Are you a logophile?
If so, check out the online Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary. It allows users to discover synonyms for individual words in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), trace their development over time, and to chart the linguistic progress of a chosen object, concept, or expression, with links to the OED definition of each new word.
In a nutshell, the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary arranges synonyms historically.
You might also enjoy The Professor and the Madman - an extraordinary tale of madness, genius, and the incredible obsessions of two remarkable men that led to the making of the Oxford English Dictionary -- and literary history. Available in print at PE1617.O94 W56 1998