The William Blake Archive is pleased to announce the publication of a digital edition of Blake’s Visions of the Daughters of Albion Copy R from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Munich; colored impressions of Visions Plates 1, 2, and 3 (Copy mpi) from the Morgan Library and Museum; a proof of Visions Plate 6 from the Fitzwilliam Museum that belongs to our previously published Visions Copy a; and five monochrome wash drawings for the wood engravings in Thornton’s Virgil added to the seven previously published designs.
Visions, extant in eighteen complete copies, consists of eleven relief-etched plates executed and first printed in 1793. Blake initially printed Visions on both sides of six quarto-size leaves in a print run of eleven copies, in yellow ochre (as in Copy A), raw sienna (Copies B, C, and E), and green (Copies H, I, and J), and he finished the impressions in light watercolor washes. Copy R represents a complete departure from this early mode of producing illuminated books. It was printed in 1794 with Copy F in thick colors from the shallows and surfaces of the plates on large sheets of folio size paper to produce impressions resembling oil sketches or paintings rather than watercolor drawings. Examples of the full leaf can be seen in “Supplemental Views” in the navigation bar below the images of Objects 1 and 10.
With this publication the Archive is introducing a new category of graphic works, referred to in the index of copies as “mpi,” an abbreviation for Miscellaneous Plates and Impressions, which allows us to group together a work’s proofs, impressions in different states, posthumous impressions, and lifetime impressions not used or extracted from copies. The three loose impressions of plates from Visions of the Daughters of Albion at the Morgan Library and Museum were printed in the green of Copies H, I, and J and finished in watercolors in Blake’s early style, but they appear not to have belonged to a copy. These three plates from Visions can be accessed like plates in other copies of a work and compared with other impressions from the same matrix using the “Objects from the Same Matrix” feature in the second navigation bar below the image. The Archive will gradually publish groups of miscellaneous prints and proofs for each illuminated book (some groups consisting of upward of fifty impressions), which will enable users to trace the evolution of Blake’s printed designs.
Visions Copy a consists of uncolored impressions of six plates printed in black ink; Plates 1 and 2 are of the full plate, but Plates 3, 7, 9, and 10 were cut from their leaves and show just the vignettes. The loose impression in the Fitzwilliam Museum is similarly cut from Plate 6 and appears certainly to have once belonged to the set of proofs making up Copy a.
The Archive is also pleased to announce the addition of five of Blake’s monochrome wash drawings for “The Pastorals of Virgil” to the seven drawings that had previously been available. The drawings can be examined in comparison with their finished wood engravings by using the “Objects from the Same Production Sequence” feature in the second navigation bar below the image. The addition of the new drawings marks the first time that the Archive has published a work from the Beinecke Library. Accordingly, we are also publishing the Beinecke’s Blake collection list, which includes all of its original works by Blake, not just those published in the Archive. We have also recently published the collection lists for the Brooklyn Museum, Cleveland Museum of Art, Houghton Library, Mead Art Museum, Minneapolis Institute of Art, National Gallery of Scotland, and Rhode Island School of Design. Under “Resources for Further Research,”” the Archive now offers thirty-eight collection lists of contributing institutions.
All works in the Archive are accessible via the Table of Contents, which is accessible via the “sandwich” button at the right end of the banner. This drops down a second banner that identifies the categories of works in the Archive: Illuminated books, Commercial Book Illustrations, Separate Prints and Prints in Series, Drawings and Paintings, Manuscripts and Typographic Works. To further improve accessibility to the works, we’ve added a Table of Contents item, “All Works,” which twice lists all of the works in the Archive without categorizing them according to medium. One list puts the works in alphabetical order and the other in order of composition date. The latter list would of course be of interest to any Blake scholars mindful of the historical progression of Blake’s works.
With the publication of Visions Copy R, the Archive now contains fully searchable and scalable digital editions of 106 copies of Blake’s nineteen illuminated books-including twelve other copies of Visions. Users may view color corrected digital images of Blake’s works at their true size, and enlarge and rotate these images to examine the text and illustrations in detail. The images are accompanied by diplomatic transcriptions and editors’ notes, as well as illustration descriptions that make it possible to search Blake’s works for visual motifs. The Archive also provides full bibliographic and provenance information for each digital edition it publishes. Though the Archive retains its focus on the material conditions of Blake’s art, presenting images in the context of works and copies, the newly designed site contextualizes each work, copy, and object in a network of relations. Users of the site can view each Blakean object alongside objects in the same copy, objects printed from the same matrix, objects from the same production sequence, and objects with similar designs. This contextualization, which draws on the expertise of the Archive’s editors, enables comparisons across time, medium, and genre, and foregrounds the immense variety and the recurring themes of Blake’s art.
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, managing editor, Michael Fox, assistant editor
The William Blake Archive