The Cynic Sang: The Blake Archive and Blake Quarterly Blog

August 23, 2016

Marks of weakness: Marginalia and Comments 

Filed under: Uncategorized — oishanisengupta @ 2:44 pm


Since I’ve just joined Team Marginalia, Laura said it might be useful for me to take a look at a few books and articles that discuss marginalia in general and Blake’s in particular. I’ve been browsing through them in the last couple of days and I thought others might find a few of their remarks about marginalia to be of interest. For instance, while Mark O’Connell’s article in the New Yorker ( considers the reader’s collaborative engagement with other readers a fundamental affordance of marginalia, he also emphasizes the intimate nature of marginalia as writing – the private, often perhaps emotional conversation between book and reader that it might be indecent to peep into. Jason Snart on the other hand views Blake’s marginalia as disruptive. The “mark”  poses a challenge to the monolithic authority of the printed text, exposing its weakness and thereby opening it up for argument, discussion, appropriation and rejection (Jason Snart, The Torn Book 124). He focuses more on the competitive nature of marginalia rather than the qualities of affection  and intimacy. Here are examples of cases where Blake agrees vehemently with the author and where he equally vehemently disagrees

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The mingling of marginalia and text poses numerous practical challenges for transcription, and some of the questions explicitly deal with whether the marginalia should be disentangled from the text, or whether “where one begins and the other ends” (Laura Estil, “Encoding the Edge: Marginalia and the TEI” remains open to  discussion. Recent blogposts by Team Marginalia consider the different ways of approaching tricky situations, such as where Blake crosses out a printed word and replaces it with one of his own.

In fact, Blake (and others scribbling all over books) have more freedom to become enmeshed with the text than we at the Blake Archive do with our “comments,” which are designed for internal use and not meant for publication. First of all, it’s very difficult for them to mingle with the rest of the .xml file because they’re green, and enclosed by exclamation marks. You can see them coming a mile away.  And while it is true that unlike Blake, who engages intimately with what he reads, we normally use the comments for more technical as well as collaborative purposes.

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This leads me to wonder about the future of our own (green) marginalia. Team Color Code often discusses the specifics of citing Justin Van Kleeck’s comments, since they provide us with such a reliable guideline for transcription, but what about the more ephemeral ones? Will they survive in some form in the future, even after these works are published, and continue their friendly/frenzied interactions within the BADs (Blake Archive Document), or will they only last as long as it takes to solve the problems and then be forever consigned to oblivion?

August 17, 2016

Macro Blake

Filed under: BAND — Eric Loy @ 2:05 pm

This summer I attended DHSI at U Victoria, a trip made possible through the support of the Mellon Fellowship in DH here at UR. I had the great fortune to take James O’Sullivan’s course on Computation and Literary Criticism. (I also had the great fortune to eat at Red Fish Blue Fish, like, four times in five days.)

As one could guess, we learned a lot about distant reading and macroanlytic approaches to literary study, focusing on the technological pragmatics. So: we messed around in RStudio, creating stylometric cluster dendrograms; we dumped huge corpuses into Voyant Tools; we experimented with an open source Topic Modeling app (and talked about how mathematically insane topic modeling is).

The Blake Archive, of course, contains a trove of text that’s easily mineable from the backend. (Our tech editor Mike Fox emailed me plain text files of all Archive transcriptions for my experimenting.) Here are a couple of results from those experiments: (more…)

August 9, 2016

A Groundhog Summer

Filed under: Uncategorized — rlbetts92 @ 11:30 am

This summer, members of BAND have made serious headway on numerous projects. Receipts and letters have been transcribed and edited, many transcriptions have been proofread, provenance information has been collected, and Teams Marginalia and Color Code have been working to make guidelines for these projects as a whole.

As I wrap up my work with the Archive, I decided to deviate from posting specifically about my work, instead, choosing to write about a family of groundhogs living outside the window of the Archive Office. If you follow us on Twitter, you may have read Sarah’s posts about them in late May. Regardless, they provided much amusement for us working at the Archive over the summer. Sometimes, we’d take breaks to watch the young groundhogs playing, and on more than one occasion, we found ourselves looking up information about them online–in lieu of working on Blake… (more…)

July 22, 2016

Blake Quarterly summer issue

Filed under: Blake Quarterly — Sarah Jones @ 8:51 am

The first issue in our fiftieth volume (vol. 50, no. 1, summer 2016) was published this week ( It contains: (more…)

July 20, 2016

Some Promising Forays into Transcribing Blake’s Marginalia

Filed under: Uncategorized — robmrich @ 3:02 pm

Early last week Team Marginalia decided we were finally ready to develop a test tagset for transcribing Blake’s marginalia. We spent a lot of time trying out this new tagset using Blake’s annotated copy of J.C. Lavater’s Aphorisms on Man

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The above image is a pair of pages from Blake’s annotated copy of Aphorisms on Man. When we transcribe, we will be treating each page, not each pair of pages, as an object. (more…)

July 6, 2016

Why we should be talking more: office chat and DH

Filed under: BAND, Digital Humanities, Uncategorized — Tags: , — jsingles @ 4:46 pm

When I look back over many of the most recent blog posts—Rachel’s about how to use notes with a sense of audience, Oishani’s about Blake’s quirky punctuation, my own about the differences between red wax seals and wafers, and other posts from the past several months—I am not surprised to realize that many of these posts began in the William Blake Archive office as informal conversations about digital editing. I remember Oishani asking my input about how to encode a period under a superscript, and I recall spending the better part of an hour with Laura and Lisa discussing why and how we decide that a letter is sealed by wax or wafer. These conversations are illustrative of one of the greatest benefits of digital humanities projects: the opportunity to collaborate and work with a team of scholars from a variety of backgrounds. (more…)

June 28, 2016

Publication Announcement – First 2.75 volumes of Blake/An Illustrated Quarterly published from 1967-69

Filed under: Blake Quarterly, Publications — Tags: , , — Andrea H. Everett @ 12:50 pm

In 2014 the William Blake Archive added a new wing devoted to searchable HTML and PDF editions of back issues of Blake/An Illustrated Quarterly, beginning with issues from the years 2000-2009. In 2015 we added the forty issues from 1990 to 2000 and five issues published since 2010. Earlier this year we announced the publication of the quarterly’s forty issues from 1980 to 1990. Today we are pleased to publish the first two volumes and three issues of the third volume, 1967-69, of what began as the Blake Newsletter—$2 for four issues. (more…)

June 15, 2016

One Size Fits None

Filed under: BAND, Digital Humanities — Tags: , — Laura Whitebell @ 2:30 pm

An article has just been published in the very first issue of the new journal, Digital Literary Studies called “Encoding the Edge: Manuscript Marginalia and the TEI” by Laura Estill. Nothing could be more timely, given BAND’s new project to encode Blake’s marginalia, and I’m sure that we’ll be referring to this paper over and over again as we press on with our task. (more…)

June 10, 2016

The Blake Quarterly at 50

Filed under: Blake Quarterly — Sarah Jones @ 10:48 am

50The upcoming volume year is our fiftieth, an anniversary that seems perversely inevitable given Morton Paley’s words in the first issue of 15 June 1967: “I think the Newsletter should be just that—not an incipient journal.” That issue included a report on the rediscovery of the Small Blake-Varley Sketchbook and solicited opinions on the dating of the two Nights the Seventh in The Four Zoas.

Morton has been the editor since the beginning, and Morris Eaves for almost that long. Thanks to them and to all those who have contributed and given support, we have reached a milestone that we intend to celebrate in our usual small but mighty fashion.


June 2, 2016

Focusing on Audience: How Notes can Help!

Filed under: BAND, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — rlbetts92 @ 2:00 pm

Recently, Oishani posted about the different choices scholars have made in their transcriptions of the “quirky” punctuation in Blake’s receipts. Currently, the protocol has been to attach a note to the specific line of the transcription in which these punctuation discrepancies occur. However, as Oishani points out, though Bentley and Keynes do not treat punctuation systematically, we still have many nearly identical notes about minute differences in punctuation. What is the importance in noting these differences? Should we focus on punctuation in the receipts on a larger scale? Oishani ends her post asking us to consider if it would be more useful to have individual notes on each of the receipts, or to have a set of notes that covers the entire set of receipts and discusses recurring issues like punctuation in detail?



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