Blake in Photoshop, Part 2.5: Can You Read This?

      No Comments on Blake in Photoshop, Part 2.5: Can You Read This?

By Eric Loy

Image of William Blake Letter 11 October 1819.

A few weeks ago, I blogged about a simple Photoshop technique for recovering faded text in old manuscripts. I used a couple of objects from Four Zoas as a demo because we’ve been working a lot with Four Zoas and, well, it’s pretty hard to read.

It wasn’t a true experiment, though. Because FZ has been so heavily scrutinized by scholars past and present, nearly every conceivable reading is documented and available for verification. In other words, I was working towards a recovery that I already had in mind. Not-so-boldly-going where many have gone before.

OK, so maybe that’s fine for proof-of-concept. But what about a real test? Could we try this out on something we really had trouble reading? Wouldn’t you know it—a recent letter acquisition provided exactly that opportunity.

Penmanship is a Lost Art

The letter in question is 11 October 1819, from William Blake to an unidentified addressee (most scholars guess John Linnell). Our focus in not on Blake’s script, however, but some stuff that’s been scribbled on the reverse side by an unknown hand (most likely a collector, archivist, etc.). Our standard sources of Bentley, Erdman, and Keynes are silent on the matter. Uncharted territory.

Well, hey, hasn’t Eric been …read more