What's New in the William Blake Archive

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30 May 2013

The William Blake Archive is pleased to announce the publication of an electronic edition of Europe a Prophecy copy A. Only nine copies of Europe printed by Blake are extant. In 1794, the date on its title plate, Blake color printed copies B, C, D, E, F, and G; in 1795 he printed copies A and H, and in 1821 he printed copy K. All are in the Archive except copies C and F, which will be published next year to complete the history of this illuminated book. Europe consists of 18 plates, like its counterpart, America a Prophecy, produced the previous year, but most copies, including copy A, have 17 plates. Only copies H and K contain plate 3, a whimsical prefatory statement about the poem's origin.

Europe a Prophecy was the second of Blake's "Continental Prophecies," followed in 1795 by "Africa" and "Asia," the two sections of The Song of Los. Important examples of all three books—America, Europe, The Song of Los—are in the Archive. Like the other illuminated books in the Archive, the text and images of Europe copy A are fully searchable and are supported by the Archive's Compare feature. New protocols for transcription, which produce improved accuracy and fuller documentation in editors' notes, have been applied to copy A and to all the Europe texts previously published.

Copy A, in the Yale Center for British Art, was printed on large leaves of paper as part of a deluxe set of illuminated books, which included America copy A, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell copy D, and The Book of Urizen copy B, all in the Archive. David Bindman has raised doubts about the coloring in Europe copy A, suspecting that it may have been added by a later hand, perhaps in the twentieth century. In our opinion the coloring was done by Blake and his wife Catherine. The coloring of the frontispiece, with thick dabs of reds and blacks seemingly uncharacteristic of Blake, was probably the result of his experimenting with opaque pigments to create effects similar to his color printing. We see similar opaque reds and blacks applied in like manner in impressions of plate 8 of The Song of Los, especially in copy C. These too were printed and finished in 1795, the year Blake produced his set of 12 large color printed drawings. The color washes of some of the other plates in Europe copy A, however, appear to be by Catherine Blake (see Joseph Viscomi, Blake and the Idea of the Book, 133-34).  

With the publication of Europe copy A, the Archive now contains fully searchable and scalable electronic editions of 86 copies of Blake's nineteen illuminated books in the context of full bibliographic information about each work, careful diplomatic transcriptions of all texts, detailed descriptions of all images, and extensive bibliographies. In addition to illuminated books, the Archive contains many important manuscripts and series of engravings, color printed drawings, tempera paintings, and water color drawings.

In January the Archive disabled its Java-based ImageSizer and Virtual Lightbox applications. Virtual Lightbox has now been re-enabled. Archive users are encouraged to use the latest version of Java compatible with their browsers in order to have the best possible experience with the Lightbox. ImageSizer has not yet been re-enabled, but users can still view 100 and 300 dpi JPEG images as well as complete transcriptions for works in the Archive including Europe copy A. Text searching is also still available for all works in the Archive, and image searching remains available for all works except those in preview mode. In the coming months the Archive will implement redesigned pages that restore the features of ImageSizer and the Virtual Lightbox without the use of Java.

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.

Morris Eaves, Robert N. Essick, and Joseph Viscomi, editors
Ashley Reed, project manager, William Shaw, technical editor
The William Blake Archive

The Book of Urizen, copy G, plate 5, Library of Congress