This week we published our winter issue (vol. 51, no. 3), which will be completely open access for the next few days. It features the last article in our queue from the late Jerry Bentley, “Rosenbach and Blake,” about the numerous Blake works handled by the dealer A. S. W. Rosenbach in the first half of the twentieth century, many from the collection of W. A. White and many for the collection of Lessing J. Rosenwald (now in the Library of Congress and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC).
The first article of Jerry’s that I worked on was his annual “William Blake and His Circle” checklist of publications for our summer 2002 issue; looking back, I realize that I had very little idea what I was doing, so I’d like to think that this time I had a better grasp of what Jerry would have wanted. It’s challenging to copyedit an article when you can’t ask questions of the author, but I had great help from Bob Essick on sticky issues of identification and provenance, and I used editors’ notes to indicate additional information.
In the e-mails that had gone back and forth when “Rosenbach and Blake” was being considered for publication, Jerry had made several suggestions for images, some of which are in the National Gallery of Art. Serendipitously, between the time of the article’s acceptance and the time of publication, the NGA instituted an open access policy for works in the public domain, which made it easy to fulfill his wishes.
The front cover of the issue is an image of plate 9 from America copy M, a work that Rosenbach valued for White’s estate in 1927; copy M went to White’s daughter and eventually to Paul Mellon, who gave it to the Yale Center for British Art (another institution with a liberal policy for image use). I spent several (happy?) hours “painting over” the text of plate 9 with the clone stamp tool in Adobe Photoshop so that I could use the space for the journal title and volume number. All the while I was thinking of Blake’s words about printing for Ozias Humphry “a selection from the different Books of such as could be Printed without the Writing” (letter of 9 June 1818)—I felt that I was doing the modern-day equivalent of obscuring the text.
Coincidentally, that letter of 9 June 1818 was also in White’s collection; it went to Rosenbach himself, and now belongs to the Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia (formerly the Rosenbach Foundation). Which just goes to show that many Blake roads run through Rosenbach, just as many articles about Blake rely on the research of Jerry Bentley.