University of Chicago Special Collections Research Center
First printed in 1786, William Playfair's The Commercial and Political Atlas: Representing, by Means of Stained Copper-Plate Charts, the Progress of the Commerce, Revenues, Expenditure and Debts of England during the Whole of the Eighteenth Century contains the first known use of color graphs. This image is from the third edition of the economics text, printed in 1801. The chart plots time on the abscissa, pounds (in increments of 10 million) on the ordinate, and includes major events of the eighteenth century--including the coronation of monarchs, the Seven Years' War, and the American Revolution--in the body of the chart.

2002 The University of Chicago