Blake Archive Sets Standard for Electronic Editions

By Robert Bastone, Student Intern of CHASS College Computing


Electronic archives are at the forefront of cutting edge teaching and technology. Electronic editions are quickly becoming the standard in the electronic community, helping students, faculty, and laypersons share ideas and information internationally. As one of the leading innovators of online electronic and teaching resources, Professor Robert Essick co-created one of the most complete electronic collections of the writings, poetry, and artwork of William Blake.

The Blake archive has been in existence on the web as a free and fully accessible resource since 1996. The site is co-edited and created by Morris Eaves, University of Rochester, Joseph Viscomi, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and the College’s own Prof. Robert Essick. Currently, the project is supported by the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Humanities, with past funding from the Getty Grant Program and the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art amongst others.

Essick’s Blake Archive is recognized and accessed from around the world. The Blake Archive has been highly praised and honored as one of the most extensive and inclusive in any field of study. Recent accolades include the Fifth Modern Language Association Prize for Scholarly Edition, an honor never before given to an electronic work. Professor Essick was also recently recognized by the UCR Center for Ideas and Society with Distinguished Humanist Lector Award honors.

According to Professor Essick, the archive offers many images, including many from Blake’s illuminated books, which are not otherwise available to everyone. The Blake archive is one of the first fully searchable and scalable sites in the fields of arts and humanities. The website also offers a unique image-search tool that allows viewers to search images based upon various criteria and subject matter. The distinctive features help to make the archive a user-friendly learning tool. Professor Essick states, “the Archive offers even beginning students a chance to see how advanced scholars work.”

Despite the extensiveness and depth of the Blake archive, Professor Essick asserts that his work on the archive has had little impact on his courses and instruction. “I’ve yet to have a student rely on the Archive as a central aspect of her or his work,” Essick said.

Essick cites the creation and collaboration process with his production team and co-editors as well as the process of sorting through web architectures as the highlights of his experience. He also enjoyed the week shooting over 1200 transparencies of Blake works at the British Museum.

Professor Robert Essick is one of the most respected and well-known faculty members in the English department at CHASS. He is one of the most respected and revered Blake scholars in the world. Professor Essick’s works include over 130 articles published, as well as 16 books. This year Essick plans to retire from UCR. He plans on continuing work on his Blake archive into the future in order to assist in the site’s migration to a different computer language and publish more of Blake’s works.

If you would like to view the Blake archive please visit http://www.blakearchive.org.


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