The William Blake Archive is pleased to announce the publication of digital editions of Europe a Prophecy Copies C and F, from Houghton Library, Harvard University, and the Berg Collection, New York Public Library, respectively. They join Copies A, B, D, E, G, H, and K already available in the Archive.
Europe is the second of Blake’s “Continental Prophecies,” following America a Prophecy of 1793 and preceding “Africa” and “Asia,” the two sections of The Song of Los, of 1795. Blake etched Europe’s eighteen plates in relief, with considerable white-line work in some designs, on the versos of America’s eighteen plates. America was designed to be monochrome and its first nine copies were printed in greenish- or bluish-black ink on both sides of the leaf. Blake initially intended the two books to match visually as well as in size, but he printed Europe in colors, a mode of printing that he began using in 1794 for all his illuminated books.
Blake printed six copies of Europe in 1794, four of which were printed in opaque colors from the relief areas and outlines on both sides of the leaves to match the format of America; Copy F is an example of this style of printing. Two of these Europe copies were printed in thick opaque colors from the shallows and relief areas onto one side of the leaves, which presents designs more as paintings than pages; Copy C is an example of this mode of printing. Readers using the Archive’s compare feature (accessible under the image as “Objects from the same Matrix”) will see that the Copy C impressions were the second pulls (impressions printed from plates without ink or colors being replenished) of the Copy B printing. A comparison of copies will also reveal that Copy F was printed with (and previous to) Copies D and E.
Both Copies C and F were printed on large sheets of wove paper, approximately 27 x 37 cm., which were stabbed through three holes, visible in the selection of auxiliary illustrations of untrimmed sheets accompanying these publications. Both copies are missing plate 3, a whimsical prefatory statement—present only in Copies H and K—about a “Fairy [who] sat upon the table, and dictated EUROPE.” The plate order of Copy C follows that of Copies A and B (1-2, 4-9, 11-14, 10, 15-18); the plate order of Copy F follows that of Copies D, E, and G (1-2, 4-18).
Europe presents in mythopoeic form the conflict between liberty and tyranny, the fundamental philosophical issues of Blake’s revolutionary era. Historical events are reconfigured into their universalized representations through Blake’s own cast of characters, including Enitharmon, the female personification of fallen nature and history, Orc, the spirit of revolt, and Los and Urizen, the “Eternals” who would become central to Blake’s mythic system of the “Zoas.” These contending forces lead beyond political revolution to an apocalypse of biblical scope.
With the addition of Copies C and F, the Archive has now published all extant copies of Europe printed by Blake. The Archive has also published all extant copies of The Song of Losand half the extant copies of America, the other volumes of the “Continental Prophecies.” Like all illuminated books in the Archive, the text and images of Europe Copies C and F are fully searchable. New protocols for transcription, which produce improved accuracy and fuller documentation in editors’ notes, have been applied to both copies and to all the Europe texts previously published.
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.