G.E. Bentley Jr. &
William Blake

“Before its transfer to the Library, the Bentley collection was known to Blake scholars as one of the largest gatherings of Blake’s commercial book illustrations in a private collection”
—Robert C. Brandeis, William Blake & His Contemporaries: An Exhibition Selected from the Bentley Collection at Victoria University, 2006

Gerald Eades Bentley Jr. (1930–2017) was born in 1930 in Chicago, Illinois. 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 completing his education, Bentley Jr. was appointed as an English instructor at the University of Chicago.

In 1960, he became 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 Emeritus Professor of English in 1996.

Bentley Jr. authored and edited numerous books and articles, primarily on William Blake:

His articles have appeared in journals such as the Times Literary Supplement, New York Public Library Bulletin, and the University of Toronto Quarterly.

In 2005, Bentley Jr. generously donated his collection of materials related to William Blake, including manuscripts, commercial engravings, and books on Blake scholarship and criticism. It also includes a large collection of printed works, drawings, and manuscripts associated with George Cumberland (1754–1848), an artist, geologist, novelist, and poet. Victoria University Library has purchased additional acquisitions to the collection, including electrotypes from Blake’s original copper plates.


William Blake Collection (Victoria University Library) donated by Bentley Jr. in 2005, numbering approximately 2,500 works by and about William Blake and his contemporaries.

Burning Bright: the Bentley-Blake Collection Today (Victoria University Library, 2016) is an online exhibition of recent donations and acquisitions to the collection.

Blake in Our Time: A Symposium Celebrating the Future of Blake Studies & the Legacy of G.E. Bentley Jr. (Victoria University Library, 2010) was a conference honouring the scholar’s contributions to the study of Blake, accompanied by an exhibition (and commemorative catalogue). Podcasts from the symposium are available.

William Blake & His Contemporaries: An Exhibition Selected from the Bentley Collection at Victoria University (Victoria University Library, 2006) is a catalogue of an exhibition organized by librarians Robert C. Brandeis and Carmen K. Socknat.