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History as a Visual Concept: Peter of Poitiers’ Compendium historiae

"Graphic and diagrammatic visualisations of information have become increasingly important
in recent decades: they play a major role in how we perceive and conceptualise the world. It
is rarely reflected upon, however, that the underlying models for these visualisations have a
history of their own (Grafton/Rosenberg 2010). Studying this history more closely will aid our
understanding of the function, presentation, and evolution of the visualisation of knowledge.
This project will focus on the emergence of diagrammatic renderings of time and history in
the form of linear synopses; a genre for which the term ‘historiogram’ has recently been in-
troduced (Worm 2021). The first such linear synopsis was the Compendium historiae in ge-
nealogia Christi, conceived by Peter of Poitiers (Petrus Pictaviensis) in the late twelfth centu-
ry. While the work originally provided a survey of the biblical past, it soon circulated in ver-
sions which expanded the timeline and continued it to the present age of their respective
compiler. The Compendium was disseminated in hundreds of copies throughout the medie-
val Latin West and was thus momentous in the divulgation of visual formats – the timeline
and the linear synopsis – which prevail even today.
Despite the importance and impact of Peter of Poitiers’ Compendium, it has been neither
critically edited nor studied in adequate detail. Scholars with disciplinary backgrounds in art
history, Latin philology, medieval history, scholarly editing, and – as an overarching approach
– the digital humanities, will jointly scrutinise this seminal work.
The project’s main objectives are:
(1) to provide a comprehensive survey of the Compendium historiae’s transmission;
(2) to analyse the work’s historiogrammatic structure as well as its diagrammatic, textual, and
pictorial content;
(3) to produce a scholarly and critical edition of the Compendium in its diagrammatic struc-
ture as well as in its textual and pictorial components. The work’s complexity of content and
transmission require a digital edition;
(4) to establish a digital template for editing and analysing visually complex manuscript tradi-
The results of our project will consist of a codicological database, a concise rendering of the
diagrammatic, textual, and visual data, a critical edition of the text, and analytical findings.
They will be stored and made accessible permanently within a digital portal."

Verantwortliche: Worm, Andrea, Prof. Dr. (Tübingen, Germany)
Bleier, Roman, Dr. (Graz, Austria)
Sahle, Patrick, Prof. Dr. (Wuppertal, Germany)

Mitarbeitende (Wuppertal): Dr. Agnese Macchiarelli, Andreas Mertgens, Elisa Cugliana (ehemalig)

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