William Blake, Rumi of the west?


A complete copy of Songs of Innocence and of Experience contains fifty-four plates etched in relief with touches of white-line work in a few designs. Plate a (a tailpiece probably etched in the late 1780s) appears only in Copies B-D of the combined Songs; Plate b ("A Divine Image") appears only in Copy BB of the combined Songs among those printed by Blake. Plates 34-36, 53, and 54 were first published in Innocence but moved to Experience in 1794, 1795, and 1818 respectively.

The printing history of the combined Songs is complicated because Blake printed it while also continuing to print Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience separately, and because some copies of the combined Songs were assembled by collectors or dealers from copies of Innocence and Experience separately issued, while other copies now consist of only one section. The separately issued copies of Innocence are listed under Songs of Innocence, while the few separate and separately issued copies of Experience are listed below. Experience was first printed while it was still a work in progress; seventeen of the plates were color printed in c. 1794 and now make up SongsCopies F, G, H, and T1-2. The first copies of the combined Songs were B, C, and D, formed in 1794 from copies of Innocence printed in 1789 and copies of the completeExperience printed in 1794. Combined Songs Copy E also consists mostly of impressions from these print runs, but appears to have been assembled or at least recolored c. 1806 for Blake's patron Thomas Butts.

The first copies of the combined Songs in which the two sections were printed together were A and R in 1795. That same year, Blake printed eight sets of Innocence and nine sets of Experience impressions to form Innocence Copy N, the "Innocence" section of combined Songs Copy J, the "Experience" sections of combined Songs Copies J, O, and S, and both sections of combined Songs Copies I, L, M, and BB. "Innocence" of combined Songs Copy O was once joined with "Experience" of combined Songs Copy K, and untraced Innocence Copy W was probably once combined with "Experience" of combined Songs Copy N. In c. 1802, Blake printed three copies of Innocence (O, R and Y printed as a single copy and later divided into two incomplete copies, and the "Innocence" section of combined Songs Copy P), along with two copies of Experience(the "Experience" sections of combined Songs Copies P and Q). In c. 1804, he printed another three copies of Innocence (P, Q, and the "Innocence" section of combined Songs Copy Q); in c. 1811 he printed two more copies (Innocence Copy S and the "Innocence" section of combined Songs Copy S).

Between 1818 and 1827, Innocence and Experience were always printed as part of the combined Songs. In c. 1818, Blake printed combined Songs Copies T2 and U; in c. 1821, Copy V; in 1825, Copies W and Y; in 1826, Copies Z and AA; and in 1827, Copy X. In all but Copy V, the plate order is the same, though Copy T2 has had Plate 49 repositioned and a few Innocence poems replaced with earlier impressions. The plate order in these last copies and in "Innocence" of combined Songs Copy S (c. 1811) follows, with minor variations, the plate order of combined Songs Copy R, which was Blake's personal copy until he sold it to John Linnell in 1819. The coloring of combinedSongs Copies K and M is posthumous.