There are many Blake books but only one Blake Books by G. E. Bentley, Jr., the catalogue of works and criticism that was first published forty years ago this year.
It has six sections—Blake’s writings, reproductions of drawings and paintings, commercial engravings, catalogues and bibliographies, books owned by Blake, and criticism, biography, and scholarly studies—with each entry assigned a number, from #1 for “The Accusers” to #3064 for an article by Stefan Zweig.
Here’s a review by Robert N. Essick from our winter 1977-78 issue. Blake Books (BB for short) gave birth to Blake Books Supplement (BBS) in 1995 (reviewed for us by David Worrall), and there have been annual installments in the journal ever since, under the title “William Blake and His Circle: A Checklist of Publications and Discoveries.” The checklists in the journal introduced a new section, on Blake’s circle (Hayley, Stedman, etc.). Jerry Bentley also maintains a cumulative version of “William Blake and His Circle” at the Bentley Blake Collection site at the University of Toronto.
I’m currently laying out and editing the checklist of publications for 2016, which will appear in our summer 2017 issue (sneak peek of the first sentence here). The first time I published a checklist, in 2002, I didn’t have much clue how its entries related to the conventions of Blake Books. I gradually became wiser to its ways and now this time of year falls into a familiar routine, shaped by many years of consulting Blake Books and working with Jerry.
We used to say that the checklist in the journal has the same principles and conventions as Blake Books, but a few years ago I changed “same” to “similar,” which cunningly allows me to justify to Jerry (in my eyes, anyway, if not in his) any omissions or changes that I want to make in the editing process.
My copy of Blake Books is the facsimile of the 1977 edition produced in 2000 by Martino Publishing. It’s a little the worse for wear
but I wouldn’t change it for another copy, no matter how often the loose leaves fall out. The condition of the book is a testament to the time spent as managing editor of the journal (I think that makes me somewhat frayed around the edges).
Happy fortieth anniversary, Blake Books!