New works in the Blake Archive

The William Blake Archive has recently added a series of thirty-three of Blake’s water colour illustrations to the Bible. This series, which comprises scenes from the New Testament, supplements the series of Old Testament paintings that were included on the site in March 2010.

Most of the illustrations were painted for Thomas Butts between 1800 and 1805, although two of them – The Whore of Babylon and The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins – date from 1809 and c. 1825 respectively.

This new series means that fifty-three of Blake’s biblical illustrations are now available on the Blake Archive. Blake painted over 135 such illustrations for Thomas Butts in tempera and watercolour between 1799 and 1805, the earlier illustrations apparently being in tempera on canvas or copper before he turned to watercolour. They include some of his most famous images, such as The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in the Sun and Jacob’s Dream.

The paintings are listed on the Blake Archive under Water Color Drawings Illustrating the Bible.


New Publication: An Island in the Moon

The William Blake Archive has published an electronic edition of Blake’s unfinished manuscript, An Island in the Moon, available from its collection of electronic versions of Blake’s works.

Blake worked on the manuscript probably between 1784-5. It has since become particularly famous for the inclusion of several lyrics that were later to be included in Songs of Innocence (1789), such as “Nurse’s Song”, “Holy Thursday” and “The Little Boy Lost”. The imaginative fiction, set in “a certain Island near by a mighty continent” on the moon, also abounds with wide-ranging contemporary allusions to the London society of Blake’s day, in particular the social circle that gathered around the Rev. A.S. Mathew and his wife Harriet.

As the authors of The Cynic Sang, the blog for the Blake Archive observe, An Island “demonstrates a born satirist’s instincts for the ridiculous with a boisterous sendup of middle class London social and intellectual life”, drawing also on theatrical traditions and satires of the eighteenth century. Unpublished during Blake’s lifetime, it shows a very different writer to the apocalyptic visionary so frequently encountered in the prophetic books, although its tone is also very evident in works such as The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.

This edition is the fruition of work undertaken by the Blake Archive text editing team, which was established by the University of Rochester in 2006. As such, An Island, the first major project by that team, provides searchable XML-tagged text that will also be extremely useful for scholars working with the manuscript and its various revisions.

Further information can be found at The Cynic Sang and The William Blake Archive.

Editing and Reading Blake

Romantic Circles has just published another volume in its Praxis series, Editing and Reading Blake. Co-edited by Wayne C. Ripley and Justin Van Kleeck, this collection of essays looks at the profound challenges William Blake poses to both editors and readers.

Ripley’s introduction provides an overview of how editors have represented Blake over the past century and a half, including how the editors of the Blake Archive transform the possibilities of accessing Blake’s work.

Subsequent essays include those by editors of Blake, such as David Fuller, W. H. Stevenson, and Mary Lynn Johnson, that explore particular contexts and issues that emerge when engaging with Blake’s idiosyncratic texts. In addition, a series of essays by authors such as Rachel Lee and Justin Van Kleeck explore the special considerations that come into play when dealing with the requirements of new technologies.

As all editorial work requires mediation (and thus misrepresentation), so the notion that we can in any way read Blake’s works as he intended them is increasingly being recognised as “an editorial fantasy”. The collection also looks to future ways in which Blake’s works will address audiences.

Editing and Reading Blake can be read at

New editions of Visions of the Daughters of Albion

The William Blake Archive has published two new versions of Visions of the Daughters of Albion. The two new editions, copies E and I, join the nine editions previously published out of a possible seventeen surviving copies of Blake’s text.

Visions of the Daughters of Albion was first printed by Blake in 1793 and was the prophetic book most influenced by the work and ideas of Mary Wollstonecraft (click here to read more about the relationship between Blake and Wollstonecraft), providing an account of the rape and humiliation of Oothoon that drew comparisons between the domestic and sexual lives of women in eighteenth-century England and slavery. The book consists of eleven relief-etched plates and the new copies were produced during the first printing of 1793, although Blake returned to the book in the mid-1790s and even as late as 1818.

Blake used different coloured inks in these two versions – raw sienna in copy E and green in copy I. As the editors of the Blake Archive observe, this was probably to provide variety to his stock of copies and creates delicate effects across the different versions.

You can read about the new editions and view these and the other digitised versions online at the Blake Archive.

Bible illustrations published on Blake Archive

Blasphemer - Blake ArchiveTwenty of Blake’s water colour illustrations to the Bible have been published on theBlake Archive. Produced by Blake between approximately 1800 and 1806, the selected images depict scenes from the Old Testament and indicate the profound and lasting influence that the Bible had on his work.

Blake painted a series of some eighty biblical scenes for Thomas Butts in the early nineteenth century, and some of the images in the series, such as The Blasphemer, Ezekiel’s Wheels and David Delivered Out of Many Waters are among the most famous of Blake’s images.

The Blake Archive will continue to add Blake’s biblical paintings, with plans to include scenes from the New Testament before moving on to images from early in Blake’s career, such as Abraham and Isaac (c. 1780), as well as his final biblical paintings from the 1820s.

For more information visit or

Milton published on Blake Archive

Another version of Blake’s Milton a Poem has been published on the Blake Archive. Copy D, from the Rosenwald Collection, Library of Congress, has now been added to join the three previous versions (A, B, and C).

The first of Blake’s two final great illuminated epics, along with Jerusalem, Milton a Poem represents the epitome of Blake’s art of book making. Work began on Milton in 1804 and by about 1811 Blake had engraved forty-five plates by about 1811, adding a further six plates by 1818. Of the four copies that survive, none contains all fift-one plates. One of the most famous of Blake’s lyrics, “And did those feet in ancient time” (later to become the words to the hymn “Jerusalem”), included in the Preface to Milton, only appears in the first two copies.

Inclusion of Copy D of the poem now means that the Blake Archive includes seventy-three copies of Blake’s nineteen illuminated books, as well as other manuscripts, drawings, paintings and illustrations.

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