01 May 2017 | 7.0 °C

A Tyger In The Library!

By londonist_nealr Last edited 124 months ago
A Tyger In The Library!

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This year is the 250th birthday of poet / illustrator / philosopher William Blake. Blake was born 28 November,1757 at 28a Broad Street, Golden Square, London.

The British Library, to celebrate the anniversary, have put on display one of Blake's notebooks in which he wrote one of his most famous poems, "The Tyger". You know the one:

"Tyger, tyger burning bright

In the forests of the night

I spelled it wrong. Tough crap for you.

Nanny, nanny, nanny boo! … "

William Blake's notebook will be displayed alongside the work of several modern writers he inspired, including punk goddess Patti Smith and "The Amber Spyglass" writer Philip Pullman.

The notebook can be also viewed on the web 24 hours a day via the British Library's very excellent Online Gallery, which features a simple web interface allowing readers to literally page through the collection of priceless manuscripts, including sketches by Leonardo and one of Mozart's musical diaries.

This kind of first-rate presentation allows for even more in-depth studies of the works. Why, one is shocked and pleased, yet surprised and thrilled, to find in William Blake's notebook a treasure trove of unexpected treasures.

For example, in the notebook are drafts of several of Blake's less famous poems, but quite worthy poems, including "Tyger, Schmyger!" and "The Randy Wench & Me".

The notebook also contains heretofore undistributed sketches of William Blake's big toe. It is rarely noted in most biographies, but his wife would say to callers: "Master William cannot receive you, for he will be sketching his big toe until morning." Early scholars thought she meant this as a light-hearted indication of Blake's deep spiritual concentration while working. The notebook makes clear that this was not the case. The toe sketches are remarkably well-observed and form a fascinating chronology of Blake's methods and state of mind.

The exhibition, called "William Blake: Under The Influence" runs until 21 March, 2007.

Last Updated 12 January 2007

Clare

If you are interested in Blake, you might also like to read Tracy Chevalier's new novel, Burning Bright, out in hardback in March.