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.”