At the Blake Archive, graduate students–and now, undergrads, too–participate deeply in the day-to-day happenings of transcription, encoding, and editing that are typical of digital projects. This fall, the Blake Archive North Division (BAND) welcomed a rather large influx of interested students to the University of Rochester. It presented positive problem for the [distinguished, good looking, still very young, etc.] senior members of the team: what do we do with these newbies?

I was one of the greenhorns in question. Coming from Creighton University and an assistantship with The Complete Letters of Henry James project, I had some foundational experience in editing, but I was still new to the pragmatics of the digital scene. With a general strategy towards quickly training new researchers like myself, recently acquired Blake letters were distributed among the new team members. The idea was that a letter–as a short, self-contained, historical object–could provide a microcosm to the editorial process, both specific to the Blake Archive and in general to digital editing.

In many respects, the strategy has been a success. After a few months, each new member is now nearing completion of their own letter. And because of the consistent editorial rationale of the Blake Archive, the process of editing each letter has mimicked the processes of much larger, more complicated texts in the archive.

Here’s some of what we covered in that time frame:

  • “transcribe what you see” historical perspective
  • consultation of standard Blake sources, like Bentley or Erdman
  • establishment of Work Information and provenance of historical objects
  • manipulation of XML files for web display, and other technical backgrounds
  • understanding use of [Blake Archive-specific] XML tagsets in relation to manuscript readings
  • proofreading
  • editorial collaboration and problem-solving, both via email and weekly meetings

We were even fortunate enough to uncover a few new issues for Blake Archive manuscripts, like how we would like to display and encode single lines of text that require multiple editorial notes.

So it seems that as a training tool, letter projects can lend themselves to the quick inclusion and education of new researches. You can look for our letter work in the Archive’s upcoming winter publications. And thanks, Mr. Blake, for keeping it short.