Blake’s The Four Zoas — A New Transcription

William_Blake_006I’m currently working on my own transcription of William Blake’s Vala or The Four Zoas. The Four Zoas is a long, complex mythological work by William Blake begun in the mid-1790s but never finished. Because Blake left this text unfinished, the manuscript pages that we currently have are left in a variety of stages of Blake’s composition and editing process. Some artwork is highly finished while some are bare, faint sketches. Some text is written in a careful calligraphic hand while other text seems carelessly written, and there is text written between lines, crossed out, written in margins, etc.

The file below will show you three different presentations of The Four Zoas:

1. David Erdman’s edition of The Four Zoas published in The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake and currently available on The Blake Digital Text Project. Erdman’s goal was to present Blake’s final version of this text to the extent that Blake  had revised it. That means he didn’t include any text that was crossed out.

2. G.E. Bentley Jr.’s transcription for the 1963 Oxford University Press edition of VALA or The Four Zoas. Bentley provided a full transcription, including crossed-out text, and indicated revision stage and text position using carets and footnotes.

3. My own transcription. Text that you see written in very faint letters on the photograph of the page is present in my text, but I represent it using a variety of shades of gray, so you probably won’t be able to see it  unless you download my .pdf from Scribd (that’s what you’re seeing below) and view it in a .pdf reader.

4. A photograph of the original page.

Published by James Rovira

Dr. James Rovira is higher education professional with twenty years experience in the field in teaching, administration, and advising roles. He is also an interdisciplinary scholar and writer whose works include fiction, poetry, and scholarship exploring the intersections of literature and philosophy, literature and psychology, literary theory, and music and literature.. His books include Women in Rock, Women in Romanticism (Routledge, 2023); David Bowie and Romanticism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2022); Writing for College and Beyond (a first-year composition textbook (Lulu 2019)); Reading as Democracy in Crisis: Interpretation, Theory, History (Lexington Books 2019); Rock and Romanticism: Blake, Wordsworth, and Rock from Dylan to U2 (Lexington Books, 2018); Rock and Romanticism: Post-Punk, Goth, and Metal as Dark Romanticisms (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018); and Blake and Kierkegaard: Creation and Anxiety (Continuum/Bloomsbury, 2010). See his website at for details.

2 thoughts on “Blake’s The Four Zoas — A New Transcription

  1. Good luck! I have wondered what this would look like, and now, with the grace of God and your hard work, I may one day have the chance. I look forward to reading the finished work.


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