Sunday, 16 August 2015

New article published: “Beholder of All Ages: The History of the World in a French Mappemonde”

In March 2012 I had the good fortune to go to Dijon, to the Université de Bourgogne, to give a talk in the series on Scientific Illustration organised by Marie-Odile Bernez.  My visit was particularly productive because I was able to see, in the Bibliothèque Municipale, a fine copy of the Mappe-Monde by Jean-Louis Barbeau de la Bruyère and – even more importantly – one of the very rare copies of Barbeau’s Explication where he explains what he was attempting to do in his chart.

When Marie-Odile asked me to write a paper as a follow-up to the symposium, I decided to focus on that chart and explanation. The paper has now been published in the open-access online journal TextImage (Issue 7, Illustration et discours scientifiques: une perspective historique, Special Issue edited by Marie-Odile Bernez and Mark Niemeyer).

Jean Louis Barbeau de la Bruyère, Mappemonde historique ou carte chronologique, géographique et généalogique des états et empires du monde, 49 cm x 125 cm, Paris, Ph. Buache, 1750. Bibliothèque Municipale Dijon: Fonds Ancien 12990. Photo: Stephen Boyd Davis
Published in 1750 the chart attempted to map historic time in a rigorous way – ‘avec ordre et précision.’  The article makes use of both the chart and the Explication, the latter translated into English for the first time. It sets them in the context of fundamental changes to the nature of visualisation in the eighteenth century.

Barbeau’s ambition was to map all of the known world combined with all of time since the Flood. In his commentary Idée et Usage de cette Carte, printed in the side panels of the chart itself, he sets out a plan to show: ‘tous les Royaumes, Empires, Républiques & grands Peuples qui ont figuré sur la Terre depuis la Dispersion des Hommes après le Déluge jusqu’à présent’ (all the Kingdoms, Empires, Republics and great Peoples which have appeared upon the Earth since the Scattering of Man following the Deluge down to the present time).

All this was to be achieved within a single view. His opening words are, ‘On voit ici du premier coup d’œil...’ (Here are seen at first glance) and he goes on to claim that the dynamic processes associated with nations – their birth, growth, their different circumstances, duration, dismemberment and end – are ‘réduits, avec ordre & précision, en un seul corps; de manière que c’est ici comme le Tableau Politique de l’Univers’ (concentrated, with order and precision, into a single entity; in such a way that we have here a Political Portrait of the whole World).

This kind of claim, that vast extents of territory and periods of time can be made visible under a single all-encompassing view, becomes an increasingly common claim for chronographic visualisations. The eye, it is argued, can effect rapidly what the intellect can only achieve with difficulty.

Read the full article here:

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Contentious time in the two Koreas

Choices about time continue to have symbolic power to represent difference or unity.

A waitress under a clock in Rason city in North Korea. Photograph: Ng Han Guan/AP
The UK Guardian reports:
Pyongyang Time
The North’s ‘highly regrettable’ decision to establish its own time zone will only deepen divisions between the neighbouring countries, says [South Korea’s] President Park.
The South Korean president, Park Geun-hye, has criticised the North’s “regrettable” decision to turn back its clocks to a new time zone, saying it would deepen divisions between the two rivals.
North Korea announced on Friday that it was changing its standard time to GMT+8:30, 30 minutes behind South Korea.
Pyongyang offered a nationalist rationale for the move, saying it would return the North to the time zone used before Japan imposed Tokyo Standard Time during its rule of the Korean peninsula, which ended in 1945.
Time has repeatedly been used for political-symbolic purposes, usually to establish difference, whether between territories or between regimes within the same territory as in the French and other revolutions. At the time of writing, today is the 28th of Thermidor in the year 223 of the French Revolutionary Calendar (probably - this page explains the ambiguities).

Wired UK points out some other timezone oddities, including an unusual example of using the same zone to represent affinity, rather than conflicting zones to represent difference:
Spain used to be on GMT. Much of Spain is further west than the UK but the country is on the same time zone as Germany. The oddity dates back to General Franco aligning the country with Germany 70 years ago.
Read the Guardian article here:

Read the Wired article here: