What is the display about?
Losses in men of the French Army in the Russian Campaign 1812-1813
Who did the work?
Drawn up by M. Minard
Inspector General of Bridges and Roads in retirement
Where and when was the work done?
Paris, November 20, 1869
What are the data sources?
The information which has served to draw up the map has been extracted from the works of M.M. Thiers, of Ségur, of Fezensac, of Chambray and the unpublished diary of Jacob, the pharmacist of the Army since October 28th.
In order to better judge with the eye the dimunition of the army, I have assumed that the troops of Prince Jérôme and of Marshall Davoush who had been detached at Minsk and Mogkilev and have rejoined around Orcha and Vitebsk, had always marched with the army.
What are the scales of measurement?
• For invasion and retreat flow-lines: one millimeter for every ten thousand men
• For the underlying map: Common leagues of France
• For the temperature: degrees of the Réaumur thermometer below zero
Who published and printed the work?
Autog. Par Regnier, 8. Pas. Ste. Marie St. Gain à Paris
Minard never mentions Napoleon.
If you’ve every attended one of Edward Tufte’s road shows, you’ve walked away with a reproduction of Minard’s Figurative Map of the Successive Losses in Men of the French Army in the Russian Campaign 1812-1813, and you’ve traced their route, reading right, heady in numbers (422,000 men) across the Nieman River through Vitebask and Gjat to Moscow.
And you watched their numbers dwindle by three-quarters (to 100,000 men) by the time they double back at Moscow, and you know already, at a glance, when you see that black recessive line and the plummeting temperature (21 below zero), that they will fade to nearly nothing (4,000 men) by their penultimate leg, before they meet up again with another emaciated arm (22,000 men reduced to 8,000) from their ranks.
And you just may agree with Tufte that this could be the best illustrative graphic ever designed. And you’ll undoubtedly agree with Minard that war is hell.
Another bonus of those road shows, which by corporate training budget standards are cheap at under $400/head: Tufte loads you up with his beautifully self-published books, and as he publishes more (Beautiful Evidence is his most recent title – it also contains a fold out page of Minard’s graphic – the excerpt above is from that title) you walk away with more – he’s now up to four.
Tufte’s feeling the love in the Stanford and New York Magazines this week.
Right there with you, baby.