Line, Line, Everywhere a Line

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By Eric Loy

By Lisa Vandenbossche

In August I took over a project that Esther Arnold, a recent PhD recipient in the English Department, had started. The project is an illustrated manuscript of the King James translation of the book of Genesis. This manuscript was probably started in the last year of Blake’s life and left unfinished upon his death.

The manuscript has offered some new challenges in terms of transcription. One of these issues is Blake’s use of ruled lines in his manuscripts and the challenge they pose to our “transcribe what you see” rule. Blake first drew evenly spaced ruled lines on the manuscript pages before beginning his writing. These lines appear to be in light pencil as a guide for the text from Genesis that Blake was transcribing. In the first two objects – presumably the most finished of the work – these lines have been erased and the text itself is illuminated in red and green, as well as highlighted in gold. The assumption being that had Blake finished all of the lines would have been erased.

Given the unfinished state of the manuscript, however, in later objects these lines have not been erased. …read more