The William Blake Archive is pleased to announce the publication of digital editions of For the Sexes: The Gates of Paradise Copies B, F, and K. They join Copy D of For Children: The Gates of Paradise and Copy D of For the Sexes: The Gates of Paradise—the revised and augmented version of For Children—already available in the Archive. The Archive is also publishing color printed impressions of Plates 1 and 7 of Visions of the Daughters of Albion.

In 1793, Blake etched and published For Children, an emblem book comprising eighteen small intaglio plates. Through a numbered series of designs with inscriptions ranging from single words to brief aphorisms, Blake puts the course of human life in psychological perspective. Some of the emblems form narrative sequences; others exemplify mental states and their reification in the external world. For Children is extant in five copies (A-E), with the plates in their second states in all copies except Copy A. 

In about 1818 Blake revised For Children: The Gates of Paradise, giving the work the new title of For the Sexes: The Gates of Paradise and adding three new text plates at the end (Plates 19-21). Plates 19-20 contain brief interpretive statements keyed by number to the preceding designs. The final plate is addressed to Satan as the “God of This [fallen] World.” For the Sexes Copy B, from the British Museum, Department of Prints and Drawings, was printed c. 1818, with Plates 1-10 and 12-18 in their third state, Plate 11 in its second state, and Plates 19-21 in their first state. Copy B joins Copy D, from the Morgan Library and Museum, with Plates 1-10 and 13-18 in their fourth state, Plate 12 in its third state, Plates 11, 19, and 21 in their second state, and Plate 20 in its first state. 

For the Sexes: The Gates of Paradise, Copy F, Plate 21, detail.

All the plates in For the Sexes Copies F and K are in their final states; Copy F lacks Plates 19 and 20 and Copy K lacks 4-7, 10, 12, and 17. Both Copies F and K were once thought to have been printed posthumously, possibly by Frederick Tatham, c. 1831. Recent studies of the states and the manner in which these copies were produced indicate that Copy F, along with Copies G, H, and I, were printed by Catherine Blake in late 1827 or early 1828, when she was staying at John Linnell’s studio in Fitzroy Square. They also indicate that Copies J and N were once a single copy (now referred to as J/N) and printed by Blake along with Copies E, K, and L, c. 1826-27 (see Viscomi, “Posthumous Blake,” Blake / An Illustrated Quarterly, 53.2 [fall 2019]).

The addition to the Archive of For the Sexes Copies B, K, and F enables students of Blake to trace the evolution of the designs, from their second states in 1793 through Blake’s revisions in c. 1818, 1825, and c. 1826-27, and to examine the printing of Catherine Blake. 

In 1796, Blake color printed an assortment of twenty-three illuminated plates without their texts to form the Small Book of Designs. He printed the plates twice without replenishing the colors between pulls, using the first pulls to form the Small Book of Designs Copy A and the second pulls to form copy B, which he compiled after 1818. He also printed first and second pulls of eight etchings and relief etchings to form the Large Book of Designs. He did not, however, compile the second pulls to form a copy B. The color-printed impressions of Visions of the Daughters of Albion plates 1 and 7 are two of those second pulls, which were acquired by Blake’s patron, John Linnell, late in Blake’s life. They join three other plates from Visions in our new category of graphic works, referred to in the index of copies as “MPI,” an abbreviation for Miscellaneous Plates and Impressions. 

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