Department of English
University of Rochester
Rochester, NY 14627-0451
Department of English
University of California
Berkeley, CA 94720-1030
Tristanne J. Connolly, University of Waterloo
Detlef W. Dörrbecker, University of Trier
Sibylle Erle, Bishop Grosseteste University
Robert N. Essick, University of California, Riverside
Angela Esterhammer, Victoria College, University of Toronto
Nelson Hilton, University of Georgia
Tilar J. Mazzeo, Colby College
Anne K. Mellor, University of California, Los Angeles
Joseph Viscomi, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
David Worrall, The Nottingham Trent University
Department of English
University of Rochester
Rochester, NY 14627-0451
Phone: (585) 275-3820
Blake/An Illustrated Quarterly emerged at a time when the sense and place of William Blake was changing. In popular culture he was becoming a hero of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. In the world of academic scholarship attention was shifting from Blake the poet to—in Geoffrey Keynes’s words—Blake the poet, painter, and prophet … and, fundamental to all else, Blake the printmaker. The quarterly began as the Blake Newsletter in June 1967, conceived in a series of conversations in London and New York the year before. A nine-page mimeographed publication of the Department of English at Berkeley, it opened with words from the editor, Morton Paley: “I think the Newsletter should be just that—not an incipient journal.” The issue included a report on the rediscovery of the Small Blake-Varley Sketchbook and solicited opinions on the dating of the two Nights the Seventh in Blake’s long, unpublished manuscript The Four Zoas. Future issues, Paley wrote, would include “announcements, queries, controversy, and notes of special interest to Blake scholars—all of an informal nature.” The first original poem, Laurence Goldstein’s “Sermon by Mr. Blake, for S. Foster Damon,” appeared in the third issue, December 1967. There were fifty-three pages—all imageless—in that first volume.
Morris Eaves joined Paley in 1970, after fourteen issues, when the newsletter was caught in severe budget cuts by the California legislature. Eaves moved the newsletter’s printing and publishing business to the University of New Mexico after persuading the dean in Albuquerque to grant a subsidy of $1500 a year. Donald Ault and Michael Phillips were by that time associate editors. Mimeograph became offset lithography, and glossy paper accommodated halftone illustrations. The first issue from New Mexico included news and works in progress, four images, notes by David Bindman and Phillips, a review by E. J. Rose of the second edition of David Erdman’s Blake: Prophet against Empire, queries from W. H. Stevenson and Ruthven Todd, and the third annual checklist of Blake scholarship, which included criticism along with catalogues, reproductions, films and television programs, phonograph records, and musical scores. The Blake Newsletter was setting the pattern for its future and outgrowing the newsletter designation.
Despite the sophisticated capabilities of the University of New Mexico printing plant, which had a history of printing fine books about photography, painting, and fine-art lithography, the newsletter’s low-budget production methods were crude and amateurish. Layouts were cobbled together from texts laboriously typed on an IBM Selectric and then cut and pasted with rubber cement onto layout sheets—with display type (titles, subtitles, headings) transferred by hand from Letraset sheets bought at the local art-supply store—before printing and binding. Work-study student Roberta Goetsch was the journal’s first editorial assistant. Eventually editorial assistant became managing editor, a full-time position filled by a succession of three very fine and conscientious people: Susan Corban, Marcy Erickson—who recalls “working with the guys in the print shop, making corrections to blue-lines, learning ReportPack to set up a subscription management database, and working with graduate student assistants”—and Robin Tawney. They were assisted by an equally memorable and dedicated group of graduate students at UNM.
In that decade and a half—1970-86—the journal published Robert N. Essick’s 160-page “Finding List of Reproductions of Blake’s Art” (summer-fall 1971), which provided unprecedented access to Blake’s visual art—and the first and only issue with a “perfect” square binding as opposed to a stitched (stapled) binding. The cover of the winter 1974-75 issue featured the first color illustration—with, inside, an ambitious double foldout of The Characters of Spenser’s Faerie Queene—to anchor John E. Grant and Robert E. Brown’s extensive essay on the painting, with an elaborate key to the characters and many enlarged details. The journal’s penchant for lists began to appear in such publications as G. E. Bentley, Jr.’s finding list of the British Museum Blake collection (spring 1972), Ruth Fine Lehrer’s finding list of the Lessing J. Rosenwald collection (winter 1975-76), and Essick’s annual review of Blake sales, “Blake in the Marketplace,” which first appeared under that title in winter 1973-74. Those long-anticipated arguments mentioned in the first issue, about the dating and sequence of the two Nights the Seventh of The Four Zoas, resurfaced in a special issue (fall 1978). Paley’s fundamental essay on Blake and Swedenborg appeared in fall 1979. And in 1970 comments by Grant, in his two-part essay on Blake’s Arlington Court picture (sometimes called The Sea of Time and Space), spawned a discussion with John Beer and Irene Chayes that persisted for more than a year. Discussion and debate became frequent features, under a familiar Blakean rubric: “With intellectual spears, & long winged arrows of thought.”
“Newsletter” became “illustrated quarterly” in 1977, and the price of a subscription went up to $10 (for individuals) the next year. In 1976 Thomas Minnick (Ohio State University) became the journal’s bibliographer, helping to turn the quarterly’s annual checklists of Blake scholarship into a reliably regular feature. Minnick and Detlef Dörrbecker (University of Trier) joined forces soon after, until Dörrbecker went solo in winter 1986-87. Nelson Hilton (University of Georgia) became the journal’s first review editor in 1980.
By 1982-83 the UNM printing plant had begun to abandon its Linotype machines for computer typesetting, a transition that gave the quarterly an opportunity to abandon its own IBM Correcting Selectric. In 1986 the journal moved with Eaves to the University of Rochester in New York, where Patricia Neill became the longtime managing editor (1986-2001). Neill handled the transitions from conventional commercial and institutional production to offsite desktop publishing by the Rochester company PublishEase to desktop publishing in house—with the serendipitous help of the production manager at Cornell University Press, Richard Rosenbaum, who designed, gratis, a new layout to optimize the capabilities of desktop publishing within a small budget. E-mail addresses had first appeared in the masthead in spring 1994, along with the first acknowledgement that contributors might not be sending hard copy: “Please send floppy disks if your manuscript was typed on a computer, and note the name of the computer, the word processing system used, and the file name of your article.” G. E. Bentley, Jr. (University of Toronto), took Dörrbecker’s place as bibliographer in 1994, producing the first of his annual checklists, “William Blake and His Circle.” Alexander Gourlay (Rhode Island School of Design) succeeded Hilton as review editor in 2006. From 2004 through 2007 the quarterly published a series of revelations of the “lost Moravian history of William Blake’s family”—featuring the Moravian background and first marriage of Blake’s mother—by Keri Davies and Marsha Keith Schuchard. In the best tradition of intense scholarly argument, Essick and Joseph Viscomi debated with Phillips the methods by which Blake produced his color-printed relief etchings and color-printed drawings (2001-02). Those and many other illustrated essays, notes, discussions, and reviews, punctuated annually by Bentley’s and Essick’s accounts of recent research and sales respectively, constitute some of the most important and various scholarly work in Blake studies since 1967.
In 2001 Sarah Jones became the journal’s managing editor. She gradually reorganized the infrastructure from the ground up. After mastering subscription management, editing, production, and design via desktop publishing, she—in collaboration with the staff of the Rush Rhees Library at the University of Rochester—made it possible to redesign the journal for online publication on the popular open access platform OJS/Open Journal Systems beginning in 2011.
Traditionally, journals have sold their back issues the way publishers sell their backlists. Blake did that for decades and then changed course in 2014, when the William Blake Archive added a new wing devoted to freely available and searchable HTML and PDF editions of back issues, beginning with issues from the years 2000-09. In 2015 the archive added forty issues from 1990 to 2000 and five issues published since 2010; in 2016 the quarterly’s forty issues from 1980 to 1990 and, in recognition of the journal’s fiftieth anniversary, the issues from Berkeley in the 1960s. The final big installment, in 2017, added the issues from the 1970s. Issues published within five years of the current issue will remain available only to those who subscribe to the journal.
Whenever possible, the back issues of the quarterly in the archive replace the original monochrome halftone images with full-color images—individually color corrected to archive standards and linked to archive images, including enlargements—and texts that have been corrected for typographical errors. The archival PDF versions, on the other hand, available for every issue, retain the original features of the quarterly, page for page.