Alas, Poor Yorick…

Over on Reddit a week or so ago, there was a question about how long it would take to write out the entirety of Hamlet in calligraphy. A student wanted to know for an English project, and the general consensus was that it would take much, much too long and would probably not be nearly valuable enough in terms of the grade earned versus the time put in. We managed to talk the student down to a soliloquy-length piece.

Still, it got me thinking – how long would it take? I decided to give it a shot, and this is what the result was:

William Shakespeare - Hamlet

Overall, I think it turned out very nice. The versal is pretty much mine, and the trees come from the Wharncliffe Hours. I know – using a fifteenth-century illumination on lines from a seventeenth-century play? What kind of madness is that? But it fits the mood of the piece, and I like it.

In case you’re wondering, here’s how the stats worked out:

  • Eight lines, 76 words, 311 characters: 38 minutes

That’s about 7 seconds per character, about 30 seconds per word on average. There’s a few short pauses in there, re-dipping the pen, remembering to inhale, that sort of thing, but that’s my data.

Also, it took four tries to get through the whole thing without making a mistake, so I should add about another half hour or so for false starts, setting up a new page, etc. So just for fun, let’s call it a full hour – that feels short, but it’ll do:

  • 11.5 seconds per character, 47 seconds per word.

Let’s aim for somewhere in the middle: about 10 seconds per character (I get about 142,000 characters from the Gutenberg text)

Therefore, it should take me – writing continuously in italic with no breaks – 16.5 days of writing.

If I spend 8 hours a day writing, so that I can eat and do other things besides writing, it would take almost 50 days.

That would be quite the labor of love, to say the least. For now, I’ll stick to my short pieces.