The reference to my manuscript project in my recent post on Blotting paper, prompts me to make a progress report on this effort.

As mentioned in Camera lucida, I am transcribing and illustrating Thomas Hardy’s The Dynasts (1903-1908). This is no trivial undertaking: the printed edition runs to 707 pages! For those who don’t have it on their bed-side table for constant reference, The Dynasts is, as its title page announces, An Epic-Drama of the War with Napoleon, in Three Parts, Nineteen Acts, and One Hundred and Thirty Scenes. The Time Covered by the Action Being About Ten Years. My motivation for this slightly crazy project is set out in that earlier post. I am beavering away. My hope that I could copy the text using the camera lucida has been frustrated. The hammering of the pulse is too much for the detail required for small type, so I have resorted to an italic script. I have just worked my way past Nelson’s death at Trafalgár, as we still pronounced it in Hardy’s day. Here’s my depiction of a pub discussion of the return of Nelson’s body, a voyage more fully described in this story from Atlas Obscura. In a slightly obnoxious convention Hardy has his common-man characters talk in prose, not verse like everyone else. I have passed the death of Nelson, resisting the temptation to allow a fake tear to smudge the ink, and am on to Austerlitz and page 177 of the original edition. I keep seeing Prince Andrey Bolkonsky lying there gripping his banner.


Although I can’t use the camera lucida app for the text, I am making pretty extensive us of it for the illustrations. I initially draw these in situ in pencil using a specially-made jig on which I place the iPad. I then go over the drawing using a 0.25mm Stano technical pen which I am also using for running heads, character names, and stage directions. At my current rate of progress I should be done in about four years, though I did redo the entire first 90 pages last fall, so maybe three years will see me through. I had been doing it double-sided on sheets of 60# Mohawk which a bindery had supplied me, along with a promise to bind up the resultant volume for me. In the end I decided I couldn’t ask them to do so, especially as it looked like it might end up as a 3-volume set, so I restarted in a blank dummy copy of Volume 1 of The Oxford English Dictionary which I had salvaged from office-cleaning routines. There I am using one side of the page only as the paper is thinner and there’s too much show-through to back things up. I have (I think and hope) got more than enough pages in this volume.