Herman Melvilleâ€™s Moby Dick is a tale told in 212,507 words. Those words, considered to be some of the most classic in the history of literature, are important. But equally important as â€œCall me Ishmaelâ€ is the period after it. Without punctuation, the first two lines of the book would read something like this:
Call me Ishmael some years ago never mind how long precisely having little or no money in my purse and nothing particular to interest me on shore I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world
Are we supposed to call him Ishmael some years ago, never mind how long? Kind of hardÂ to say, donâ€™t you think? Like weâ€™ve said before, punctuationÂ adds structure and intention to a piece of text. SomeÂ 45,000 punctuation charactersÂ areÂ asÂ integral to Melvilleâ€™sÂ voice as the words of Moby Dick themselves. As a piece of graphic design, the glyphsÂ stand on their own, too.
Nicholas Rougeux is a designer and artist from Chicago who decided to see what it would look like if all the words were removed from classic pieces of literature. The result is Between The Words, a series of posters that celebratesÂ the dots, dashes, and quotation marks sprinkled throughout iconicÂ literary works. Rougeux started making his swirling designsÂ by pulling in the text of all nine books from Project Gutenberg. From there he used a software called RegExr to strip the text of words, line breaks, spaces and numbers, leaving just lines of shapes and symbols that he would later swirlÂ into a vortex of typographical confetti.
Each poster is a visual snapshot of the authorâ€™s use of punctuation. CommasÂ and quotation marksÂ appear to be the most common glyphs, followed by a smattering of dashes (Melville loves them!), exclamation marks, and the occasion parenthesis. Itâ€™s slightly reminiscent of All The Worldâ€™s a Page, a project from a German design studio that artfully crammed every word of classic books onto a single 70Ã—100 centimeter poster. Rougeuxâ€™s visualization is, inevitably, more minimalist, but it achieves the same goal of translating the unseen structure of literature into something thatâ€™s not only graphically beautiful, but illuminating, too.