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William Blake and His Circle: A Checklist of Scholarship in 2017

Wayne C. Ripley

It is an intimidating prospect to follow the late G. E. Bentley, Jr., in compiling even a portion of this year’s checklist. As readers of this journal well know, Bentley’s impact on the study of Blake was profound and places him in the lofty empyrean inhabited by Geoffrey Keynes, S. Foster Damon, Mona Wilson, Northrop Frye, and David V. Erdman. In the words of David Worrall, “As Bentley realized a long time ago, and the rest of us somewhat later, the study of Blake is a uniquely complex activity because the abundance, technical complexity and material diversity of Blake’s original artifacts is combined with a dearth of ‘literary’ information about his life.” In A Blake Bibliography (co-authored with Martin K. Nurmi), Blake Books, Blake Books Supplement, and “William Blake and His Circle,” Bentley brought bibliography on both Blake and scholarship about him to its present state of precision and comprehensiveness. In Blake Records, he provided scholars with an easy means of accessing all the materially known facts of Blake’s life and his contemporary reception. He edited important facsimiles that offered painstaking transcriptions of Tiriel and Vala, or The Four Zoas, and his William Blake’s Writings vied with Erdman’s Complete Poetry and Prose as the most authoritative letterpress edition of Blake’s literary works. His scholarship was frightfully prolific, even toward the end of his life, and it covered not only Blake but also a wide range of writers and publishers connected to him, including George Cumberland, the Edwardses of Halifax, and Thomas Macklin. The highest praise may be the simplest: G. E. Bentley, Jr., helped us understand Blake better.

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