A great rarity of thematic mapmaking: a Charles Joseph Minard “flow map” tracking the impact of the American Civil War on the global cotton trade. Minard was one of the great 19th-century innovators in what Edward Tufte has called the “visual display of quantitative information.” Over the course of a quarter century he produced dozens of […]
Charles Joseph Minard (1781-1870) was one of the great 19th-century innovators in what Edward Tufte has called the “visual display of quantitative information.”
Trained as a civil engineer, Minard spent nearly half a century in a series of increasingly senior positions in the Ponts et Chaussées, the department responsible for building and maintaining France’s infrastructure of ports, roads, canals and railroads. Late in his career he began producing maps depicting statistical data in graphic form. Many of these are what Arthur Robinson calls “flow maps,” in which “the width of a flow line… is always strictly proportional to the magnitude it represents.” (Robinson, p. 95) Minard’s maps covered a huge range of subjects, usually related to the movement of goods and/or people by rail or sea: the export of coal from England; shipments of French wine by sea; numbers of rail passengers across Europe; imports of cotton and linen to Europe before, during and after the Civil War; and of course his iconic map of Napoleon’s Russia campaign.
Today the thematic maps of Charles Joseph Minard are sought-after rarities on the antiquarian market. To learn more about his life and work see Robinson, Arthur, “The thematic maps of Charles Joseph Minard,” Imago Mundi, vol. XXI (1967).