A well-executed infographic will not only clearly communicate an intricate process, concept or body of data, but also look really good doing it. As in the vintage nuclear reactor cutaways we spotlighted a few #TBTs back, we can't help but appreciate when every last infinitesimal detail is drafted the old-fashioned way: by hand. Not only does John Philipps Emslie's artwork originates from several eras before Photoshop. This series of beautiful diagrams predates the storied milestones of the Space Race by upwards of a century, dating back to the mid-1800's.
Without the concrete data or advanced imaging that we take for granted today, Emslie sticks to natural phenomena like mountain formations, atmospheric transitions and the moon's geography. As such, these infographics are perhaps better suited for a living room or bedroom than a reference book.
His take on the moon might be my favorite of them all, seeing as it's something like the lovechild of a visually striking infographic and a motivational quote poster. Considering there was very little information on the moon at that time, it was an ambitious assignment. Instead of going into the nitty gritty of what little information they might have had on its surface and the various crater types, he chose to quote English Arctic explorer/scientist/clergyman Dr. William Scoresby on his view of the moon through Lord Rosse's massive telescope (built in the early 1840's):
It appeared like a Globe of Molten Silver, and every object of the extent of a hundred yards was quite visible. Edifices, therefore of the size of York Minster might be early perceived if they had existed. But there was no appearance of anything of that nature neither was there any in diction of the existence of water or of an atmosphere. There was a vast number of extinct volcanoes, several miles in the breadth through one of them there was a line in continuance of one about 160 miles in length, which ran in a straight direction on like a railway. The general appearance however was like one vast ruin of nature.
Clever move, Emslie.
As old as Emslie's illustrations are, they aren't the oldest. The earliest published infographic goes to Christoph Scheiner and his book, Rosa Ursina sive Sol, where he featured some of his studies on the sun through infographics.
Erika is the editorial assistant at Core77. When she isn't covering design, you can find her writing about music, food, and healthy living habits. But mostly music. She also has a strong affinity for hedgehogs, bowling, and bands with goofy names.