A Web site co-edited by University of Rochester Professor of English Morris Eaves is the first electronic publication to be awarded the Modern Language Association Prize for a Distinguished Scholarly Edition.
The William Blake Archive, created in 1996 to showcase the words and images of the 18th-century British poet and artist, is considered a prototype for other humanities projects combining text and visuals online.
The award committee noted that “If, as has been frequently suggested, the future of editorial scholarship lies in online editions, the William Blake Archive has set a high mark for future editorial practice through its clarity, user-friendliness, beauty, and erudition.”
The other archive editors sharing the award with Eaves are Robert Essick of the University of California at Riverside and Joseph Viscomi of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Because of the difficulty of reproducing Blake’s original artwork, most scholars have studied either his poetry or his painting. The William Blake Archive, by taking advantage of Internet technology, shows the interconnectedness of Blake’s work.
The site’s editors have pioneered new programming systems that integrate editions, catalogs, databases, and scholarly tools into an archive that is fully searchable by images as well as by text. Users can call up multiple screens, enlarge images, and obtain both descriptions of images and transcriptions of the sometimes hard-to-read original text.
To date, the archive contains complete editions of 50 copies of all 19 of Blake’s illuminated books, plus major works in other artistic media, located in the collections of libraries and museums around the world that have given permission to reproduce the works. The archive, which has now acquired approximately 4,200 images, is administered by the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities at the University of Virginia and is found at www.blakearchive.org, with a mirror site at www.blakearchive.org.uk.
Eaves previously was awarded the Modern Language Association’s William Riley Parker Prize for his article “Blake and the Artistic Machine: An Essay in Decorum and Technology.” He also received the Best Special Issue award from the Conference of Editors of Scholarly Journals for Romantic Texts, Romantic Times: Homage to David V. Erdman, Romanticism and Contemporary Criticism. The author or editor of seven books, he is a Guggenheim Fellow, a National Humanities Center Fellow, and has received grants from the Getty Grant Program and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
The Modern Language Association, which has 30,000 members around the world, is the largest and one of the oldest American learned societies in the humanities. Its biennial Prize for a Distinguished Scholarly Edition was first awarded in 1995.