[Humanist] 23.359 new on WWW: update to the Blake Archive

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Thu Oct 8 07:52:24 CEST 2009

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 23, No. 359.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Wed, 7 Oct 2009 14:05:13 -0400 (EDT)
        From: William S Shaw <wsshaw at email.unc.edu>
        Subject: Update to the William Blake Archive

7 October 2009

The William Blake Archive  http://www.blakearchive.org  is pleased to 
announce the publication of an electronic edition of Blake's ten 
monochrome wash drawings illustrating Mary Wollstonecraft's _Original 
Stories from Real Life_ and the first and second editions of the book 
containing Blake's six engravings of his designs.  The designs and 
inscribed texts in all three series are fully searchable and are supported 
by our Inote and ImageSizer applications.

In 1788, Joseph Johnson published the first edition of Mary 
Wollstonecraft's morally instructive narrative for children, _Original 
Stories from Real Life; with Conversations, Calculated to Regulate the 
Affections, and Form the Mind to Truth and Goodness_. A few years later, 
Johnson decided to issue a new edition, for which he commissioned Blake to 
prepare a series of illustrations.  Blake's extant drawings, now in the 
Rosenwald Collection, Library of Congress, are datable to c. 1791.  In 
addition to these ten designs, Blake must have executed at least one 
further drawing as a preliminary for his fifth plate; this drawing is 
untraced.  Six designs were selected for publication in the 1791 edition 
of Wollstonecraft's book; Blake engraved the designs himself.  The first 
and second states of Blake's plates appear variously in copies of the 1791 
edition.  The second edition to contain Blake's plates was published by 
Johnson in 1796; it contains the third (final) states of Blake's plates. 
The copy of the 1791 edition now in the Archive is from the Huntington 
Library; it contains the second states of the plates.  The copy of the 
1796 edition in the Archive is from the Essick collection and contains the 
third (final) states of the plates.

Modern interpreters of the illustrations have detected a pictorial 
critique of Wollstonecraft's stories.  Blake appears to have found her 
morality too calculating, rationalistic, and rigid.  He represents 
Wollstonecraft's spokesperson, Mrs. Mason, as a domineering presence. From 
Blake's perspective, Mason's acts of charity are excessively condescending 
and tend to reinforce the underlying social conditions that create 
disparities between wealth and poverty.  As Blake wrote in "The Human 
Abstract," "Pity would be no more, / If we did not make somebody Poor."

With this publication, the Archive adds a new set of scholarly tools. 
These tools, known collectively as our Related Works system, are designed 
to show relationships among works and individual objects in the Archive. 
They function at two levels. First, work index pages now include active 
links to related materials in the Archive (for example, a set of 
preliminary sketches for a group of engravings).  Second, the Show Me menu 
on object view pages now includes Related Works in the Archive. Like the 
work-level menu, this list includes active links to the related objects 
and is meant to allow study of the related materials side-by-side.  The 
Wollstonecraft illustrations are the first publication in the Archive to 
use this feature.

As always, the William Blake Archive is a free site, imposing no access 
restrictions and charging no subscription fees. The site is made possible 
by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the cooperation of 
the international array of libraries and museums that have generously 
given us permission to reproduce works from their collections in the 

Morris Eaves, Robert N. Essick, and Joseph Viscomi, editors
Ashley Reed, project manager, William Shaw, technical editor
The William Blake Archive

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