One of the goals of Team Color Code (sidenote: this is the small group of BAND assistants who are working on The Four Zoas. We’re affectionately known as TCC, which is a name that made sense in our early days and even though it no longer does, it has stuck) is to create a schema that can also be used to tackle transcription and display problems in other works. We’ve always known that the heavily-revised pages of Blake’s Notebook would benefit from an expanded tag set, but I’m starting to come across more and more works that could also use some of the elements that we’re developing in Team Color Code meetings.

One example is marginalia. Blake was the kind of book annotator that puts the most earnest of students to shame (another sidenote: I don’t get why people annotate texts, never have; I would much rather take notes). Here is a page from Blake’s own copy of the Rev. John Caspar’s, Aphorisms on Man.

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 11.20.50


At the top of page 4, Blake has underlined the phrase, “Sin and destruction of order are the same” and declared it “a golden sentence” in the left margin.

In order to describe the placement of this addition, <zone> would work beautifully. As TCC have discovered, adding @type to show where the <zone> is located on the page makes this an incredibly powerful element for describing objects as a whole and (we hope!) for eventually creating a display that reproduces the layout of the original document. For this example, we could have something like <zone type=”left_margin”> and even try out @hand or <metamark> to differentiate between Blake’s writing and the printed text.

My question now becomes one of workflow. Finding new ways to solve old transcription problems is exciting, but the flipside is that it becomes difficult to resist using the shiny new tagset, even though it’s still very much in a development stage. How do we continue to produce quality transcriptions of Blake’s work in this interim period? Have we “failed” to do this if we encounter a situation where, say, <zone> would be useful but don’t use it? Should we wait until the new schema is complete before publishing these works? And then there’s the whole question of retroactive editing: do we need to go back through the Blake Archive and alter all of our transcriptions?  The thought is enough to drive me to read some of Caspar’s Aphorisms on Man.