February 18, 2016

What your favorite book looks like without the words


With his project Between the Words, Nicholas Rougeux created beautiful posters displaying only the punctuation from well-known books.

Per the project’s website:

Between the Words is an exploration of visual rhythm of punctuation in well-known literary works. All letters, numbers, spaces, and line breaks were removed from entire texts of classic stories like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Moby Dick, and Pride and Prejudice—leaving only the punctuation in one continuous line of symbols in the order they appear in texts. The remaining punctuation was arranged in a spiral starting at the top center with markings for each chapter and classic illustrations at the center.

Inspired by the posters, and the cruelly forgotten but “fundamental” little marks that go between words, neuroscientist Adam J. Calhoun created a code to “extract the punctuation and print out a compressed representation of my favorite novels.” In an essay titled “Punctuation in novels” and originally published on Medium, Calhoun explains:

Punctuation does more than simply carve out a space for words. It separates them. Clearly, some authors are more okay with long rambling sentences than others. William Faulkner looks at your short sentences and says nothing less than fuck you.

A comparison of the punctuation in Absalom, Absalom, left, and Blood Meridian, right.

A comparison of the punctuation in Absalom, Absalom, right, and Blood Meridian, left, created by Adam J. Calhoun

Elaborating on his original post at Medium, Calhoun created beautiful punctuation heatmaps. “Periods and question marks and exclamation marks are red. Commas and quotation marks are green. Semicolons and colons are blue.

A heatmap of the punctuation in Absalom, Absalom

A heatmap of the punctuation in Absalom, Absalom

There’s so much more at Calhoun’s original post. Check it out here!


Julia Fleischaker is a former director of marketing and publicity at Melville House.