Visualising Spheres of Knowledge

The Book of Circles Cover

In The Book of Circles, his companion volume to the popular Book of Trees, Manuel Lima takes us on a lively tour through millennia of information design. Three hundred detailed and colourful illustrations cover an encyclopedic array of subjects, drawing fascinating parallels across time and culture.

Here are a few of the spectacular images from The Book of Circles:

William Billings, Musical score for the song “Connection”, 1794 Credit: Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University
William Billings, Musical score for the song “Connection”, 1794
Credit: Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University

Frontispiece to The Continental Harmony (1794), a book by William Billings containing dozens of psalm anthems and hymns. Billings was a prominent early American choral composer. This illustration represents the score for the tune “Connection” as a four-stave, circular piece of music, which starts at the top of the outermost ring and works its way to the centre.

 Dave Bowker, One Week of the Guardian: Wednesday, 2008 Credit: Dave Bowker
Dave Bowker, One Week of the Guardian: Wednesday, 2008
Credit: Dave Bowker

Part of a series of experiments exploring how to visualise the content of the Guardian newspaper in an artistic and engaging way, a diagram showing the popularity of fifty-four news articles. The concentric circles group articles into colour-coded categories (e.g., life and style articles are shown by orange, technology by cyan, and science by blue), with the least popular category positioned in the centre. Word counts for each article are noted within speech bubbles.

Nicholas Felton, Feltron 2007 Annual Report, 2008 Credit: Nicholas Felton
Nicholas Felton, Feltron 2007 Annual Report, 2008
Credit: Nicholas Felton

Pie chart displaying the statistics for an average day of the author, plotting various data such as number of emails sent, miles run, or cups of coffee consumed. Between 2005 and 2015, information designer Nicholas Felton meticulously documented his daily activity to create his Personal Annual Reports, compilations of information graphics that give an overview of each year, set out in the style of corporate reporting. The project is an exploration of how to graphically encapsulate the activities of an entire year, as well as how we can glean data from rapidly changing technology

Anna Filipova, Lineage of Sin in the Bible, 2009 Credit: Anna Filipova
Anna Filipova, Lineage of Sin in the Bible, 2009
Credit: Anna Filipova

Chart measuring time through sins, as described in the Bible, displaying an inverse relationship between longevity and sin. Longevity decreases from Adam (the first man) to Moses at the same time that sin increases. The outer ring, read counter clockwise, moves through the major events of the Old Testament. Relevant biblical verses that reveal someone’s age are cited, and the average age for an epoch is shown underneath (coloured rings).

Ernst Haeckel, Drawing of an ophidea, 1904 Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Ernst Haeckel, Drawing of an ophidea, 1904
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Lithograph of an ophidea, a type of echinoderm similar to a starfish. Ernst Haeckel was a German biologist who published a series of detailed lithographs, Kunstformen der Natur (Art forms of nature), over the course of five years. These images of microscopic biology have been hugely influential on both the arts and science.


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