Introduction to the Library


During late antiquity in the West, visualizations of information flowered. Classical antiquity had popularized tabular calendars— the fasti— and Greek geometrical diagrams, but had not yet stumbled on the idea of arranging abstract concepts in patterns to make them visually comprehensible.

Around the fourth century CE, diagrams of history, topology, logic and kinship are invented, mainly for educational use. Only recently, with the rise of infographic design as a profession, have those ingenious early diagrams been recognized as the foundation on which today's visualizations are built.

In the history of science, late antique visualization has yet to receive its due. It is not an easy field, since the diagrams only survive in medieval manuscripts and must be freed of medieval accretions. The principal work had been left to medievalists, art historians and latinists without adequate engagement yet from the cognitive sciences.

This portal was created in 2002 to explore macro-typography: the principles by which textual information can be laid out on a page to make the role of each element clear. Investigations from 2009 onwards to discover how genealogical data had historically been laid out revealed a much wider field which had been neglected by scholarship.

The discoveries became an ever-larger part of the portal and evolved into Piggin's Library of Latin Diagrams, a response to the lack so far of any book series which assembles all of these treasures. The research climaxed in the publication in 2018 of the book Mind's Eye which lays out the main issues in a conversational style.

The PLOLD icon and logo shows one roundel at top ramifying to two roundels below. Ramifying flows are one of the fundamental abstractions in visualization.

The Macro-Typography section remains in being but is not being actively updated. The site's advocacy of the human-friendly ontology of information which embraces our natural ways of reading data remains as fresh as ever.

Creative Commons License The Library of Latin Diagrams by Jean-Baptiste Piggin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.