I was most struck my Blake’s description of his own method: “first the notion that man has a body distinct from his soul, is to be expunged; this I shall do, by printing in the infernal method by corrosives, which in Hell are salutary and medicinal, melting apparent surfaces away, and display the infinite which was hid.” As I read, and tried to figure out what the figurines were doing and who they might be (yup, my first involved experience with Blake outside ENGL 3820), I realized that the possible answers display the infinite possibilities. I have no idea what Blake means in some places, and that’s the whole point. There’s no one interpretation. Thus, being able to see variations in the text and illustrations–even being able to see a “copy” that only has three pages–brings out the infinite in the text. I agree with Eliza that the Blake Archive does a splendid job presenting Blake; I almost found myself thinking that it was more Blake than Blake, because it gave me a better sense of infinite possibility and variation.
The trouble was figuring out how to read the work at all. I found the Archive’s interface confusing. It actually took me about ten minutes to figure out how to get to a page of Blake. Once I was there, I was hooked–Blake himself sucked me in–but if I hadn’t been required to read this for class, I might not have bothered.
This makes me question the purpose of the Blake archive. It is obviously a scholarly tool, first and foremost. Can it be anything else? Should it? My worry is that it makes Blake too scholarly, too inaccessible. If some random high-schooler who heard a little about Blake in English class tried to look up this work, he or she might not ever get to it. But the usefulness of the Blake Archive for scholars means that the works might not ever be presented in a friendly, introductory, digital environment. By trying to study Blake, have we walled him off from less rigorous exploration?