6-sheet mural [158.5 x 148.8 cm], comprised of 6 large letterpress sheets, joined and mounted on contemporary linen and bordered in green silk (folding down to 14 5/8 x 10 3/8 inches); separate broadside index shows reduced and much-abridged copy of chart [36 x 44.9 cm]. Housed in a magnificent contemporary bespoke blue polished calf box, borders triple-ruled, arms of the city of Vienna gilt in center of front cover and floral corner pieces, gilt diamond motif on rear cover; edges of box gilt, with green silk pull to lift mural and index out of box. Index leaf folded; inconsequential scuffing to front cover; the most minor loss at some of the joins of the assembled sheets; otherwise in a remarkable state of preservation.
A highly unusual format to display statistical information, this extremely rare, gigantic chart, measuring 5 ft by nearly 5ft., distills in 6 densely printed, assembled letter press folia, an encyclopedic survey of Milan and Lombardy (c. 1839-40). The categories, sub-categories, and sub-sub categories number around 2000 (!), all contained within an imaginary Graeco-Roman temple flanked by two columns. The categories of information are organized in a conventional cultural hierarchy: agriculture, raw materials, labor and manufacturing form the foundation of society, and support higher and higher forms of cultural endeavor: at the top of the right column we find an enumeration of churches, the top of the middle structure enumerates the number of married persons, ecclesiastics etc.The chart also includes historical data from ancient to current history, myriad facts about the contemporary population, frequently in quantitative form (21,511 women shopkeepers in 1839 etc.), with some of the tables providing comparative data from earlier years.
On the face of it, the function of such a time and labor intensive production is opaque, and appears to be altogether unstudied in any relevant literature we have searched. Three details and some historical context, however, may provide a clue to its function.
1) A motto in French which appears on the chart by the Italian-born geographer/statistician Adriano Balbi (1782-1848) is suggestive. Balbi produced the first comparative “choropleth map”, a thematic map which correlated the incidence of crime to level of education, in genuinely quantitative statistical terms: like the present chart, this required an immense amount of data gathering. The Positivist Nineteenth Century was enamored of information, whether for its own sake or its predictive value for social planning or control. A number of novel ways of representing in graphic form information concerning population density or per-capita income were developed. Such documents, “data graphics” as Tufte calls them, conferred scientific authority on the information in question. The present chart may be seen as part of this tradition. While its content is strictly enumerative rather than predictive, its giant scale is very likely unprecedented.
2) Below the title, the chart is obsequiously dedicated to an Austrian nobleman resident in Milan, Samuel Rechenberger, Count of Rechcron. Let us recall that at the time of publication, Milan was a garrison town for Austrian soldiers fighting Italian partisans for a unified Italy. As such, it makes perfect sense that the province would present itself as a well-organized, well-functioning political entity, in no need of revolutionary change or political upheaval, expressed in an unusual and imposing format. The use of columns and a Graeco-Roman temple to contain the information is not a mere decorative conceit, but corroborates the chart’s political message: like the architectural monuments of antiquity, Lombardy is perfect.
3) “Binding”: the chart is contained in a magnificent bespoke case of contemporary polished calf, elaborately gilt, and certainly a presentation copy. The arms are those of the city of Vienna, clearly suggesting an accounting by the local authorities to their rulers.
OCLC lists no American copy. We have located the following copies through the usual European databases (ICCU, KVK etc.)
Italy: Law School of the University of Milan; Veterinary school of same; Biblioteca civica Varese.
Germany: Berlin, BSB.
* ITICCUPUV623601; Edward R. Tufte, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information (1983), p. 91; Hof- und Staats-Schematismus des österreichischen Kaiserthums (1837), 422 (Rechenberger)