Virtual Blake

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By Joe Fletcher

As we continue work on the redesign of the Archive, our collaborative efforts with programmers and web designers who are unfamiliar with Blake’s work reveal aspects of the Archive’s structure and organization that we take for granted. Our bi-weekly meetings often involve volleys of patient explication: the Blake folks (Joe Viscomi, Ashley Reed, Mike Fox, and myself) offer mini lessons on Blake’s multimedia production in order that the designers and programmers better understand the content they’re working with; and they in turn lecture us on the possibilities and constraints involved with the database structures, modified programming languages, etc. that will display that content.

One recent sticking point has been the concept of virtual groups. Virtual groups designate objects that Blake himself never conceived of, produced, or bound as a unified work in the way that he grouped, say, the eighteen plates of America as a single work. Examples of virtual groups include the Large Color Printed Drawings, the Pen and Ink Drawings, the water color and painted Illustrations to the Bible, and Blake’s letters. These groups are titled—and their constituent objects chosen—not by Blake, but by the editors of the Archive, and thus they are a blatant example of the editorial …read more