G. E. Bentley

Fonds number:
Title: G. E. Bentley
Dates of Material:
1954–2017, predominant 1974–2017
15.38 m of textual records and other material
ca. 1400 photographs: b&w and col.
29 microfilm reels: pos. and neg
2 negative slides
1 compact disc
Biographical sketch

Gerald Eades Bentley Jr. (1930-2017) was born in 1930 in Chicago, Illinois, to Gerald Eades Bentley and Esther Greenwood Felt. His father was an English professor who taught at several American universities, including the University of Chicago and Princeton, while publishing numerous books on drama. G.E. Bentley Jr. received a B.A. from Princeton in 1952, and a B.Litt. (1954) and D.Phil. (1956) from Oxford University. He specialized in literature, and wrote all three of his theses on William Blake.

After graduating in 1956 Bentley became an English instructor at the University of Chicago; in 1960 he became an assistant professor at University College at the University of Toronto, where he remained for the rest of his career, advancing from associate professor (1965) to professor of English (1967), before retiring as an emeritus professor of English in 1996. He married Anne Elizabeth Kathryne Louise Budd in 1952; they had two daughters, Sarah Elizabeth Esther and Julia Greenwood.

During Bentley’s career he spent time as a lecturer, visiting professor, and research fellow all over the world. He was a Fullbright lecturer at the Universite d’Algier in 1967–1968, the University of Poona in India, 1975–1976, and Fudan University in China, 1982–1983. He was a visiting professor at University of Hyderabad in India in 1988, and at the Australian Defence Force Academy in 1997. Bentley was also a visiting resident professor at Princeton in 1992, and a fellow at The University of Wales, 1985, National Library of Australia, 1989, Rockefeller Study Center in Bellagio, Italy, 1991, Merton College, Oxford University, 1993, and Hatfield College, Durham University, 1996.

G.E. Bentley Jr. has authored and edited numerous books and articles, primarily on William Blake. Books include Blake records: documents (1714–1841) concerning the life of William Blake (1757–1827) and his family, incorporating Blake Records (1969), Blake Records Supplement (1988), and extensive discoveries since 1988 (2004); The Stranger from Paradise: a biography of William Blake (2001); Blake books supplement: a bibliography of publications and discoveries about William Blake, 1971–1992, being a continuation of Blake Books (1977) (1995); Blake studies in Japan: a bibliography of works on William Blake published in Japan 1893–1993 (1994); ed., William Blake's Writings , 2 vols. (1978). His articles have appeared in journals such as Times Literary Supplement, New York Public Library Bulletin, and University of Toronto Quarterly.

He was a member of professional associations that included the Modern Language Association of America, the Bibliographical Society (London), the Friends of the National Libraries (London), and the Royal Society of Canada. Bentley’s academic achievements have been recognized through honours and awards that include the Fullbright lectureships, the Jenkins award for Bibliography in 1978, and election to the Royal Society of Canada in 1985.

Gerald Eades Bentley Jr. died in Toronto in 2017.  An autobiography has been published by Friesen Press.  There are also copies of this memoir in the E.J. Pratt Library.

Scope and content

Fonds contains records that reflect G.E. Bentley Jr.’s career and interests as a professor, a William Blake scholar, and a collector of Blake’s work. It consists of the following series: subject/correspondence files, 1954–2017; research material, 1963–2016; records relating to writings, 1956–2016; and ephemera relating to William Blake, 1955–2011

Accessing the Collection

University of Toronto Catalogue: Contains published works held in the Bentley Collection, Victoria University Library. The collection came to Victoria University Library in 2005 and includes approximately 2,500 works by and about William Blake and his contemporaries.

Source of supplied title

Title based on contents of the fonds

Immediate source of acquisition

Acquired from G.E. Bentley, 2005, 2007, 2011.

Records acquired in 2017 were received from Bentley's daughters, Sarah and Julia, after his death.

Records in accession 2020.05 were given to the Archivist by Library staff in 2020. The letters were found inside books that were donated to the Library. The draft and thesis were found on a shelf in the Library's offices.

Access restrictions

No restrictions

Finding aids

Box/file list available


Further accruals are expected.

Access points

Provenance Access Point:
Bentley, G.E. (Gerald Eades), 1930–2017


Blake, William, 1757–1827

Related resources

Bentley, G.E., Jr. Boondoggles: Travels of a Restless Professor. Friesen Press, 2018.

Harris, Maureen Scott. ”William Blake Illuminated: Victoria Library Receives Bentley Collection of Blake Masterpieces.“ Vic Report, vol. 35, no. 1, Autumn 2006, pp. 6–9.