The “Manual” Humanities

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By Laura Whitebell

One of the things we’ve been endlessly debating in our Team Marginalia meetings has been how to “categorize” the various kinds of inscription we’ve found in our examples of Blake’s annotated books. And this is not to mention the ongoing conversation about how to handle text on the page that is not by Blake, such as the original work itself or editorial apparatus such as page numbers. In an attempt to halt the merry-go-round that these related discussions have become, we tried a new approach at our last meeting, one that we might even call “The Manual Humanities.”

Basically, what we did was this: we chose half-a-dozen pages that seemed to include representative examples of Blake’s annotations, printed out paper copies and came along to the meeting armed with colored pencils and pens. We then each marked up a couple of pages using different colors to highlight all the elements that we thought were important to encode. So, for example, in the left-hand example below, green indicates a textual marginal annotation by Blake, orange is original text that Blake has underlined, yellow is for details like page numbers and catchwords, and so on and so forth.

The beauty …read more