Discover the 1820’s Color-Coded System for Memorizing Historical Events, Which Resembled Modern Art (1820)

On first encountering Antoni Jażwiński’s “Polish System,” I couldn’t help but think of Incan Quipu, the system that used knotted cords to keep official records. Like Quipu, Jażwiński’s system of colored squares relies on an extreme shorthand to tell complex stories with mnemonic devices. But maybe that’s where the similarities end. Jażwiński’s invention (circa (1820) does not so much resemble other forms of communication as it does the abstract art of the following century.

“Jażwiński’s Méthode polonaise promises that the complexities of centuries can be refined into colors, lines, squares, and just a few marks,” writes Philippa Pitts at Sequitur. “Neatly arranged into a diagram that can be diligently committed to memory, the twists and turns of battles and revolutions are rendered as panes of pure gentle color, quietly plotted as coordinates in a matrix, subsumed back into the orderly progress of history.”

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