The Cynic Sang: The Blake Archive and Blake Quarterly Blog

February 25, 2016

Publication Announcement – Genesis manuscript

Filed under: Publications — Tags: , — Andrea H. Everett @ 2:31 pm

The William Blake Archive is pleased to announce the publication of an electronic edition of the Genesis manuscript from the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

In the last year of his life, Blake began an illuminated manuscript of the biblical Book of Genesis for his patron, John Linnell. Of its eleven large leaves, probably cut from Whatman Imperial-sized wove paper, the first two are title pages. (more…)

February 24, 2016

A Woman Washed Away

Filed under: Uncategorized — Adam Engel @ 5:53 pm

The following is a note I left to future scholars and editors exploring copy F of Blake’s Songs of Innocence:

“The woman who, in copy B, sits behind the table, second from the left, is nearly absent in copy F. A shape that may be her right shoulder appears in F, as well as in S-IE C and S-IE R. She is absent from S-Inn L and Z.(more…)

February 18, 2016

The Image Hunt

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jennifer Park @ 11:54 am

Four Zoas, p. 115–image is not the same as image we have for The Four Zoas. Where to find?” As one of the editorial assistants involved with processing images for the digitizing of Blake: An Illustrated Quarterly, I faced the occasional challenge of locating an image in the William Blake Archive with the limited information provided by sparse captions of older articles. But what if the image and the caption didn’t match up? I wrote the note above in my BIQ image processing notes, identifying a case where locating the intended image presented an additional challenge to the image hunt. (more…)

February 16, 2016

Managing Marginalia: Two Ways

Filed under: BAND, Digital Humanities, Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Laura Whitebell @ 12:54 pm

We are experiencing Real Winter Weather for the first time this season, so it seems apt that BAND are about to re-visit a project that kept us occupied last time the snow fell and the mercury plummeted: Blake’s marginalia.

As Lisa discussed last winter, one of the projects that we have yet to tackle fully is the annotations that Blake made in books from his own collection, a unique and challenging combination of a manuscript and a typographical work. This week, we’ll be holding the first meeting of Team Marginalia, a similar kind of working group as Team Color Code, who will be focusing on the specific problems that this kind of work poses. (more…)

February 12, 2016

Finding the Right Tool

Filed under: Uncategorized — glassgrant @ 10:18 am

In my current work, I am assisting the Technical Editor in developing a Lightbox application for the website (in which we are moving from a Java to Javascript) and I often reflect on what the lines of code that I appropriate for the application actually do to the images. This blog post is a meditation on what it means to digitize. In the Oxford English Dictionary, digitization refers to the ‘action or process of digitizing the conversion of analogue data (esp. in later use images, video, and text) into digital form’ (OED Online, 2016). I think it is rather interesting that the word “process” is used, because it is a neutral term, which hides all of the editorial decisions that are sometimes behind the conversion of the analogue to digital. But what might be even more deceiving is when the software itself manipulates or mutates the data. An interesting example of this is a JQuery library that allows one to crop an image, but resizes the image when it is loaded into the canvas (see I was initially drawn to this library because it retains the metadata from the image when you crop or manipulate the image. However, if you look at the variable NaturalWidth or NaturalHeight the values remain the same, regardless of image(or image file type). (more…)

February 4, 2016

Reflections on the material consequences of image processing

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Mary Learner @ 5:58 pm

For my most recent task as one of the project assistants digitizing Blake: An Illustrated Quarterly, I had to resize and rotate images from the journal that are blurry, crooked, or otherwise aesthetically displeasing. This task is about as complex as it sounds. I enter width values into XML documents or slightly rotate files, finessing how the pictures appear on the page until I am satisfied with the result. The images that require attention are not the materials from the William Blake Archive, which appear as high quality scans in the articles with links to objects in the archive, but instead are images the archive does not have, either because they are not Blake’s work or they are unavailable, and so have been cropped from PDFs made from scans of the printed editions that include grey-scale photos of the originals. Which, as that convoluted sentence suggests, means these cropped PDF images are fairly removed from their origins. And as a nascent book historian fascinated by materiality, in relation to both print and digital editions, I am reminded of the significant consequences of editorial choices even when they are as minor as adjusting how images appear on a page. Along with the other graduate students completing this project, I am leaving fingerprints of yet another mutation on the material.

Bibliographers and digital humanists have an ongoing debate about the effects of transmission and reproduction, especially in relation to technological advances. Thomas Tanselle, writing in 1989 before the digital boom, argued that “every reproduction is a new document.”[1] Albeit he was considering reproductions in terms of Xeroxes as replacements for original materials, but as scholars like Matthew Kirschenbaum and Bonnie Mak have persuasively argued, the materiality of digital objects also necessitates each reproduction to be considered unique, believing like Tanselle that “with characteristics of its own […] no artifact can be a substitute for another artifact.”[2] Each modification leaves traces behind. For Mak, a palimpsest serves as a useful metaphor to comprehend this layering of meaning through mediation since “Palimpsests, by definition, are evidence of an effacement that is incomplete; they transmit vestiges of their former lives […] [and] digitizations may be recognized as vibrant and historically situated sources in their own right that offer alternative points of entry into enduring debates about the production and transmission of knowledge.”[3]

According to these definitions, even the minute changes in size, which are mostly arbitrary and based on aesthetics, add another layer of meaning that both changes the object and affects readers’ experiences of it. This dilemma is nothing new—it’s one that has been raised by the editors from the project’s beginnings—and it reveals the issue of theory versus practice. In theory, each action made by editors and project assistants alters the material. But in practice these many of these changes occur below the threshold of human vision. There are alterations that meaningful and discernable, and there are ones that are not.

Of course the adjustments I make on these images are not to efface the original, but rather to better represent the articles in a different medium. The main goal is to improve the appearance of image quality. By shrinking the scans, grainy pictures become sharper. My tinkering is well-intentioned and never purposefully distorting, instead done with an eye to clarify what appears blurry. But these modifications do have consequences, perhaps inescapable in the transition from print to digital. For instance, the size difference online prioritizes the images from the Blake Archive, and rightfully so in a journal that emphasizes Blake’s illustrations. To look more closely at the cropped scans requires more engagement by the reader, who must click on the image if they want to see a larger version, or open the link to the full PDF of the issue (though again, they will download a reproduction). So I can’t help but wonder about the effects of medium on interactions with the journal, and what is enabled and lost in the process of editing it, even when making the smallest of changes. As to how meaning changes with difference in image size, however, is up for readers to decide.


[1] Thomas Tanselle, “Reproductions and Scholarship,” in Literature and Artifacts (Charlottesville: Bibliographical Society of the University of Virginia, 1998), 70.

[2] Ibid., 70.

[3] Bonnie Mak, “Archaeology of a Digitization,” JAIST 65.8 (2014): 1516.


February 2, 2016

MLA Session 522 Recap

Filed under: BAND — Tags: , , , — Eric Loy @ 3:54 pm

I had the distinct pleasure of participating in a panel at MLA 2016 last month, titled “Bibliography in the Digital Age: Tools, Technologies, Theories” and sponsored by the forum Bibliography and Scholarly Editing. (more…)

January 28, 2016

Hidden Behind a Screen

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Rachael Isom @ 7:40 pm

During the past few months I have been one of several project assistants processing images for the online archive of Blake: An Illustrated Quarterly. Every now and then, hidden amongst the articles, minute particulars, and book reviews, I’ll stumble across a creative piece. Last week, while working on an issue from 1991, a poem caught my eye, but it wasn’t a poem by Blake; it was a poem about the Blakes, written by American poet Paulette Roeske. It’s called “Mrs. Blake Requests Her Portrait.” (more…)

January 21, 2016

Blake Quarterly winter issue

Filed under: Blake Quarterly — Sarah Jones @ 3:48 pm

Our winter issue (vol. 49, no. 3) has just been published. It contains: (more…)

December 17, 2015

Publication Announcement – Songs of Innocence copies I, X, and Z

Filed under: Publications — Tags: , — Andrea H. Everett @ 1:00 pm

The William Blake Archive is pleased to announce the publication of electronic editions of Songs of Innocence copies I, X, and Z from the Huntington Library and Art Gallery, the National Gallery of Victoria, and the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Munich. They join copies B from the Library of Congress, G from the Yale Center for British Art, L from the Bodleian Library, and U from the Houghton Library. (more…)

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