William Blake

‘Songs of Innocence’: Title-Page

1789, reprinted 1831 or later

Medium
Relief etching on paper
Dimensions
Image: 120 x 64 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by Mrs John Richmond 1922
Reference
A00039

Display caption

This is the title-page from Blake’s illuminated book of poems, Songs of Innocence, which he first printed and published in 1789. Blake composed the verse and designed and printed the pages. He developed a technique for integrating both text and image onto a single etching plate for printing. This reflects his view of the intimate relationship between image and text, each being a comment on the other.

Gallery label, August 2004

Catalogue entry

A00039 [from] Songs of Innocence and of Experience: Miscellaneous Pages 1789 and 1794/1831 or later [A00035-A00039; complete]

A00035- A00039/ -

5 relief etchings, printed in grey
Presented by Mrs John Richmond 1922
PROVENANCE ?Mrs Blake; Frederick Tatham; his brother-in-law George Richmond, sold Christie's 29 April 1897 (in 147 with 22 other works; see no.2) £2.10.0 bt Dr Richard Sisley; his daughter Mrs John Richmond
LITERATURE Keynes Bibliography 1921, pp.114–28; Erdman Illuminated Blake 1974, pp.41–97, book repr.; Bentley Blake Books 1977, pp.364–432 no.139 (Tate works pp.371, 430); Bindman Graphic Works 1978, pp.468–9 nos.40–70, 474 nos.214–69, two books repr.

Blake published his Songs of Innocence on their own in 1789. In his prospectus To the Public of 10 October 1793 he advertised both Songs of Innocence and, as a separate item, Songs of Experience; however the separate title-page for Songs of Experience is dated 1794 (Keynes Writings 1957, p.208). Most though not all of the existing copies of Songs of Experience are bound up with Songs of Innocence with a joint titlepage reading Songs of Innocence and of Experience Shewing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul; this is undated. In some of these joint copies certain poems originally included in Songs of Innocence are moved to Songs of Experience. Even within the two sets, the order of the poems was frequently altered.

A00037 is watermarked ‘1831’ and, as all these pages show the same palish grey inking and type of paper, all were presumably printed after Blake's death in 1827, probably by Frederick Tatham from the plates that Mrs Blake would have brought with her when she went to stay with him in September 1828, though not necessarily before her death on 18 October 1831.

These works were formerly inventoried as nos.3694 vii, viii, vi, v, va and iv respectively.

A00039 Songs of Innocence: Title-Page (second copy) 1789/1831 or later

A 00039/-
Relief etching, printed in grey 120×64 (4 3/4 × 2 1/4) on paper 245×202 (9 3/4×8 1/8)


Published in:
Martin Butlin, William Blake 1757-1827, Tate Gallery Collections, V, London 1990