See Manuel Lima's previous book:
Visual Complexity: Mapping Patterns of Information

  The Book of Trees
Visualizing Branches of Knowledge

Buy now from: waterstones

Press inquiries? Email: jaime [at]


Trees are one of the most ubiquitous religious symbols across the world. From ancient Sumer to Christianity, from the Maya civilization to Buddhism, there’s hardly a human society over the ages that hasn’t associated trees with some sort of celestial and religious power.

Due to its expressive quality and natural branching scheme, trees have also become important communication tools, illustrating a variety of topics such as family ties, moral values, systems of law, domains of science, biological species, hard disk drives, database schemas, and online discussions.

The Book of Trees covers over 800 years of human culture through the lens of the tree figure, from its entrenched roots in religious medieval exegesis to its contemporary, secular digital themes. With roughly 200 images the book offers a visual evolutionary history of this universal metaphor, showing us the incremental adoption of a stylized, abstract construct, as well as a recent emergence of new visual models, many employing advanced computer-generated algorithms. Ultimately, this book makes visualization a prism through which to observe the evolution of civilization.




A Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, nominated by Creativity magazine as "one of the 50 most creative and influential minds of 2009", Manuel Lima is a designer, researcher, teacher, and founder of

Manuel is a leading voice on information visualization and has spoken in numerous conferences, schools and festivals around the world, including TED, Lift, OFFF, Eyeo, Ars Electronica, IxDA Interaction, Harvard, MIT, Royal College of Art, NYU Tisch School of the Arts, ENSAD Paris, University of Amsterdam, MediaLab Prado Madrid. He has also been featured in various magazines and newspapers, such as Wired, New York Times, Science, BusinessWeek, Creative Review, Fast Company, Forbes, Eye, Grafik, SEED, Étapes, and El País.

His previous book Visual Complexity: Mapping Patterns of Information has been translated into French, Chinese, and Japanese.



Foreword (Ben Shneiderman)
Timeline of Significant Characters

01 - Figurative Trees
02 - Vertical Trees
03 - Horizontal Trees
04 - Multidirectional Trees
05 - Radial Trees
06 - Hyperbolic Trees
07 - Rectangular Treemaps
08 - Voronoi Treemaps
09 - Circular Treemaps
10 - Sunbursts
11 - Icicle Trees

Image Credits

"The cultural and logical foundations crucial to any digital designer"
Douglas Rushkoff

"Manuel Lima might well become become the Edward Tufte of the 21st Century"
Creativity Magazine

"The man who turns data into art"
Wired Magazine
American Historical Association October 2014

"There are times when modern technology seems removed from the arts and letters. (...) But now comes Manuel Lima with a book on trees of knowledge to challenge tech enthusiasts’ claims to originality. (...) Lima’s argument is not only compelling, it is also convincing, for his visual evidence is powerful. (...) Lima takes the reader on a visual journey through his forest of knowledge trees, from vertical and horizontal trees, which are the most familiar and include everything from Ephraim Chambers’s table of contents of his Cyclopedia (1728) to “WikiMindMaps” (2007)."

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Nature Magazine July 2014

"Manuel Lima's Book of Trees explores the many possibilities presented by treelike diagrams in expressing ideas and discoveries, with a strong emphasis on the effectiveness of representational strategies. (...) Some compare and even quantify differences in their variables, using their component lengths, thicknesses and directionalities. (...) Clarity of expression is a wonderful thing: the graceful geometric skeletons of points and lines convey more conceptual dimensions than the page can literally express."

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Brain Pickings July 2014

"A magnificent 800-year history of the tree diagram, from Descartes to data visualization, medieval manuscripts to modern information design, and the follow-up to Lima’s excellent Visual Complexity: Mapping Patterns of Information. (...) The Book of Trees is a treasure trove of visual literacy, symbolic history, and cultural insight."

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Print Magazine May 2014

"Lima’s thorough research is a testament to dendrolatry – the veneration of trees –  but more importantly it is a studious history of how the physical tree has been utilized as a model with which to visually organize huge amounts of information in ways that are manageable, and surprising."

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Cool Hunting April 2014

"The data visualization master's new work gives a history and analysis of leafy diagrams. (...) He educates the reader and simultaneously builds a greater curiosity with each example; from Russian Orthodox iconography to musical database mapping. Each chapter elucidates different styles of tree visualizations, many of which the layperson might not recognize without Lima's sound guidance."

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Comics Grinder April 2014

"Lima picks up where Tufte left off and has taken data visualization to the next level, per se.(...) For this new book, the synthesizing of information overload finds the perfect model in the humble tree. We come to see how everything old is new again.(...) And so, with our purpose clear, we find in this marvelous book example upon example of how trees can help make the world more clear to us."

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The Boston Globe April 2014

"In The Book of Trees, Manuel Lima has selected 200 tree diagrams that make a remarkable variety of subjects understandable.(...) Lima devotes each of the 11 chapters to a different kind of tree map, beginning with figurative trees and ending up at icicle trees."

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Hyperallergic April 2014

"Now for the first time this often overlooked icon of information has its own in-depth historical book. (...) The Book of Trees: Visualizing Branches of Knowledge by Manuel Lima, covers the centuries of the tree diagram’s growth from religious and moral guide to computer science utilization."

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WIRED April 2014

"The Book of Trees: Visualizing Branches of Knowledge catalogs a stunning diversity of illustrations and graphics that rely on arboreal models for representing information. It’s a visual metaphor that’s found across cultures throughout history–a data viz tool that has outlived empires and endured huge upheavals in the arts and sciences."

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New Scientist April 2014

"From studying the bible to visualising computer storage, Manuel Lima's sumptuous The Book of Trees explores the tree diagram's appeal for showing information. (...) Full-colour reproductions of charts from many of the world's great library collections graphically connect 2014 with the 1000-year evolution of using trees as a mode of visual communication."

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Fast Company March 2014

"Manuel Lima's illustrated history The Book of Trees (Princeton Architectural Press) chronicles how Medieval-era designers instinctively used trunk and branch diagrams to impose order on the explosion of new data. One millennium later, tree-based graphics continue to pack considerable punch as information delivery systems."

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Publishers Weekly March 2014

"This genre-bending collection of tree maps demonstrates the usefulness of branching and rooting images to visualize and absorb complex information and the painstakingly beautiful delineations of cosmologies, genealogies, and taxonomies that generations of artist/scientists have been moved to create.(...) Sure to appeal to a diverse group of readers, the book beautifully combines art and science, as well as ancient and contemporary worldviews."

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Gizmodo January 2014

"Lima charts the motif through mythology and folklore, as a celestial and religious symbol, following family lines and genealogies, open-source software classes, and, well—pretty much anything that can be quantified can be, and has been, given the tree-treatment in some figurative or abstract form."

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Douglas Rushkoff January 2014

"What an amazing and beautiful book! The most important analysis of visualization since Tufte, Book of Trees reveals the origins and evolution of the branches we use to structure knowledge. These are the cultural and logical foundations crucial to any digital designer, as well as anyone who wants to be able to think critically about the visual world."


© 2014 Manuel Lima