The Chronology Delineated, employing a striking tree metaphor to depict the rise and fall of world governments from precisely 4004 BC (the date of the “universal Deluge”) to the beginning of the 19th century. Engraved by James Wilson and Isaac Eddy, two leading figures in the early 19th-century flourishing of the engraving arts in Vermont’s Connecticut River Valley.
An “Explanation” at the base provides specific instructions for interpreting the image. A forking branch, for example, represents a kingdom split by revolution or partition; a branch terminated by the intersection of another branch represents a kingdom eliminated by conquest; and branches blocked by clusters of leaves indicate “lapse[s] of time obscure in history.” The engraving is adorned at right with vignettes of Adam in the Garden of Eden and what appears to be a band of native American hunters, both perhaps representing supposedly anomalous instances of humanity living outside the boundaries of government.
The overall result is engaging, striking, and memorable, though idiosyncratic: With the exception of the United States, the peoples and empires of East Asia and the Americas are entirely omitted; and against all evidence “The Jews” and “The Church” are depicted in unbroken unity and continuity over the full course of Postdeluvian history.
In Cartographies of Time, Rosenberg & Grafton point out that Chronology Delineated is an adaptation, albeit with significant differences, of Stephen and Daniel Dod’s Chronological, Historical and Biographical Chart (Morristown, NJ, 1807). It is likely that both in turn owe a debt to the naturalistic style of Friedrich Strass’s 1803 Strom der Zeiten, which employed the metaphor of interweaving streams and rivers to treat the same subject matter. Strass’s work was in turn an influential attempt to break away from the “Eusebian” chronological format, named after the 4th-century Romano-Christian scholar, which entailed a simple table with kingdoms listed across the top and dates listed down the right- or left-most column. The format was simple to execute and enabled the viewer to compare concurrent events across the known world; but it tended to be crowded, grueling to read, and not terribly memorable except for the most gifted.
Eddy and Wilson’s chart, and that of Dods before them, are early examples of a movement in American education to use graphics to convey information in a manner that was more engaging than mere text or table and therefore more memorable. Perhaps the best-known examples are the many manuscript “schoolgirl maps” still extant from this period, which were copied from atlas maps or other prototypes. Eddy and Wilson say as much in their “Explanation:”
“This Plan which at one view presents the means of examining with great facility the dates of all the most interesting epochs of History impresses upon the mind the order of all the revolutions of importance, and that with more precision than the reading of many volumes which must necessarily encumber the memory. Being represented under the form of a tree it expresses very naturally the birth of men descending from each other since the days of ADAM their common Father & exhibits branches growing out of their mother-stocks to be reproduced and multiplied without end.”
Other well-known examples of this use of naturalistic metaphor for human chronology are Amos Doolittle’s Epitome of Ecclesiastical History (1806), the clever charts in Emma Willard’s Atlas to Accompany a System of Universal History (1836), and Colton’s Stream of Time (1842).
Isaac Eddy and James Wilson
The image was designed by Isaac Eddy of Wethersfield, Vermont and engraved by both Eddy and James Wilson of Bradford. Eddy is little-remembered today, but he was an influential player in an interesting period in American craftsmanship, when engraving (and, not coincidentally) map making flourished in the hinterlands of Vermont and New Hampshire:
“Isaac Eddy seems to have been the progenitor of iconography in [Windsor County, Vermont]. He was a native of the west part of Weathersfield, called Greenbush, and from that unlikely place sent forth his first dated work, seven plates for the 1812 Windsor edition of The Holy Bible. In the same year he engraved an “Oblique Front View of the Vermont State Prison” which served as the frontispiece of John Russell’s Authentic History of that institution, also published in Windsor. In 1813 Eddy and James Wilson engraved a large folio chart entitled, Chronology Delineated to Illustrate the History of Monarchical Revolutions. The Hypocrite’s Looking Glass was engraved and issued in 1815…. Although Eddy’s engraved production was small, his influence was vital to the spread of graphic arts in the area. His son, Oliver Tarbell Eddy, Lewis Robinson, and George White were all trained in his office.” (George R. Dalphin and Marcus A. McCorison, “Lewis Robinson-Entrepreneur.” Vermont History, vol. XXX no. 4 (Oct. 1962) pp. 297-298.)
James Wilson was trained in engraving by Amos Doolittle of New Haven, Connecticut and is best known as the first American globe maker. Regarding the Chronology Delineated, Stauffer suggests that “as the engraving of Adam naming the beasts much resembles other work of Eddy, it is probably that the text only was engraved by Wilson.”
Grafton & Rosenberg, Cartographies of Time, pp. 146 (illus.), 147. McCorison, Vermont Imprints, #1490. Shaw & Shoemaker #28139. Stauffer, American Engravers, #3400. OCLC 14563614 (Univ. of Vermont, Vermont Historical); 191264506 (American Antiquarian Society); and 36139997 (Cornell, Princeton), plus a host of electronic and microform editions and reproductions (as of May 2021). So far have I find others held by the Bennington Museum and Dartmouth’s Hood Museum of Art.