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Improving the Text of The Complete Poetry & Prose of William Blake

Despite the extended cooperative effort of several Blake scholars to make it a faithful and accurate as well as complete edition, the Doubleday and California text of 1982 retained a sprinkling of misprints and even a few mistranscriptions. By the summer of 1983, Blake 17 (1983), 14, could report about a score of mostly simple errata and note the problems of some of Blake’s Hebrew lettering.

By the autumn of 1984 a sizable list of errata was sent to Doubleday and to California. And now that the Doubleday (paperback) is in a second printing, it is comforting to find that proper corrections have been made of that first score and another two score errata. When the California hardback goes into its next printing, we can expect these to be attended to there.

It is a curious thing, however, that one mistake, which the California printers corrected before their first printing, has been left alone by the Doubleday printers. Illustration 2, The Laocoön, facing page 272, as first printed gives a negative instead of a positive impression: the text reads white on black instead of black on white as Blake wanted it. Let’s hope that the third Anchor printing will get the joke.

In the list that follows, it seems best to include the earlier as well as the later errors discovered—so that possessors of the first printing (hard or soft) will not begin page 50 | back to top need to buy a new edition to make the noted improvements. Corrections already made, in the Doubleday second printing, will be marked with asterisks. Most of the mistakes were in text; some were in headings and apparatus.


p. xvii Line 28: Centerbury should read canterbury


*p. 3 Top: reverse the paragraphs headed “Conclusion” and “Application.” As John Grant points out, it would be a further nicety if the closing “line” were to be printed thus:

God becomes as we are
that we may be as he

p. 71 Margin: [line number] 50 should read 40

Line 26: abdominable should read abominable [the one erratum spotted by the Santa Cruz collective]

p. 85 Running head: THE BOOK OF URIZEN should read THE BOOK OF AHANIA

p. 103 Lines 42-44 have broken letters

*p. 121 Line 63: flutes should read flutes[’]

p. 131 Margin, bottom: The Hebrew letter at the top of Blake’s marginal note is Kaph but should be Khaph.

p. 145 After line 3 of paragraph 2: insert t in the margin

*p. 148 Line 60: Jersaulam should read Jerusalem

*p. 167 Line 25: Jerusalsm should read Jerusalem

*p. 271 Running head: ADEL should read ABEL

p. 273 [Jah, for Jehovah] should read [Jehovah] [The Hebrew letters are Heh and Yod, not Jah.]

p. 371 Beside “End of The Seventh Night”: delete t

*p. 387 Line 11: Roaming should read Roaring

* Line 15: asterial should read [asterial]

*p. 390 Line 40: self destroying should read self-destroying

* Line 45: deceit should read deciet

* Line 24: self cursd should read self-cursd

*p. 391 Line 40: guard should read Guard

* Line 3: awake from deaths should read awake to life from deaths

* Line 21: said should read Said

*p. 392 Line 34: autumn should read Autumn

* Line 1: slaves should read Slaves

* Line 19: While should read while

*p. 393 Line 31: your should read Your

*p. 395 Line 39: thro the Mercy should read thro Mercy

* Line 12: oblivion should read Oblivion

*p. 397 Line 19: branching should read branchy

*p. 398 Line 11: o my flocks should read O my flocks

*p. 399 Line 14 (of p. 131): Tharmas, O should read Tharmas O

*p. 400 Line 35: depart the clouds should read depart. the clouds

*p. 401 Line 32: What should read what

* Line 38: dead should read Dead

*p. 402 Line 32: inconceivable should read inconcievable

*p. 404 Line 16: sons & daughters should read Sons & Daughters

*p. 405 Line 10: by sons should read by the sons

p. 482 The Pickering Manuscript (Morgan Library): In my textual note on “Auguries of Innocence” (p. 860), I indicated that the Pickering ms was hastily written; one more look at the ms makes me realize that it is not only the mending of letters that causes trouble, but the difficulty of making sure whether a capital or lower case was intended. Most of these make little significant difference, but I’d now like to report the following somewhat—i.e., more or less—conjectural readings of letters.

Line 5: disdain should read Disdain

p. 483 Line 21: day should read Day

p. 484 Line 8: sow should read Sow

Line 28: seventy should read Seventy

p. 485 Line 52: Beggar should read Begger

Line 57: allay should read Allay insert t in margin

p. 486 Line 15: waters should read Waters

p. 487 Line 25: dove should read Dove

Line 32: Envy be free was mended from Envy is free

p. 489 [“Auguries of Innocence”] [“The Crystal Cabinet”] Line 27: air should read Air

p. 490 Line 6: dove should read Dove doves should read Doves

Line 23: strife should read Strife

p. 491 Line 52: on was mended from in

Line 53: truth should read Truth

Line 74: death should read Death

p. 492 Line 99: deform should read Deform

Line 109: doubt should read Doubt

Line 111: do should read Do

p. 496 Title: John Brown & Mary Bell became expanded to Long John Brown & Pretty Mary Bell, and then Pretty was changed to Little

Line 1: Pretty became Little

Line 2: Young John became Long John

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Line 3: Young . . . Pretty became Long . . . Little

Lines 6-8: each devil should read Devil

Line 15: glory should read Glory

Line 19: the Fairy should read The Fairy

p. 497 Line 21: O William first read simply William

Line 45: shine should read Shine

p. 498 Line 52: there should read There

*p. 501 Line 27: so feeling should read in pity

*Line 30: Spell removed unwound should read ninefold Spell unwound

p. 517 After “The Washer Womans Song”: insert this new poem (including signature at bottom):

I saw a Bird rise from the East
As a Bird rises from its Nest
With sweetest Songs I ever heard
It sang I am Mrs Butt’s Bird
And then I saw a Fairy gay 5
That with this beauteous Bird would play
From a golden cloud she came
She calld the sweet Brid by its name
She call’d it Phoenix! Heavens Dove!
She call’d it all the names of Love 10
But the Bird flew fast away
Where little Children sport & play
And they strok’d it with their hands
All their cooe’s it understands
The Fairy to my bosom flew 15
Weeping tears of morning dew
I said: Thou foolish whimpring thing
Is not that thy Fairy Ring
Where those Children sport & play
In Fairy fancies light & gay 20
Seem a Child & be a Child
And the Phoenix is beguild
But if thou seem’st a Fairy thing
Then it flies on glancing wing
William Blake

p. 563 Line 15 (from bottom): Visions also should read Vision is also

*p. 687 Line 6: Incriptions should read Inscriptions

p. 687 Line 9: after It is Spiritually Discerned] insert the deleted words: [Prayer to God is the Study of Imaginative Art]t

p. 688 After Line 12: insert XXI [Below “In burnt Offerings for Sin thou hast had no Pleasure” Blake first wrote [Praise to God is the Exercise of Imaginative Art.]t

*p. 689 Near bottom: move “On design No 38 . . . Venus” down the page to follow “On verso of No 36 . . . ?window”

p. 727 Line 8 (from bottom): delete colon following Hebrew [Blake’s phrase means “my Hebrew alphabet,” but he gives the actual aleph-beth-gimel. N.b.: The Hebrew letters are correct, and in the correct order.]

*p. 729 After line 7 (from bottom): insert Maries at the Sepulcher. 4 The Death of Joseph. 5 The Death of the Virgin

p. 763 Two sentences of the letter are repeated: delete lines 8-10 and the first word of line 11.

p. 785 Under “Recent Conjectural Attributions”: delete last three lines; insert A more evidently genuine “piece of Blakean doggerel written in pale blue water colour with a brush” and discovered by Geoffrey Keynes is “The Phoenix to Mrs Butts,” a manuscript now in the family of a great grandson of Mrs. Butts and signed by an authenticated Blake signature. We include it above (p 517).

*p. 789 After “imperfection.” (bottom): insert That the “Conclusion” belongs before the “Application” has been pointed out by John Grant. (One cannot apply a conclusion until it has been reached.)

*p. 791 [“The Blossom” note] should read 6 my] falsely reported as “thy” in posthumous copies, but see M.E. Reisner in Blake Newsletter 40: 130.

[“The Chimney Sweeper” note]: insert 20 He’d] But inked tracing in copy AA (destroying the sense).

*p. 808 Note on Hebrew for Milton 32:15: This entry makes no sense, since the “wrong” reading has been silently corrected by the printer to the “right” reading. Blake wrote a Kaph (כּ) where he should have written a Khaph (כ). So we must change the first Hebrew word in this line, having it begin (at the right end) with a Kaph (כּ). Leslie Brisman, however, argues that Blake may have intended an etymological pun; so the letters as Blake place them may be allowed to stand (with the Kaph at the beginning but above the line).

*p. 814 After 1:19:insert 1:28 serpents] serpents [?all] 1st rdg

p. 843 Left margin, bottom, above “Night the Ninth”: insert PAGE 117

Left margin, bottom: [First line under PAGE 118] should read 15 asterial 2nd rdg del] eternal 1st rdg del]

*p. 845 Near top: PAGE 136 should read 135 and PAGE 135 should read 136

*p. 863 Line 12 (from bottom): [30 . . . line] should read 30 ninefold] inserted above the line

Line 2 (from bottom): [11 . . . man] should read 11 After “said” Blake first wrote “Beli”, a start for “Believe”; my previous begin page 52 | back to top reading “Rich” has been corrected by G. E. Bentley, Jr.

p. 874 Top: below “The Washer Womans Song” insert The Phoenix to Mrs Butts, first published in TLS, September 14, 1984, pp 1021-22.

*p. 882 Line 17: (1981) should read 60 (1981) 69-86.

p. 891 Under [Inscriptions in . . . Job, 1825] add a new paragraph after Insignificant variants . . . pp 55-66.: The canceled sentences on plates I and XXI were first discovered by Robert N. Essick, as reported in Blake 19 (1985-86) 96-102, on early versions of Blake’s plates. These recovered declarations somewhat conflict with modern critical interpretation which assumes a sharp contrast between Job’s beginning and his latter end. Before and after Job’s trials, he and his family were concentrating on the Right Thing.

p. 974 Line 10: 494, t782 should read 503, t864

*p. 981 Line 5: 6850 should read t850

*p. 982 After line 13 (from bottom): insert Nightingale, To the 785

p. 983 After line 7 (from bottom): insert The Phoenix to Mrs Butts 517

*p. 983 Bottom line: t864 should readt846

*p. 985 Line 20: 622 should read 662

*Line 30: borth should read birth

*p. 986 Line 7: Cert should read Art

After line 14 (from bottom): insert “The Use of Money & its Wars” 687

p. 987 After line 16: insert “Till thou dost injure . . . ” t835

*p. 988 After line 7: insert “To the Nightingale” 785

Has anyone found other errata? If so, please let me know, to make corrections in the next printings.

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