The Book of Trees: Visualizing Branches of Knowledge has been out for six months and during this time it has received a great number of positive reviews from publications like Wired, New Scientist, Fast Company, Nature, Print Magazine, The Boston Globe, and many others. The book keeps making its rounds on Twitter and there might be a few translations coming out next year. I recently realized I never wrote a post on the underlying structure of the book, so in case you’re curious, here it is.
As exposed earlier in the year, The Book of Trees covers over 800 years of human culture through the lens of the tree figure, from its entrenched roots in religious medieval exegesis to its contemporary, secular digital themes. With roughly 200 images, the book offers a visual evolutionary history of this universal metaphor, showing us the incremental adoption of a stylized, abstract construct, as well as a recent emergence of new visual models, many employing advanced computer-generated algorithms.
The eleven chapters that compose the book feature a number of visual methods and techniques for the representation of hierarchical structures. The first (and longest) chapter features primeval tree diagrams, which bear a close resemblance to real trees and are, at times, significantly embellished. The remaining ten chapters can be grouped into two sections. The first, comprising chapters two through six, covers the earliest forms of diagrammatic, abstract tree charts and includes different types of node-link diagrams, where given nodes, entities, or “leaves” are tied across different levels by links, edges, or “branches.” The second group, encompassing chapters seven through eleven, explores more modern and recently popular approaches, showcasing various types of space-filling techniques and adjacency diagrams that use polygonal areas and nesting to indicate different ranking levels.
A shot of the Table of Contents by the Paperposts.me blog
The book also features a Timeline of Significant Characters: key people in the establishment of the tree metaphor in depicting almost every relevant aspect of knowledge throughout the centuries. Amongst the twelve characters listed are the names of Aristotle, Joachim of Fiore, Ramon Llull, Francis Bacon, Charles Darwin, and Ernst Haeckel.