Iconographic Encyclopædia



This single line represents descriptions of all subjects in Iconographic Encylopædia and has a few rules governing how it is drawn:

  1. Start at a point and draw a straight line, with the length based on the number of HTML characters between the start of the first subject and the first reference to a figure in the text (more characters between references = longer lines).
  2. Starting at the end point of the previous line, turn 90° clockwise if the next reference to a figure is in the same plate as the previous or counterclockwise if in a different plate.
  3. Draw a new line equal to the number of characters between the previous reference and the next reference.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 for references to all figures, color-coding lines based on subject.
  5. Turn 90° counterclockwise between subjects.
Path generated from the first 10 figure references in mathematics

After following these simple rules, a complex path emerges with thousands of twists and turns. Small and large clusters of turns represent sections in the text dense with many references. Many turns in the smaller clusters are so short that they’re nearly invisible because many figures were referenced in such a small area of text.

Splitting the path into separate ones the unique identity of each subject:


Appearing as two distinct clusters, the mathematics path is separated by a long line due to the code needed to render the equations in the first third of the text.


After a cluster of references near the beginning (bottom right), the longer line is from the portion of text describing the constellations of the night sky. The second longer line in the upper left is where mostly astronomical calendars are described without any references.


The path for physics mirrors its hierarchical structure—starting with simpler topics such as solid bodies and liquids (top) followed by more detailed explanations of topics such as pyronomics, optics, magnetism, and electricity (bottom).


As one of the shortest subjects, meteorology contains only around 160 references and several long sections without references such as descriptions of atmospheric phenomena. Its middle portion has the most concentrated cluster of references to figures illustrating clouds (right).


With the shortest path and fewest plates (only two), chemistry’s references are relatively well spaced out, resulting in a balanced path. The longest portion of the description without references is for a list of elements and their basic details.


Mineralogy’s path finishes like it starts—with longer portions devoid of references. The middle portion contains a mostly even concentration of references.

Geognosy & Geology

After a lengthy introduction about special petrography without any figure references (right), geognosy and geology has most of its references in the middle portion when describing fossils (top).


Botany contains the most references at nearly 2,600 but they are concentrated into the top portion of its path after a lengthy description (about 25% of its entire description) covering plant organs without any references. Many sections of botany refer to sets of figures (e.g., “pl. 71, fig. 4,” which also include figures 4a–4g) and then reference each one individually. The resulting path also resembles a flower with a long stem.


With the longest path and second most references (nearly 2,100), zoology’s references are well spaced out with only a handful of sections devoid of them covering hierarchical systems of classification.

Anthropology & Surgery

As one of the paths that’s easiest to follow from start to finish, anthropology and surgery has mostly longer sections punctuated by clusters of references as different systems of the human body are described such as the vascular system, muscles, and the skeleton.

Geography & Planography

Geography and planography has the fewest references of all the subjects at 80. The longest portion toward the end (top) is from the lengthy glossary translating text from German maps to English.

History & Ethnology

The circuitous path of history and ethnology is due to several references from the same plates punctuating longer historical descriptions such as the history of Rome.

Military Sciences

Military sciences has one of the densest collection of references (around 18 per word) which produces many tight knots for most of its path.

Naval Sciences

Naval sciences is broken into two main clusters of references separated by a long stretch of text that covers navigation methods of modern times and non-European nations.


Similar to naval sciences, architecture is also broken into two main clusters, separated by a long section of text about architecture during the period of emperors, which is punctuated by only a handful of references.

Mythology & Religious Rites

The shape of the path for mythology and religious rites appears to resemble a flame. It also has a few long stretches of text without references at the beginning, middle, and end.

Fine Arts

After a large cluster of references near the beginning of fine arts (bottom), the rest is only punctuated with some references until a cluster appears in toward the middle (top) and at the very end (right).


Technology has one of the densest collection of evenly distributed references, resulting in a very tight path. Thanks to the combination of right-angled corners and the subject itself, it feels more modern than the descriptions contained within.

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