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1. Toward a More Accurate Description of the Tiriel Manuscript

Professor Bentley’s description of the Tiriel manuscript in his facsimile edition (Oxford, 1967) is confused. Although I have not examined the original manuscript, it is clear from a study of the facsimile that Professor Bentley mistakes Blake’s sectional numberings for foliations: “The rectos of the leaves are foliated 1-7 in ink, in the top centre of the page, on pages 1, 3, 5, 7, 10 [N.B.] [Bentley’s emphasis], 11, and 13” (p. 52). He cannot “explain the misnumbering on page 10, which is a verso instead of a recto like the other numbered pages. The ‘5’ on page 10 implies that the order of the pages should be 1-8, 10, 9, 11-15, but the continuity of the narrative clearly demonstrates that the present order is the correct one” (p. 52).

The present order is indeed correct. The simple explanation for “the misnumbering on page 10” is that section 4 is considerably longer than the other sections. Instead of occupying just one leaf, recto and verso, as do the preceding three sections, it spills over to the next recto, page 9. The next section, 5, then begins a top the next page, 10. That this page begin page 11 | back to top is a verso instead of a recto is irrelevant. Blake’s practice thoughout the manuscript is to form sectional units by numbering, and by beginning each section at the top of a page. Although Professor Bentley agonizes at some length and to no conclusion over “the strange way in which the pages are filled with writing” (p. 55), the principle is clear, if a section ends part-way through a page, the rest of that page is left blank, and the next section begins atop the next page. Section 4 occupies two and nine-tenths pages: therefore, as Professor Bentley observes, there is a blank space of “a tenth of a page on [the bottom of] page 9” (p. 55). Section 5 fills one page exactly; and since this page is a verso, section 6 begins atop a recto, page 11, restoring what Professor Bentley mistakes for a pattern of foliation by rectos. Section 6 ends half-way through page 12, and after the familiar blank space, section 7 begins atop page 13. The shortest section, it fills only three-quarters of its page. Therefore, the next[e] section, 8, begins atop a verso, page 14. This is the very phenomenon that stymied Professor Bentley in the case of section 5; but he does not mention “8”—quite plain on the page—at all, not even as a “misnumbering.”

Professor Bentley states that “the rectos are also correctly foliated in pencil 2-9 on the top right corner of pages 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, and 15. Probably neither foliation is Blake’s” (p. 52). Part of this conclusion is unjustifiable. Since one “foliation” is not a foliation but a sequence of section-numbers, and since these numbers appear (in the facsimile) to be in the same hand and ink as the rest of the manuscript, they are very likely Blake’s own. After all, “the same grey-black ink is used throughout the poem” (p. 55). However, the true foliation, in pencil, may well be someone else’s. Whether it is or not, it indicates that if the first page is folio no. 2, there must be a missing page 1; possibly this could be the title page. One wishes that Professor Bentley had given us a more considered account of the manuscript in this otherwise splendid edition.

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