Infographics are not new, they are just easier to make and pass around on the internet. BibliOdyssey has a collection of posters, pages, and pamphlets from the Victorian era that make information into an art form. Pictured is the Tableau De L'Histoire Universelle (History of the Universe Chart).
This is a fold-out print depicting all of human history from the time of creation (4693 BC = Adam & Eve; the great flood = 3300 BC) up to the date of publication (1858 by Eug. Pick, Paris). Vignettes of historically significant people, places and buildings etc are arranged along the borders.
The designer has employed something of a metaphorical display choice: civilisations are presented as a series of rivers -- the widths likely imply the comparative population level of each group versus the world's population -- which 'flow' down through history.
See also graphics on geography, biology, astronomy, and more. The pictures are all linked to larger Flickr versions. Link