Sisyphus and Consistency

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By Adam Engel

My recent projects as Editorial Assistant at the William Blake Archive have shared a mission: to ensure the consistency of the Archive’s text. My last project was to go through the Blake Archive Documents (BADs) and capitalize the C’s, P’s, and O’s in the words “Copy,” “Plate,” and “Object” (and their plurals) whenever they refer to specific copies, plates, or objects. My current project is to enter Bob Essick’s revisions to the lists of related works for each object, so that when the redesigned Archive is unveiled, it will have the most comprehensive, accurate, and consistent information possible.

For a body of work as vast as Blake’s, with its universe of versions, editions, copies, and drafts, one might think that consistency is a Sisyphean ideal, a task to be reset with every new editorial staff or version of the website. I’m reminded of the struggling librarians in the University Archives of Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicle:

“Cataloging,” Wil said. “There have been many different systems over the years. Some masters prefer one, some prefer another.” He frowned. “Some create their own systems for organizing the books.”

I laughed. “You sound like they should be pilloried for it.”

“Perhaps,” Wil grumbled. “I would not weep over such …read more