The William Blake Archive is pleased to announce the publication of the electronic edition of Milton a Poem Copy D. Only four copies of Milton, Blake’s most personal epic, are extant. Copy D, from the Rosenwald Collection, Library of Congress, joins Copies A, B, and C, previously published in the Archive, enabling the Archive to display the complete production history of this illuminated book.
Blake etched forty-five plates for Milton in relief, with some full-page designs in white-line etching, between c. 1804 (the date on the title page) and c. 1810. Six additional plates (a-f) were probably etched in subsequent years up to 1818. No copy contains all fifty-one plates. The prose “Preface” (plate 2) appears only in Copies A and B.
Plates a-e appear only in Copies C and D, plate f only in Copy D. The first printing, late in 1810 or early in 1811, produced Copies A-C, printed in black ink and finished in water colors. Blake retained Copy C and added new plates and rearranged others at least twice; Copy C was not finished until c. 1821. Copy D was printed in 1818 in orange ink and elaborately colored.
Like all the illuminated books in the Archive, the text and images of Milton Copy D are fully searchable and are supported by our Inote and ImageSizer applications. With the Archive’s Compare feature, users can easily juxtapose multiple impressions of any plate across the different copies of this or any of the other illuminated books. New protocols for transcription, which produce improved accuracy and fuller documentation in editors’ notes, have been applied to all copies of Milton in the Archive.
With the publication of Milton Copy D, the Archive now contains fully searchable and scalable electronic editions of seventy-three copies of Blake’s nineteen illuminated books in the context of full bibliographic information about each work, careful diplomatic transcriptions of all texts, detailed descriptions of all images, and extensive bibliographies. In addition to illuminated books, the Archive contains many important manuscripts and series of engravings, sketches, and water color drawings, including illustrations to Thomas Gray’s Poems, water color and engraved illustrations to Dante’s Divine Comedy, the large color printed drawings of 1795 and c. 1805, the Linnell and Butts sets of the Book of Job water colors and the sketchbook containing drawings for the engraved illustrations to the Book of Job, the water color illustrations to Robert Blair’s The Grave, and all nine of Blake’s water color series illustrating the poetry of John Milton.
As always, the William Blake Archive is a free site, imposing no access restrictions and charging no subscription fees. The site is made possible by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the continuing support of the Library of Congress, and the cooperation of the international array of libraries and museums that have generously given us permission to reproduce works from their collections in the Archive.
Morris Eaves, Robert N. Essick, and Joseph Viscomi, editors
Ashley Reed, project manager
William Shaw, technical editor