JPEG Image Compression as Applied to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet

June 18, 2013 | Kyle Chayka

Every time you save an image as a JPEG, some of the original information is lost forever. This loss of information is hard to detect with an untrained eye. In an attempt to demonstrate exactly what is happening here, blogger Tom Scott has taken the original text from William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and processed it in the same way one would process a JPEG image, effectively demonstrating the varying degrees of image compression and information degradation. In short, image compression works by removing redundancies within the file, allowing the image to take up less space while still being able to communicate a message.

For “Shakespeare.txt.jpg,” Tom Scott took Shakespeare’s classic Romeo and Juliet text and processed it at varying image compression rates.

The compression rates determine file size as well as overall quality of the image. Each compression rate effectively reduces the final file size of the image and, when applied to a text file, can transform a once coherent text into nothing more than pure nonsense.

After running this text through various rates of image compression Scott then printed them into a total of six short “books” which are not available for purchase but can be downloaded in their entirety here, saying:

If anyone wants to commission a professionally bound hardcover set for some net art exhibit, let me know. I’ll happily pretend to be a serious artist.

(Images: Tom Scott, shout out Nerdcore)