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Data visualisation is a young and buzzing field, or so it seems. Many related projects are focused on mastering new technologies, on navigating the unprecedented wealth of data and on supporting the human-machine-interaction of the future. Interestingly, in most professional debates and talks today, we can detect a near total lack of historical perspective or awareness. While everyone is looking forward, there doesn’t seem to be much use in looking back.
Or is there? The current surge in information visualisation has been going on for about three decades. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. We have hundreds and thousands of historical examples of information visualisation, showing that the systematic use of infographics dates back as long ago as the European Middle Ages. Why should we study these old masters today? What can we learn from history for inventing the future?