The Cynic Sang: The Blake Archive and Blake Quarterly Blog

October 18, 2016

Preview of the Technical Summary for the Blake Archive’s New Site

Filed under: Uncategorized — Michael Fox @ 2:36 pm

The Blake Archive will soon be launching its new site, housed on UNC servers. Here is a preview of the site’s Technical Summary:

System Architecture and Basic Front-End Navigation

The new Blake Archive site does not use some of the technologies that the old site did, such as Java and ImageSizer, and the entire architecture of the old site’s web application has been replaced. The new application is divided into four parts: the site proper, meaning our archive of Blake’s works; a collection of back issues from Blake: An Illustrated Quarterly; our blog; and The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake edited by David Erdman.

The site proper is made up of three components: images, data, and application code. Images are processed as they have been since 2007 (see above). The data come in two forms, CSV files and XML files. Our CSV files encode such data as: relationships between objects; types of those relationships; work information; virtual groupings of works; homepage images and links; and more. We have two types of XML documents. The first we call a work info file. It lists ‘All Known Related Works’ for a particular work, which include works or objects not currently in the Archive. The second type of XML document we use is what we call a Blake Archive Document, or BAD, which contains the entire critical apparatus for a particular copy of a work and all of its objects.

These data meet the application code at Python scripts, which convert some of them into JSON for further processing, import them into a PostgreSQL database, and index them in a Solr instance. The database has three tables: BlakeWork, BlakeCopy, and BlakeObject. They overlap somewhat. For example, a BlakeWork and a BlakeCopy both contain the composition date of the associated work. They are constructed this way to allow for the most efficient access from the modular architecture of the AngularJS that governs the site.

This part of the application code begins in main.html, which imports all the necessary Javascript libraries and CSS stylesheets. It also establishes a number of stable parts of the site: the persistent banner, from which a user may return to the homepage, select a work, change viewing modes, or search the Archive; a persistent footer, from which a user may get to the site’s static pages; and a viewport, through which our AngularJS application is routed. The AngularJS application is divided into a few minor controllers and five main ones. The main ones are: a Home controller, a Work, Copy, Static Page, and Search controller. At a high level, they are practically self-explanatory. The Home controller operates the homepage, which gives access to a random set of objects in the Archive. The Work controller operates the work info page for each of Blake’s works. The Copy controller operates the object view page for each copy, the compare view for objects being compared, and the reading view. The Static Page controller operates the static pages accessible via the persistent footer. And the Search controller operates the search feature in the banner and the search results page.

In our Solr schema, the data is broken down in a way similar to the way it is in the database. Our Solr index has three types of documents: a blake_work, a blake_copy, and a blake_object document. This structure allows searching within a work within a copy within an object. See the search results page for a visualization. A user may select a resulting object from a particular copy of a single work, and may filter a search by date, type, or medium.

On the site proper, a user may switch between two modes, Gallery Mode and Reading Mode, each providing a different viewing experience. In the default Gallery Mode, copies of works are displayed in a gallery format on the object view page. In the object view, a suite of tools is provided for each image: Rotate, Zoom, True Size, Enlargement, Transcription, Generate Citation, and if applicable, Supplemental Views. They are self-explanatory. Part of the critical apparatus for the copy is provided in the info box accessible via the ‘i’ button on the gallery window. Here, a user may see the textual transcription, illustration description, and editors’ notes for the object being viewed. The rest of the critical apparatus is provided at the bottom half of the object view page under some subset of the following tabs, depending on which ones are applicable to the object being viewed: Objects in Copy/Group, Objects from the Same Matrix, Objects from the Same Production Sequence, Objects with a Similar Design, Textually Referenced Objects, Copy/Work/Letter Information, and Electronic Edition Information.

Under tabs having to do with relationships, a user may select objects for comparison in the compare view, which is essentially the same as the object view except that in the compare view the gallery contains a side-by-side comparison of the selected related objects. In the compare view, the information under the critical apparatus tabs is always tied to the highlighted object in the gallery window.

In Reading Mode, copies of works are displayed in a reading view, that is, a horizontally scrollable window containing the objects of the copy in sequence with their accompanying transcriptions and without any supporting critical apparatus.

The banner of the site changes, depending on where a user is stationed and what mode the user is in. If the user is viewing a static page, the banner will display the title of the page in a little black strip. In Reading Mode, the black strip will show the title of the work being viewed and the copy designation if applicable. In Gallery Mode, the black strip will do the same if in the object view, or will indicate ‘Selected’ if in the compare view. The work title in both modes is always linked to an overlay window containing an index of all the copies of that work. This overlay is equivalent to the work info page for the work, but being accessible beyond the work info page, the overlay allows the user to more efficiently navigate between copies.

The front end of the site is styled with CSS. Some of the site’s marked-up text, such as the transcriptions, is rendered with XSLT. And the code for the entire site is written on top of Bootstrap, the Javascript framework for responsive design, so the Archive may be enjoyed in miniature on mobile devices.

The other parts of the Archive–to repeat–are: a collection of back issues from Blake: An Illustrated Quarterly, our blog, and The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake edited by David Erdman. The journal archive is written in PHP and indexed in its own Solr core. The blog is done in WordPress, and the digital Erdman edition, architected similarly to the site proper, is encoded in XML, which is indexed in its own Solr core and transformed with XSLT. And the application for the edition is written in AngularJS and styled with CSS.

We also make available an API for those users who wish to mine our data.

In the near future, the Archive will add two substantive parts to the web application: an exhibition space, where peer-reviewed exhibitions will be published; and a Lightbox application, where users may manipulate or curate Archive images for more refined study.

October 14, 2016

Teaching Blake in a Time of Trump

Filed under: Uncategorized — katherinecal @ 7:08 am

In addition to my position as a project assistant at the Blake Archive, I teach in the Art Department at UNC Chapel Hill. This fall I am teaching an advanced undergraduate course called “Art in an Age of Revolution” that surveys visual culture of Europe and the Americas from the middle of the eighteenth century to the July Revolution of 1830. From the beginning of the semester, I have encouraged my students to draw thematic connections between the historical material presented in class and contemporary discourse on revolution and politics at large. On Tuesday morning, with Sunday’s presidential debate still fresh in everyone’s minds, a class discussion that began with Blake’s designs for John Gabriel Stedman’s Narrative of a Five Years Expedition against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam grew into a debate on contemporary rhetoric about sexual consent and the intertwined issues of empathy and difference, particularly in relation to protests like the Black Lives Matter movement.

John Gabriel Stedman, Narrative, of a Five Years’ Expedition, against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam, 1796, object 2, “A Negro hung alive by the Ribs to a Gallows” (left) and object 8, “Flagellation of a Female Samboe Slave” (right), William Blake Archive.


October 13, 2016

Bringing Together Team Color Code and Team Marginalia

Filed under: Uncategorized — oishanisengupta @ 4:15 pm

Caught off guard by the fact that it’s my turn to write a blog post, I’ve decided to write about the recents attempts we’ve undertaken at BAND for a shotgun wedding between Team Color Code and Team Marginalia. It all started when the Marginalia people realized that, Blake’s annotations being what they were, it was extremely confusing to constantly differentiate between which words were part of the original typographic edition and which were Blake’s comments in an .xml document.

We thought it would be much less muddled if we could completely separate the typographic text and Blake’s hand in two distinct layers.For this purpose, TCC’s use of seemed useful, since it allows us to indicate multiple strata of writing in the same physical space. (For more on TCC’s use of – “Setting the stage, losing the line” Unlike Blake’s letters and other manuscripts, The Four Zoas and the marginalia share another feature – the text is not written in one large block but in (sometimes) discrete chunks on various parts of the page. This favored the use of , so that we could separate out different comments based on where they are placed on the page.


Lavater, p.118

So, to decide whether these two teams could harmoniously share these new tags, we had a meeting. It was crowded, loud and enthusiastic, and Morris and Anna couldn’t even fit inside the room. I think the whole department realized that something important was going on.The following are a couple of things we solved and some new problems we had as a result.

Eric suggested that since TM’s use of was significantly different, we could use and to designate the two kinds of text. This works wonders, since now we have a better way of identifying the stages than the vague and . But, as Eric also pointed out, in order to use the term, we would have to be consistent with TCC”s use . Thus, if Blake crossed out a line of annotation and rewrote it, we would need an additional stage for that line. How would we fit that into the new TM schema? What would we even call it?

We decided that we would use for the typographic text in the first stage, and use the necessary zones (header, footer, right margin, left margin and textblock) depending on where the comments are placed in the annotation stage. While that worked well for most of the documents, Blake’s comments often crossed over zone boundaries and upset all our plans.

We’re still figuring out what to do next. As Shannon said, I’m under the oath of strictest secrecy to divulge our current plans, but I’m sure the next blog posts will reveal a little more of what we’re up to.

October 6, 2016

Archivists or… Aliens?

Filed under: BAND — annaralden @ 8:52 pm

In the midst of creating new schemas for both our marginalia and Four Zoas projects, our project teams have recently been coming face to face with one of the (if not THE) most fundamental aspects of the Blake archive: when organizing a manuscript for a digital platform, we focus on creating something that is, above all else, visually authentic. Of course, this can be particularly challenging to those who have devoted their lives to reading, aka every person who currently works on the archive. When creating new schemas and reworking what we already have, our innate need to read and understand everything happening in a manuscript makes keeping things visually-authentic a very backwards-feeling job.


Fuseli’s “Night Mare” in Tweets: Social Media, Academic Circles, and the Public-Facing Projects of WBA and BIQ

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jennifer Park @ 3:13 pm

“Oh dear – a night mare,” the tweet read. A familiar image popped up on my Twitter feed just the other day, of an engraving of Henry Fuseli’s “The Night Mare” (1795), referencing the Blake Archive Twitter account and shared from a 2008 issue of the Blake Illustrated Quarterly (BIQ) by Anke Timmermann, historian of medieval and early modern alchemy, medicine, and science, former Munby Fellow at Cambridge University Library (2013/14), and antiquarian bookseller at Bernard Quaritch Ltd. (more…)

September 30, 2016

Subjective Image Processing?

Filed under: Digital Humanities — glassgrant @ 9:33 am

In my role as Assistant Project Manager, I respond to the many requests for reproducing content from the William Blake Archive, of which the overwhelming majority are for images (a surprise to me). One of the most memorable request so far was a patron asking if he could screen-print one of the images on his home stereo cover. While this was a strange request and much different than the normal reproduction requests for publication, it tells us that the images in the archive contain a tremendous power outside of academic use. I wondered how I can locate that power. (more…)

September 27, 2016

Blake Quarterly giveaway

Filed under: Blake Quarterly — Sarah Jones @ 7:36 am

No, we’re not giving away the Blake Quarterly (though sometimes we would like to). I previously promised a couple of giveaways to celebrate the fiftieth volume of the journal. The first is something that I would very much like, and I hope it will be equally appealing to others who are interested in Blake.


September 22, 2016

Laocoön and Languages

Filed under: Uncategorized — Robert Rich @ 8:43 pm

At least twice in the last month or so, I have found myself transcribing an object that contains writing in a language other than English. Both times I was told that the best way to find out how to handle the foreign language text would be to find an earlier instance of an object with such text on it and look at the BAD file for that object. Laocoön has become the go-to source when I go looking for a precedent for transcription of foreign language text. (more…)

September 14, 2016

A Little Slack

Filed under: BAND — Tags: , — Eric Loy @ 2:49 pm

The Blake Archive Northern Division, up here in Rochester, met yesterday with our full complement of new and returning members. More than a dozen people! How did that happen?

Well, it probably happened because we generally smell good, don’t bite, and Morris often regales the group with tales of his culinary adventures. In any event, numbers are up, and quite significantly. And this presents new challenges of coordination and communication. You can probably see where this is going…

The Blake Archive group in Rochester is now on Slack. (more…)

September 1, 2016

Index initiatives and my weasel words

Filed under: Blake Quarterly — Tags: — Sarah Jones @ 2:50 pm

Recently I updated the journal’s index to include links to articles published in the 1980s, which are now freely available in the Blake Archive’s repository of Blake Quarterly back issues. The archive released these articles at the end of April; in the first part of the summer my colleagues in the archive team here at Rochester added the links to the index before I checked them and published the revised version. Of course the archive has since released issues from the 1960s (at my behest, so I have no one to blame but myself), which means that the task of adding links for their contents now lurks on my to-do list. (more…)

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