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Infographics of the Day: 12 Data Viz Masterpieces From the 19th Century

Geeks love infographics. You know it, we know it. But it’s easy to forget that data-viz isn’t just catnip for the Twitterati — discerning gentlemen and -women 150 years ago loved it, too. BibliOdyssey knows this, and has curated a stunning set of Victorian-era infographics that would make Edward Tufte green with envy. (Indeed, he includes several of them in his landmark book Envisioning Information.)

Given the era’s obsession with science and industry, we shouldn’t be surprised that citizens of the 19th century had a yen for elegant info-visualizations. The world was at once bigger (because of advances in astronomy and biology, notably Darwin’s theory of evolution) and smaller (because of railroads, steam engines, and the telegraph) than it had ever been before — and all that new information needed to be synthesized into easily-understandable forms. (That whole “too much information” thing? Yeah, the 21st century didn’t invent that, either.)

So flick through these gorgeous engraved designs and reflect on how much harder it was to make something called an “infographic” when there weren’t such things as Photoshop. Oh, and you might want to check out BibliOdyssey’s book, too. JP