- Museum number
Series: Songs Of Innocence and Of Experience: Shewing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul
Series: Songs of Innocence
Copy A, plate 1: title-page to "Songs of Innocence"; a tree growing in a landscape, its branches intertwining with the letters of the title; under the tree to the left, a gowned female seated on a chair, a neat cap on her head, holding a book on her lap; a boy and girl standing in front of her, looking at the book. 1789
Hand-coloured relief etching, printed in olive-brown ink
- Production date
Height: 118 millimetres
Width: 72 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- "Songs Of Innocence and Of Experience" is an illuminated book comprised of 54 relief-etched plates when complete. Plates combine poetic verses with illustration, and many plates include textual decoration (not always described here). The plate order, printing techniques and colouring of "Songs" vary from copy to copy.
"Songs" combines "Songs of Innocence" (1789) and "Songs of Experience" (1794); these two books were also advertised separately. Although copies were usually purchased by artists and art collectors, "Songs" takes the form of a children's book and it addresses issues relating to childhood and education.
Copy A of "Songs Of Innocence and Of Experience" is printed on folio sheets which measure approximately 379 x 273 mm. It was probably printed in 1795, the year that Blake also printed other illuminated books on folio sheets.
Copy A of "Songs" is comprised of 50 plates. It lacks the combined title-page, which did lead scholars to identify it as the earliest copy of the combined "Songs" (this would have meant it was printed in 1794). Most of the plates that make up "Songs of Innocence" are here printed in olive-brown ink, and the plates that make up "Songs of Experience" printed in olive-green. All the plates are also hand-coloured. A number of plates seem to show evidence of small amounts of colour printing, with black as the second colour. However, this must remain tentative: the identification of Blake's techniques, including his colour printing techniques, remains an issue unresolved among scholars.
The British Museum has three copies of "Songs of Innocence and of Experience": this copy, copy A (1924,0726.1.1 - 28 and 1924,0726.2.1 - 22); copy B (1932,1210.2 - 31); and copy T (1856,0209.337 - 390). There is also an electrotype from "Songs of Innocence" in the collection (1926,0816.1).
Reproductions of copies AA, C, F, L, R, and Z of "Songs" (from the Fitzwilliam Museum, the Library of Congress and the Yale Center for British Art) can be found at The William Blake Archive, www.blakearchive.org.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- A dedication at the front of each volume records that they were "presented by Mrs. B. B. Macgeorge as a memorial of the Macgeorge Library". She had bought the book at the sale of the Macgeorge library at Sotheby's on 1 July 1924 for £760, and presented it to the BM later that month.
Viscomi discusses Romney's ownership of this copy of "Songs" in "The Myth of Commissioned Illuminated Books: George Romney, Isaac D'Israeli, and 'One Hundred and Sixty designs . . . of Blake's.'" Blake: An Illustrated Quarterly 23 (1989-90): 48-74.
The later provenance of the book is discussed in Keynes & Wolf, William Blake's Illuminated Books: A Census (New York, 1953), p. 56.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number