Tables and Early Information Visualization

  • Francis T. MarcheseEmail author


This chapter considers the deep history of tables as visualization modalities. It covers a variety of tables that have appeared between 1900 BCE and 1400 CE that include: Sumerian accounting tables; chronicles; canon tables; medieval calendars; gridded tables such as urine and eclipse; and tables that communicate conceptual abstractions, such as religious dogma and degrees of blood relation. These tables represent some of the earliest and most significant milestones in information visualization. Analysis of these tables demonstrates that as early as 1300 BCE the need to visualize information had driven the invention of representations that transformed the way information has been communicated and used.


Thirteenth Century Roman Numeral Information Visualization British Library Table Table 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I would like to thank Professor Robert K. Englund of the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative for providing the drawing of the Uruk III tablet. The assistance of the following individuals in securing image permissions is greatly appreciated: Dr. Julia Walworth, Fellow Librarian of Merton College, Oxford; Stewart Tiley, Librarian, St. John’s College, Oxford; and Jackie Brown, British Library.


  1. 1.
    Chi, E.H.H., Barry, P., Riedl, J., Konstan, J.: A spreadsheet approach to information visualization. In: Proceedings of the 10th Annual ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology (UIST ’97). ACM, New York (1997)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Marchese, F.T.: Teaching computer graphics with spreadsheets. In: ACM SIGGRAPH 98 Conference Abstracts and Applications. ACM, New York (1998)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Chi, E.H.H, Riedl, J., Barry, P., Konstan, J.: Principles for information visualization spreadsheets. IEEE Comput. Graph. Appl. 18(4), 30–38 (1998)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Nunez, F., Blake, E.H. ViSSH: A data visualization spreadsheet. In: Proceedings of the Second Joint Eurographics-IEEE TCVG Symposium on Visualization. Amsterdam, The Netherlands (2000)Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Hsieh, H-W., Shipman, III F.M.: VITE: a visual interface supporting the direct manipulation of structured data using two-way mappings. In: Proceedings of the 5th international Other on intelligent user interfaces (IUI ’00). ACM, New York (2000)Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Sarni, S., Maciel, A., Thalmann, D.: A spreadsheet framework for visual exploration of biomedical datasets. In: Proceedings of the 18th IEEE Symposium on Computer-Based Medical Systems (CBMS ’05). IEEE Computer Society, Washington (2005)Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Brath, R., Peters, M.: Excel visualizer: one click WYSIWYG spreadsheet visualization. In: Proceedings of the Conference on Information Visualization (IV ’06). IEEE Computer Society, Washington (2006)Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Itoh, M., Fujima, J., Ohigashi, M., Tanaka, Y.: Spreadsheet-based framework for interactive 3D visualization of web resources. In: Proceedings of the 11th International Conference Information Visualization (IV ’07). IEEE Computer Society, Washington (2007)Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Streit, A., Pham, B., Brown, R.: A spreadsheet approach to facilitate visualization of uncertainty in information. IEEE Trans. Vis. Comput. Graph. 14(1), 61–72 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Kandel, S., Paepcke, A., Theobald, M., Garcia-Molina, H., Abelson, E.: Photospread: a spreadsheet for managing photos. In: Proceeding of the Twenty-sixth Annual SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’08). ACM, New York (2008)Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Marchese, F.T.: The chemical table: an open dialog between visualization and design. In: Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Information Visualization: IV’08. IEEE Computer Society, Washington (2008)Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Campbell-Kelly, M., Croarken, M., Flood, R.G., Robson, E. (eds.): The History of Mathematical Tables from Sumer to Spreadsheets. Oxford University Press, Oxford (2003)Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Scerri, E.R.: The Periodic Table: Its Story and its Significance. Oxford University Press, Oxford (2007)Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Wainer, H.: Understanding graphs and tables. Educ. Res. 21(1), 12–23 (1992)Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Wainer, H.: Improving tabular displays, with NAEP: tables as examples and inspirations. J. Educ. Behav. Stat. 22(1), 1–30 (1997)MathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Berggren, J.L., Jones, A.: Ptolemy’s Geography: An Annotated Translation of the Theoretical Chapters. Princeton University Press, Princeton and Oxford (2000)Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Turnbull, D.: Maps are Territories. Science is an Atlas. University of Chicago Press, Chicago (1994)Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Englund, R.K.: Texts from the Uruk period. In: Attinger, P., Uelinger, C. (eds.) Späturuk-Zeit und Frühdynastische. Freiburg, Göttingen (1998)Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Veldhuis, N.: The Archaic Lexical Corpus, Digital Corpus of Cuneiform Lexical Texts. University of California, Berkeley. (2011). Accessed 2 Feb 2012Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Green, M.W.: The construction and implementation of the cuneiform writing system. Vis. Writ. 15, 345–372 (1981)Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Goody, J.: The Domestication of the Savage Mind. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (1977)Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Robson, E.: Tables and tabular formatting in Sumer, Babylonia, and Assyria, 2500-50 BCE. In: Campbell-Kelly, M., Croarken, M., Flood, R.G., Robson, E. (eds.) The History of Mathematical Tables from Sumer to Spreadsheets. Oxford University Press, Oxford (2003)Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Clay, A.T.: Documents from the Temple Archives of Nippur Dated in the Reigns of the Cassite Rulers, vol. 3. The University Museum, Philadelphia (1906)Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    The Parian marble. Ashmolean museum of art and archaeology. (2012). Accessed 2 Feb 2012Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Feeney, D.: Caesar’s Calendar: Ancient Time and the Beginnings of History. University of California Press, Berkeley (2007)Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Croke, B.: The originality of Eusebius’ chronicle. Amer. J. Philol. 103(2), 195–200 (1982)MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Bacchus, F.J.: Eusebius of Caesarea. In: The Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company, New York. 1909. (1909). Accessed 2 Feb 2012Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Teres, G.: Time computations and Dionysius Exiguous. J. Hist. Astro. 15, 177–188 (1984)MathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Roberts, C., Skeat, T.C.: The Birth of the Codex. British Academy, London (1983)Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Pearse, R.: Jerome: the manuscripts of the ‘chronicon’. (2011). Accessed 2 Feb 2012Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Pearse, R., et al. (trans.) The chronicle of St. Jerome. In: Early church fathers: additional texts. Preface to the online edition. (2005). Accessed 2 Feb 2012Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Bechtel, F.: Ammonian sections. In: The Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company, New York. (1907). Accessed 2 Feb 2012Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Oliver, H.H.: The epistle of Eusebius to Carpianus. Textual tradition and translation. Nov. Test. 3, 138–145 (1959)Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Nordenfalk, C.: Canon tables of papyrus. Dumbarton. Oaks. Pap. 36, 29–38 (1982)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Borst, A., (Winnard, A. (trans.)) The Ordering of Time: From the Ancient Computus to the Modern Computer. Polity Press, Cambridge/University of Chicago Press, Chicago (1993)Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Morrison, T.: Computus Digitorum for the Calculation of Easter. J. Aust. Early Medieval Assoc. 1:85–98 (2005)Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Wallis, F. (trans.) Bede: The Reckoning of Time. Liverpool University Press, Liverpool (2004)Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Wallis, F.: 5. Computus tables and texts II: 18. tabula Dionysii. In: The Calendar and the Cloister: Oxford, St. John’s College MS17. McGill University Library. Digital Collections Program. (2007). Accessed 2 Feb 2012Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Williams, B.P., Williams, R.S.: Finger numbers in the Greco-Roman world and the early middle ages. Isis. 86(4), 587–608 (1995)MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Anonymous.: The Evolution of Urine Analysis, an Historical Sketch of the Clinical Examination of Urine. Burroughs Wellcome, London (1911)Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Armstrong, J.A.: Urinalysis in western culture: a brief history. Kidney Int. 71, 384–387 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Harvey, R.: The judgement of urines. CMAJ 159(12), 1482–1484 (1998) (Dec 15, 1998)Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    Joost-Gaugier, C.L.: Measuring Heaven: Pythagoras and his Influence on Thought and Art in Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Cornell University Press, Ithaca (2006)zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    Carey, H.M.: What is the folded almanac? The form and function of a key manuscript source for astro-medical practice in later medieval England. Soc. Hist. Med. 16(3), 481–509 (2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. 45.
    Kielman, J., Thomas, J.: (guest eds.) Special issue: foundations and frontiers of visual analytics. Info. Viz. 8(4), 239–314 (2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. 46.
    Yates, F.A.: The Art of Memory. University of Chicago Press, Chicago (1966)Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    Sandler, L.F.: John of Metz, the tower of wisdom. In: Carruthers, M., Ziolkowski, J.M. (eds.) The Medeival Craft of Memory: An Anthology of Texts and Pictures. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia (2002)Google Scholar
  48. 48.
    Smedresman, G., Warren, J.: The tower of wisdom. (2012). Accessed 2 Feb 2012Google Scholar
  49. 49.
    Lindsay, W.M.: Etymologiae. Oxford University Press, Oxford (1911)Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    Thayer, B.: Isidore of Seville: the etymologies. (2006). Accessed 2 Feb 2012Google Scholar
  51. 51.
    Barney, S.A., Lewis, W.J., Beach, J.A., Berghof, O. (trans.): The Etymologies of Isidore of Seville. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. 52.
    Bertin, J.: (Berg, W.L. (trans.)) Semiology of Graphics. University of Wisconsin Press, Madison (1982)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Computer Science DepartmentPace UniversityNew YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations