The Book of Trees: Visualizing Branches of Knowledge

Manuel Lima. Princeton Architectural Press (Chronicle, dist.), $29.95 (208p) ISBN 978-1-61689-218-0
“The veneration of trees, known as dendrology,” states Lima, “often is expressed by the axis mundi (world axis), world tree, or arbor vitae (tree of life). These motifs, common in mythology and folklore from around the world, have held cultural and religious significance for social groups through history—and indeed still do.” This genre-bending collection of tree maps, “an extended introduction” to designer and researcher Lima’s previous book Visual Complexity, demonstrates the usefulness of branching and rooting images to visualize and absorb complex information and the painstakingly beautiful delineations of cosmologies, genealogies, and taxonomies that generations of artist/scientists have been moved to create. Most remarkably, the book also shows the ancient lineage of the navigational and visualization tools that pervade our digital lives today. Juxtaposing such diverse manifestations as 16th-century illumination, a Tibetan thanka, and an equally exquisite 1855 New York and Erie Railroad organizational chart, or the branching of a 1060 biblical genealogy with a 2006 website graph, Lima demonstrates that “the work of these ancient visualization pioneers, in their use of the tree metaphor, epitomizes the same curiosity, drive, and ambition guiding most contemporary projects.” Sure to appeal to a diverse group of readers, the book beautifully combines art and science, as well as ancient and contemporary worldviews. 135 color, 60 b&w illus. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/17/2014
Release date: 04/01/2014
Genre: Nonfiction
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