WITH INTELLECTUAL SPEARS & LONG WINGED ARROWS OF THOUGHT
FOLCROFT FACSIMILE OF THE Songs
Mary Lynn Johnson’s article “Choosing Textbooks for Blake Courses: A Survey & Checklist,” in Blake Newsletter 37 will have been read with attention and her annotations to listed volumes, “negative entries as well as positive ones,” studied with interest. Such a survey supplies a clear need among teachers of Blake. One positive listing, however, should have contained a cautionary comment and should, I think, be put right. Under Section VI, “Facsimiles & Reproductions Inexpensive Enough for Classroom Use,” Johnson lists the Folcroft facsimile of the Songs as “Well-printed from the uncolored posthumous copy (b) in the Houghton Library.” The facsimile is, in fact, anything but reliable, its worst error being the unwarranted alteration of Blake’s text of “The Blossom” so that the line “Near my Bosom” is made to read “Near thy Bosom.” On comparing the Folcroft page with its original in the Houghton Library I found that, although broken, the letter m was printed clearly and that the punch on the verso followed the contours of the upper edges of the m, precluding the existence of any uninked, unprinting portion above. Morton Paley kindly checked other posthumous copies in the British Library and in Sir Geoffrey Keynes’ collection; the reading “thy” was not supported. Thus the Folcroft facsimile must have been retouched to produce this unauthorized variant in Blake’s text. In her annotations Johnson comments on retouching, trueness of color, softening of lines and quality of background paper tone; thus the reader is all the more likely to have faith in a facsimile described as “well-printed.” This small correction to “A Survey & Checklist” will, it is hoped, save anyone using the Folcroft facsimile, especially “The Blossom” page, a considerable amount of confusion.