An edition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein laid out using characters and glyphs from PDF documents obtained through internet searches. The incomplete fonts found in the PDFs were reassembled into the text of Frankenstein based on their frequency of use. The most common characters are employed at the beginning of the book, and the text devolves into less common, more grotesque shapes and forms toward the end.
Here’s how they did it: For each of the 5,483 unique words in the book, Fry and his team ran a search using the Yahoo! Search API that was filtered to just PDF files. Then, they downloaded the top 10 to 15 hits for each word, which left them with 64,076 PDF files. Inside these PDFs were 347,565 fonts and from these, 55,382 unique glyph shapes were used to fill the 342,889 individual letters found in the Frankenstein text. “I’ve always found these misshapen fonts really fascinating,” Fry tell Co.Design.
In the book, the misshapen characters in the words mimic the devolution of the protagonist and his monster in the story. The most common characters like Arial, Helvetica, and Times New Roman are used at the beginning of the book, but by page 80 and 81, things have progressed (or regressed, depending on your taste in fonts) to a lot of Arial Bold and Times Italic. By page 200, commonly used script fonts and more obscure faces appear. As you get to the end of the book, the fonts have devolved significantly into non-Roman fonts, highly specialized typefaces, and even pictogram fonts.