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BAND

BAND, XML

William Blake’s letters: Date dilemma and Keynes’s commas

Bentley reads William Blake’s letter to Thomas Butts dated September, 23, 1800 as “22 September 1800” and makes a footnote explaining the same (1541). Similarly, another letter written to Butts dated January 10, 1802 is a matter of dispute and disagreement among scholars and editors. While the object (image— lt10jan1802.1.2.LT.300.jpg) itself says “January 10. 1802”, Erdman suggests it is 1803 and not 1802, and Keynes mentions both. When we were discussing this in our BAND meeting, Sarah recommended me a copy of “Blake/ An Illustrated Quarterly 51 Volume 13 Number 3 Winter 79-80”; I did find a brief note about this discrepancy in this issue (page 148). Then the concern was how and where should we address this in the XML file.

After a couple of discussions and email-exchanges with Morris, Eric and Jarrod, we concluded that the letters should remain unscathed– no textual notes here. Rather we decided to make object notes whenever there is a date-discrepancy. Also, two lines in the January 10, 1802 letter are “perhaps quoted from Blake’s copy of Percy’s Reliques of Ancient English Poetry (1765)” (Bentley, 1558). Keynes and Bentley have made footnotes. We decided to go with object notes and not textual notes for this as well. We agreed that the best possible guide as far as the format of object notes is concerned should be the Blake Archive’s published letters.

So now, what about textual notes?

After a month or so of working on this project, I had a brief discussion with Joey right after our BAND meeting regarding “Keynes and the commas in his edition” and “why.” We wondered why almost in every other line, does he add a semicolon or a period and if not anything else a comma or a bunch of them in a single sentence. Yes, comma seems to be his favorite punctuation mark. For the first two letters that I edited, I made notes of each and every punctuation mark added by all three of them and if I check the Google doc (to keep track of the changes made, additional punctuations and so on.), I will find “Keynes adds a comma after this word,” “Keynes reads the period as comma,” “Keynes adds a semicolon here” multiple times. But then we also discussed in the BAND meeting that only capitalization of letters should be addressed in the textual notes and not the punctuation-changes. Morris was there as well and shared some Keynes trivia. To begin with, this is the author and surgeon Sir Geoffrey Langdon Keynes, younger brother of the economist John Maynard Keynes. He was the President of the Bibliographical Society of London from 1952-1954 and was a recipient of the Society’s Gold Medal (1982). Moreover, besides being one of the earliest Blake scholars, he is also known for the biographies and bibliographies of noted English writers such as Sir Thomas Browne, John Donne, Jane Austen and Siegfried Sassoon.

Here’s our concluding thought:
So, if you don’t want to go back only to remove your notes, just don’t make them in the first place.
And we told ourselves, “Ignore the commas, not Keynes.”

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BAND, XML

Trouble in paradise: our divergent uses of the new marginalia schema

In the excitingly titled “So then what happened?” Rob outlined some of the major changes that we’ve introduced to the marginalia schema, such as using specific <layer>s to differentiate between typographic text and Blake’s writing, dispensing with line numbers for the typographic text, and dividing the annotations into discrete zones with fluid spatial coordinates. Armed with these new and fascinating solutions, we decided to transcribe the marginalia BADs independently and to hold bimonthly update sessions to discuss our progress or talk about any specific problems that came up.

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BAND

Slack Update

In the fall, BAND (our group in Rochester) decided to try out the Slack app.

Growing group numbers and starting more complicated and diverse projects led us to try out a communication platform that was built to handle such dynamic work environments. It was/is an experiment, and I promised to check back after a semester to reflect on how the experiment was going. Here’s my report:

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BAND, XML

Do we know what we’re estimating?

One of many things that working on the separate plates has gotten me thinking about is how we conceptualize units of space. Doing the textual transcriptions for the separate plates requires that we use a lot of <space/> and <vspace/> tags. Inside these elements, we use the attribute “extent=” to describe the size of the space. The difficulty of this is that I never feel like I have any idea what it is we’re counting. It seems like the standard instruction in the matter is to put down a rough guess and wait until it’s up on the testing site to ensure the accuracy of the number. This makes sense, but it would seem that even to put in a rough guess a person would need to have some idea what the unit is. Consulting the “Filling out an XML BAD File” on the WIP site doesn’t provide any help in the matter.

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BAND

A Newbie Learns to Read Blake

Since this is my first semester working with the Blake Archive—and all of my previous interaction with Blake’s work has consisted of reading his poems in relative isolation in my house—my main concern has been trying to understand Blake’s handwriting and figure out how the XML tag set works. More specifically, I have been trying to identify the places in the text where Blake scribbles over words or crosses them out. In some instances, the word underneath may be legible, but as a newcomer to reading Blake’s original manuscripts, I have trouble asserting anything with authority. Similarly, it has been difficult deciphering the way in which Blake renders some individual letters. For example, his “s” often looks like an “f” and his periods sometimes look like commas. I realize that recognizing things quickly is an issue of experience, and I do find that copyediting the XML against the original images of the letters is very helpful. The process of working backwards—looking at the XML, then the handwriting—seems far more useful than trying to look at the letter and blindly translate Blake’s handwriting.

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BAND, XML

The Problem of Metamarks

This semester we’re looking at some of the unique features of the Blake marginalia, and some of the challenges of representing them accurately with TEI elements. One element we’re considering is <metamark>. But what exactly is a metamark?

This is how it’s described on the main website, which is frequently repeated elsewhere online:

<metamark> contains or describes any kind of graphic or written signal within a document the function of which is to determine how it should be read rather than forming part of the actual content of the document.

Note the extreme ambiguity of this description, e.g. about what the ‘it’ actually means. The metamark is a graphic or signal which is supposed to determine how it should be read — ‘it’, meaning of course not the metamark but the document, in which you find the metamark. Not that this brief description gives any indication as to what limits or bounds that ‘document’ or what kind of scope it has for telling the reader how this document (the paragraph, the page, the chapter?) should be read.

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BAND

Sometimes We Fail, But That’s Great

marginalia

Working for the William Blake Archive has been exceptionally exciting this semester. Two major project teams are striving to arrive at a better understanding of how to encode some of Blake’s least audience-friendly works: The Four Zoas and his marginalia. The process of approaching these works has required patience, and for every successful moment there have been multiple failures. But these failures are not meaningless, or at least I like to think so. My recent encoding attempts of Blake’s marginalia have not been used by the team as a model of what to do. Quite the opposite, my encoding attempts have consistently been used by the team as examples of what we want to avoid, and I think that’s useful.

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BAND, Blake Quarterly

Blogging about the blog

It’s no secret, given Mike’s recent preview of the technical summary and tweets like this

Delighted to be shown upcoming redesigned @BlakeArchive site by Joe Viscomi, Michael Fox, Joseph Fletcher. pic.twitter.com/r081bruJvJ

— Alan Liu (@alanyliu) February 10, 2016

that the Blake Archive is undergoing a top-to-bottom cosmetic and structural redesign, the kind that takes thousands of hours and elicits oohs and aahs when it’s revealed.

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BAND

Archivists or… Aliens?

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.

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BAND, XML

Laocoön and Languages

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.

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