Literary Constellations Transforms First Sentences Into Star Charts

After tracking the “wandering paths” of pi and the golden ratio in his Number Walks series, data artist Nick Rougeux took on a new experiment: applying data not to numbers, but to words. When he began diagramming sentences, based on a self-determined system that assigned different values to nouns versus adjectives and word importance, he discovered that the results resembled constellations. And so Literary Constellations was born, in which Rougeux has mapped out the first sentences from Lewis Carroll to Jane Austen.

Rougeux has a longer, more technical explanation of his process, but here’s what it boils down to:

The Time Machine Literary Constellations first sentence legend

Because he decided to map the first sentences of multiple chapters (in order to fill up hypothetical star charts with a couple dozen constellations), he found that books with 10-20 chapters worked best. The final series includes such classics as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Peter Pan, and The Portriat of Dorian Gray. As H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine provided the first-chapter example above, here’s the final product. (Click to enlarge.)

Literary Constellations The Time Machine H.G. Wells first sentences

Credit: Nick Rougeux

Now that you know how it’s done, you can play around with mapping the constellations for your favorite first sentences. And if you’re nostalgic for the glow-in-the-dark constellations that adorned so many of our childhood bedroom ceilings, you can buy Literary Constellation prints on Rougeux’s website.



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