The William Blake Archive is pleased to announce the publication of an electronic edition of Songs of Innocence copy L in the Bodleian Library, Oxford University. Innocence is dated 1789 by Blake on the title page, and copy L, never before reproduced, was one of fourteen copies printed that year in the same press run.
Other copies from this early press run are in the Archive: Innocence copy B and the Innocence impressions in Songs of Innocence and of Experience copies B, C, and E. These impressions were printed alike, on both sides of the leaf in raw sienna ink, and the images similarly colored in light washes. The impressions making up the two parts of the combined Songs copy E were refinished with more watercolors and pen and ink outlining when the copy was sold to Blake’s patron Thomas Butts in 1806. Innocence copy L was also refinished, but at an unknown date. Its initial colors were deepened, the modeling of figures emphasized, and light washes laid in over text. These stylistic features suggest that the refinishing occurred around 1795 or later. Two leaves were removed from copy L before it was sold, leaving copy L without plates 26 and 34-36 (“A Dream” and “The Little Girl Lost” and “The Little Girl Found”). By 1794, Blake had redefined plates 34-36 as Experience plates and moved them into that section of his Songs. After 1808, Blake moved plates 53 and 54 (“The School Boy” and “The Voice of the Ancient Bard”) from Innocence to Experience, but both of these poems are included in copy L, suggesting c. 1808 as a terminus date for sale and refinishing. Copy L was one of the copies certainly on hand when Blake included the book in his advertisement “To the Public” of October 1793: “Songs of Innocence, in Illuminated Printing. Quarto, with 25 designs, price 5s.”
With the publication of Innocence copy L, the Archive now contains fully searchable and scalable electronic editions of 90 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. New protocols for transcription, which produce improved accuracy and fuller documentation in editors’ notes, have been applied to all copies of Innocence in the Archive. With the Archive’s Compare feature, users can easily juxtapose multiple impressions of any plate across all or selected copies of this or any of the other illuminated books and, with the Virtual Lightbox, users can examine images from any genre side by side, as well as crop, zoom, and juxtapose them for close study.
In addition to illuminated books, the Archive contains many important manuscripts and series of engravings, color printed drawings, tempera paintings, and watercolor drawings. The Archive also includes Collection Lists for contributing institutions. These lists, several of which have been updated, include all original Blake materials in each collection, not just the works published in the Archive. The revised lists include recent acquisitions by the Collection of Robert N. Essick, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Victoria University Library, Toronto.
With this first publication of the new year, the Archive also announces some changes in our staff. Joe Fletcher, who has been an editorial assistant and assistant project manager, is our new project manager. Michael Fox, who is at UNC to pursue his PhD in poetics, is our new technical editor. He joins us with ten years of professional programming experience and is in charge of our redesign, which is now in progress. Ashley Reed, our remarkable project manager of the last six years, will continue to work with the editors as a consultant on special projects.
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 with the University of Rochester, 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
Joseph Fletcher, project manager, Michael Fox, technical editor
The William Blake Archive