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Data Visualization

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Tabula itineraria ex illustri Peutingerorum Bibliotheca quae Augustae Vindel, in Theatrum geographiae veteris, duobus tomis distinctum, edente Petro Bertio Bevero. Petrus Bertius; Marcus Welser; Conrad Peutinger. Amsterdam: 1619
Known as the Peutinger Tables, these eight maps are copied from a series of manuscripts showing the Roman road network in the third or fourth century. They are early examples of data visualization showing all distances between places but not to scale or direction. As such, they are more like a cartogram than a map.
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A Diagram of the United States Shewing the Bearings and Distances of the Principal Places from Washington, and from Each Other, with a Scale of Time, in The Traveller's Directory through the United States; Containing, a Description of All the Principal Roads through the United States. John Melish. Philadelphia: 1822
This unusual information diagram shows the direction, distance, and difference in solar time between Washington, DC and many locations, and between those locations and each other. It provides, at a glance, a visual sense of the spatial and temporal relationships between American cities.

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Underground, in Map of London's Underground Railways. Underground. A New Design for an Old Map.  Henry Charles Beck; London Transport.  London: 1933

This the first edition of Beck's famous map of the London Underground, the first such map to use an entirely schematic and largely non-geographical design for the railway system. This map is considered to be a landmark of twentieth-century information design.


These three maps help a traveler visualize space, distance, and time. They are schematic diagrams, meaning that they use shape and symbol to condense visual information, focusing the viewer’s attention on the task at hand.

The Peutinger Table is a series of “road maps” showing the network of routes from ancient Rome to the far corners of the known world. Distorted landmasses emphasize the east-west flow of the routes, and icons of buildings mark important points along the way; this is more about itinerary than literal representation of place. The London Tube map and Melish’s map of US distances are even more purely abstract, boiled down to only the lines and circles needed to communicate their purpose. The Melish also includes a timescale at the bottom, for estimating travel times. The London map is essentially a circuit diagram—as simple as it can be.

Melish’s map of distances is to scale, while the Peutinger Table and London Tube map are not. But each map in its own way gives travelers a visual snapshot of what they need to know.

—Labels and narrative by Barb Mackraz, MLA Program Graduate Student, ’16