2002 Diana Hook and the author/editor of this database, Jeremy Norman, issued as a limited edition an annotated, descriptive bibliography entitled Origins of Cyberspace: A Library on the History of Computing, Networking, and Telecommunications. This was the first annotated descriptive bibliography on the history of these subjects. The brief timeline on the history of those subjects published in Origins of Cyberspace was the basis on which historyofinformation.com was later constructed. 

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2010 – 2011

"Cartographies of Time: A History of the Timeline" 2010

In 2010 American intellectual historians Daniel Rosenberg and Anthony Grafton issued Cartographies of Time through the Princeton Architectural Press in New York. A fully illustrated history of graphic visualization of time and timelines from circa 400 CE to the present, this beautifully designed and produced work is an authoritative contribution to the history of information graphics with respect to time. In writing this work the authors drew attention to an aspect of historical writing that is generally undervalued by historians:

"Another reason for the gap in our historical and theoretical understanding of timelines is the relatively low status that we generally grant to chronology as a kind of study. Though we use chronologies all the time, and could not do without them, we typically see them as only distillations of complex historical narratives and ideas. Chronologies work, and—as far as most people are concerned—that's enough. But, as we will show in this book, it wasn't always so; from the classical period to the Renaissance in Europe, chronology was among the most revered of scholarly pursuits. Indeed, in some respects, it held a status higher than the study of history itself. While history dealt in stories, chronology dealt in facts. Moreover, the facts of chronology had significant implications outside of the academic study of history. For Christians, getting chronology right was the key to many practical matters such as knowing when to cleebrate Easter and weightly ones such as knowing when the Apocalypse was nigh.

"Yet, as historian Hayden White has argued, despite the clear cultural importance of chronology, it has been difficult to induce Western historians to think of it as anything more than a rudimentary form of historiography. The traditional account of the birth of modern historical thinking traces a path from the enumerated (but not yet narrated) medieval date lists called annals, through the narrated (but not yet narrative) accounts called chronicles, to fully narrative forms of historiography that emerge with modernity itself. According to this account, for something to qualify as historiography, it is not enough that it 'deal in real, rather than merely imaginery, events; and it is not enough that [it represent] events in its order of discourse according to the chronological framework in which they originally occurred. The events must be...revealed as possessing a structure, an order of meaning, that they do not possess as mere sequence. Long thought of as 'mere sequences,' in our histories of history, chronologies have usually been left out.

"But, as White argues, there is nothing 'mere' in the problem of assembiing coherent chronologies nor their visual analogues. Like their modern successors, traditional chronographic forms performed both rote historical work and heavy conceptual lifting. They assembled, selected, and organized diverse bits of historical information in the form of dated lists. And the chronologies of a given period may tell us as much about its visions of past and future as do its historical narratives" (Rosenberg & Grafon p. 11).

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