It’s Books & Libraries Day at the River Houses, and since this Wednesday is the birthday of the great poet and artist William Blake (1757–1827), why not spend a few library minutes this week introducing your homescholars to his name and his work.
We like to use the annual calendar as a tool for “teaching with-out the curriculum” — for casually introducing names, dates, ideas, images, and language that may not be part of your formal homeschool course of study (if you have one), but that are culturally and historically important for students to know.
This doesn’t require any special planning. Our regular “Quick Freshes” postings include an array of interesting events each week, and all you have to do is pick one, take a moment to look it up online or on your next local library visit, and then share a picture or a few paragraphs with your students — and with that, your little lesson is done.
This week, you can do that with William Blake, one of the most influential figures in English literary history. His poem “The Tyger” is one of the most widely anthologized poems in the language, and his visual style is unmistakable. His life was unorthodox and turbulent — he suffered from hallucinations and today would almost certainly be diagnosed with some form of mental illness — but it was that turbulence that drove his creativity.
Your local library will certainly have copies of many of Blake’s works on its shelves, and maybe even a facsimile edition of one of his rare illustrated volumes that you can browse with your students. (Blake’s best known works were not printed in type in the conventional way; he instead engraved the text and illustrations on copper plates, and then the printed pages were all colored by hand.)
Here are some original examples of Blake’s works from the rare book collections at the Library of Congress — you’ll need a large screen to appreciate them:
Your local library will have others for you to explore, and if Blake’s fearful symmetry happens to catch your imagination, they will be able to order even more volumes for you via interlibrary loan.
What treasures have you discovered in your library lately? 😊
❡ Explore more: For a brief overview of the international artistic and philosophical movement known as Romanticism, including another engraved illustration from Blake’s Songs of Experience, turn to pages 338–339 in your recommended River Houses history encyclopedia (riverhouses.org/books).
❡ Learning the library: Have you discovered all the libraries in your local area? There may be more than you realize! The WorldCat Library Finder (worldcat.org/libraries) will point you to all the library collections near you — public and private, large and small — and the WorldCat catalog itself (worldcat.org) will help you locate the closest copy of almost any book in the world. 😊