If you love history and you love maps, you're going to flip over 'The Histomap'

Photo: Gianni Ferrari /Getty Images

Care to see 4000 years of history at a glance?

That was the irresistible promise from Slate, which dug up “The Histomap” from the David Rumsey Map Collection recently and brought it to our attention.

It’s not strictly a map, but more of an early infographic from a time when there were no slideshows or click-and-zoom options.

The Histomap” was created by John B. Sparks and first printed by Rand McNally in 1931. And we wanted to show it you mainly because it’s an incredible example of how much information you can cram on one page and at the same, show a much bigger picture.

Its full title is “The Histomap. Four Thousand Years Of World History. Relative Power Of Contemporary States, Nations And Empires”. If you had the time and talent, you could make quite a name for yourself designing such things.

On The Histomap’s release, critics claimed “there is no more important work than a short and sound cut to knowledge” and the LA Times said it was:

“…so clear, so interesting and so easily interpreted that it is certain to be popular”

So here, as the Histomap’s notes explains, “IS THE ACTUAL PICTURE OF THE MARCH OF CIVILIZATION”:

Picture: The David Rumsey Map Collection

The David Rumsey Map Collection actually does have a zoomable version here.

If you want the real thing, you could have bought a copy from Rand McNally in 1931 for $1. Nowadays, expect to hand over upwards of $500. There’s one on eBay right now.

A handmounted version printed on linen cost $3 at the time. You’re unlikely to find one easily nowadays, but you can order it as a fabric, because somebody at Spoonflower saw a pattern in it.


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