Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Songs of Life - Part 2

More work on Songs of Life today. Amazing to think how quickly this has progressed, with most of the time spent in time consuming proof-reading over and over. There comes a point where aiming towards an unrealistic expectation of perfection comes to an end and you think of the next project as better than the current one.

At that time, it's time to stop.

Here is the cover. I wanted something relatively simple, with a mix of the illustrations inside, that also conveyed something about the work...

And inside I wanted to use ink-blots for the blank pages. I like the way that people can see what they want to see in them, and I think these fit with the stark blackness of the writing style too. I made a mix of blots and chose appropriate ones for the book...

Finally I had to log the ISBN, generate the barcode and write a bit of text on page two, the copyright blurb and a small preface about the decisions made when copying Blake's work, the things I espoused in the blog post below.

As I type, the artwork has been sent to the printers for approval. This again underlines the difference between the 21st and 18th centuries in terms of printing technology. I expect to have 50 copies in my hand in two weeks. Based only on extant editions; Blake printed less than 20 copies in 35 years!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

William Blake - Songs of Life

In 2012 I painted illustrations to William Blake's poems. Now I'm assembling these into a book. It's proving quite a time consuming challenge. Much of the work is in transliterating the faded and difficult to discern original printing and ensuring it fits. I want to keep it as closely matched to the original text as possible.

Take for example this verse from Project Gutenberg


The little boy lost in the lonely fen,
Led by the wandering light,
Began to cry, but God, ever nigh,
Appeared like his father, in white.

Some of the punctuation there has been inserted, in part because the original printing has no punctuation, or is difficult to decipher. A comparison to the original results in...

The Little Boy Found

The little boy lost in the lonely fen,
Led by the wand'ring light,
Began to cry, but God ever nigh.
Appeared like his father in white.

See how the meaning of the last sentence changes with that inserted comma! The former assumes that his father frequently wore white, the latter that his father now wears it.

I think retaining the old rendering of "wand'ring" is important too. Also, Blake's use of punctuation might not have been pedantically correct English even at the time, yet lends itself to a unique rhythm. It is artistic license, and as a new transliterator of his work I feel the need to match his words, not impose "correct" English.

On the next verse however, the punctuation at the end of the lines is not present on two lines. Imagery on those areas frequently obscure the text, and duplicating the hit-and-miss punctuation at the end of the lines might harm information as much as retain it, so I made the decision to remove punctuation from the ends of lines, rather than risk further damage. The final verse is thus;

The Little Boy Found

The little boy lost in the lonely fen
Led by the wand'ring light
Began to cry, but God ever nigh
Appeared like his father in white.

He kissed the child & by the hand led
And to his mother brought
Who in sorrow pale through the lonely dale
Her little boy weeping sought

I hope to print and publish the work will all-new watercolour illustrations in a few months. Here is my illustration for the above poem...