The Cynic Sang: The Blake Archive and Blake Quarterly Blog

April 14, 2016

Isolating Vocabulary in Blake/An Illustrated Quarterly

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mary Learner @ 5:20 pm

Lately my task has been to comb through lists of words, generated by Adam McCune’s scripts that run through Blake/An Illustrated Quarterly to search for misspellings, a task which he recently described in another blog post. My section includes all unique terms that begin with lowercase s-z. I evaluate each word, particularly lingering on red squiggles that signal the unsanctified according to Microsoft Word. I time-travel through the journal as I investigate contexts for alphabetically-organized misspellings, reading blips of scholarship that span the past fifty years. (more…)

April 13, 2016

Working with Vertical Text

Filed under: BAND, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — robmrich @ 4:48 pm

It wasn’t until I began looking through all the letters in the Blake Archive that I realized just how unique Blake’s second November 22nd 1802 letter to Thomas Butts really is. This uniqueness poses some interesting problems when it comes to encoding. The text of this letter fills both leaves of paper from top to bottom and comes very close to the margins. It includes both prose and verse, and the verse is in two columns that begin on the first page and end on the second. (more…)

April 7, 2016

The Strange Unknowns of Spell-checking Blake: An Illustrated Quarterly

Filed under: Uncategorized — Rachael Isom @ 2:16 pm

As Adam explained in last week’s post, the most recent task for many project assistants has been to search out misspelled words across extant Blake: An Illustrated Quarterly issues and make emendations where needed. While Microsoft Word provides the first indication of potential errors, we proceed line-by-line through wordlists and judge whether a word is actually misspelled or is merely unrecognized because of different linguistic origins or obsolete spelling variations. The wordlist on which I’ve been working these last few weeks contains every rare word beginning with capital letters I through R. To give you a sense of the size of this grouping, I’m still solidly in the “I” portion of a document 16,479 words long, a list containing everything from expressions of “Illustration” in four different languages to my own last name in the editorial matter beneath articles. (more…)

April 5, 2016

Revenue Stamps on Receipts

Filed under: Uncategorized — harper1387 @ 11:00 pm

One of our most recent projects is the transcription of 44 receipts written and signed by William Blake. They present a few new problems, such as how to transcribe the markings between numbers — their version of a decimal point, which looks a lot like two commas. Another unique aspect is the stamp, which appears on 19 of the receipts. Initially there was uncertainty over how to classify the stamps, and they were referred to as ‘seals’ for a few months. However, consulting some reference works on philately told us that the correct term is ‘embossed revenue stamp’. These actually have a longer history than postage stamps, as they were used to denote the payment of tax on legal documents such as receipts, and before income tax became standard they were used by governments as a main source of revenue. They can be classed as either ‘documentary’ or ‘proprietary’; the latter describing stamps used for paying tax on goods, which are generally affixed to the item in question, and the former being stamps attached to legal documents. The Blake receipts carry documentary revenue stamps. (more…)

April 1, 2016

“Swift winged words”: the vocabulary and word distribution of Blake/An Illustrated Quarterly

Filed under: Blake Quarterly, Digital Humanities — Tags: — Adam McCune @ 4:31 pm

In the process of preparing the team to correct spelling errors in the digital archive of Blake/An Illustrated Quarterly (errors in the transcription and in the original print version), I have made a few interesting observations about word distribution in the BIQ corpus (before the first online issues). On the principle that misspellings occur less frequently than correct spellings, I used a series of PHP scripts to generate a wordlist sorted by the number of instances of each unique word. The team is beginning by checking the spellings of rare words (appearing 1-3 times in the whole print-only run of BIQ), in hopes of encountering a higher percentage of errors more efficiently. The word list itself, however, tells us some interesting things about the word choices of Blake scholars.


March 24, 2016

Virtual Blake

Filed under: Uncategorized — Joe Fletcher @ 9:43 am

As we continue work on the redesign of the Archive, our collaborative efforts with programmers and web designers who are unfamiliar with Blake’s work reveal aspects of the Archive’s structure and organization that we take for granted. Our bi-weekly meetings often involve volleys of patient explication: the Blake folks (Joe Viscomi, Ashley Reed, Mike Fox, and myself) offer mini lessons on Blake’s multimedia production in order that the designers and programmers better understand the content they’re working with; and they in turn lecture us on the possibilities and constraints involved with the database structures, modified programming languages, etc. that will display that content.

One recent sticking point has been the concept of virtual groups. (more…)

March 15, 2016


Filed under: Uncategorized — oishanisengupta @ 10:56 am

Object 32 of The Four Zoas (BB.209) posed a number of curious problems. This was the first experience that Anna, Miles and I had with a Four Zoas object (actually, all Anna and I had tagged before this was a receipt), and so it was quite overwhelming. In this post, I want to focus on the word between “Urizen” and “Power”.


March 10, 2016

“Streams of Gore” and the Textual Tracking of Visual Motifs

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — katherinecal @ 12:16 pm

As a follow-up to my earlier post, I will continue to explore the potential functions of the textual tag system in the William Blake Archive. In my previous post, I note that the tag “streams of gore” returns 18 hits in 11 different copies of works currently available on the WBA. Although not always the case, this particular collection of images spans almost the entirety of Blake’s career, from 1791 when he began engraving images for John Gabriel Stedman’s Narrative, of a Five Years’ Expedition, against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam to his completion between 1824-1827 of illustrations for a version of Dante’s Divine Comedy. These images also form a representative cross-section of the variety in Blake’s production in terms of the types of works he made, including commercial engraving, literary illustration, and illuminated books, as well as preparatory materials related to these. Although one arrives at this suite of images by focusing on a single textual tag, the visual variety within this category not only underscores my earlier point about the greater mutability of visual motifs when compared to text but also the way in which Blake continues to engage and grapple with a single conception—here, perhaps the unlikely, “streams of gore”—throughout his oeuvre. (more…)

March 4, 2016

Book review: William Pressly, James Barry’s Murals at the Royal Society of Arts

Filed under: Blake Quarterly — Tags: , — Sarah Jones @ 11:27 am

William Pressly’s James Barry’s Murals at the Royal Society of Arts won the prestigious Berger Prize for British Art History in December 2015. The review below, by Alexander Gourlay, will appear in the spring 2016 issue of Blake; we are posting it in advance on the blog to celebrate the recognition that the book has received.


March 2, 2016

The Episteme of the Archive

Filed under: Uncategorized — Michael R. Fox @ 8:27 am

Alan Liu recently gave a talk at UNC-Chapel Hill entitled “Key Trends in Digital Humanities: How the Digital Humanities Challenge the Idea of the Humanities.” It culminated in a discussion of the hermeneutics of the digital humanities. He showed how certain long-standing epistemological modes, such as mimesis and similitude, have exploded into new modes in this new discipline. I want to explore one of those traditional modes, similitude, as it relates to the Blake Archive. At the front end of the Archive, the mode is familiar. At the back end, it becomes unrecognizable and forces one to rethink what it means at the front end. (more…)

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