Index Bibliography

Songs of Innocence

Currently Available:

Songs of Innocence, copy B, 1789 (Library of Congress): electronic edition
Songs of Innocence, copy G, 1789 (Yale Center for British Art): electronic edition
Songs of Innocence, copy I, 1789 (Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery): electronic edition
Songs of Innocence, copy L, 1789 (Bodleian Library): electronic edition
Songs of Innocence, copy U, 1789 (The Houghton Library): electronic edition
Songs of Innocence, copy X, 1789 (National Gallery of Victoria): electronic edition
Songs of Innocence, copy Z, 1789 (Bayerische Staatsbibliothek): electronic edition

Dates are the probable dates of printing.

This lyric anthology evokes a predominantly pastoral world prior to the dualisms of adult consciousness. Human, natural, and divine states of being have yet to be separated. The child is the chief representative of this condition; other recurrent figures, such as the shepherd and lamb, point ultimately to the figure of Christ as the incarnation of the unity of innocence. In a few poems, the rhetoric, irony, and divided consciousness of experience begin to insinuate themselves into the landscape of innocence. In 1794, Blake combined Innocence with its contrary companion, the Songs of Experience, to create the combined Songs of Innocence and of Experience.

Blake etched the Songs of Innocence in relief, with

 white-line work in some designs, on thirty-one plates in 1789, the

 date on the title page. The first printing, also of 1789, produced

 seventeen (or possibly eighteen) copies: U, W, and possibly untraced copy V were printed in black ink on 31 leaves; I, J, X, and "Innocence" of Songs of Innocence and of Experience copy

 F were printed in green ink on both sides of the leaves; A-H, K-M, Z were printed in the same style in yellow ochre or raw sienna ink. In

 addition, the "Innocence" section of what would later become

 Songs of Innocence and of Experience copies B-E were

 printed in this first session. The first copies, printed in black ink on one side of the leaves, were uncolored, appearing more like a book of prints than a book of poems; all the subsequent copies were colored and, with images on both sides of the leaves, had facing pages characteristic of books, though the light imprint, wiped plate borders, and simple washes made these copies appear like “printed manuscripts.”

After 1794, the printing history of Innocence becomes complex because Blake began printing it with Experience to form copies of the combined Songs while continuing also to issue Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience separately. Complicating matters further are the facts that some separately issued copies of Innocence were combined with Experience by collectors and dealers, and that copies of Innocence now separate were once part of copies of the combined Songs.

In 1795, Blake printed both sections of Songs of Innocence and of Experience copies A and R. In a separate print-run of the same year, he 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" section of combined Songs copies J, O, and S, and both sections of combined Songs I, L, M, and BB. The "Innocence" section of combined Songs copy O was once joined with the "Experience" section of combined Songs copy K; untraced Innocence copy W was probably once joined with the "Experience" section of combined Songs copy N. In c. 1802, Blake printed three copies of Songs of Innocence (O, R and Y printed as a single copy and later divided into incomplete copies, and the "Innocence" section of combined Songs copy P), along with two copies of Experience (the "Experience" sections of Songs of Innocence and of Experience copies P and Q). In c. 1804, he printed another three copies of Songs 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). This was the last time Blake printed Songs of Innocence separately. Songs of Innocence copy T is posthumous, with hand coloring in imitation of copy B. No two copies of Songs of Innocence share the same arrangement of the plates.

Between 1818 and 1827, Blake always printed Innocence and Experience as parts of the combined Songs. In seven of the eight copies produced, the plate order remained the same (see Songs of Innocence and of Experience).

Related Works

Related works currently available in the William Blake Archive appear as links below. Works not currently available appear as plain text.

All Known Copies

This list includes untraced copies known only from sales catalogues.
  • Copy A, 1789
    Private Collection
  • Copy B, 1789
    Rosenwald Collection, Library of Congress
    Washington, DC
  • Copy C, 1789
    Wellesley College
    Wellesley, Massachusetts
  • Copy D, 1789
    Morgan Library and Museum
    New York City
  • Innocence bound in Songs of Innocence and of Experience copy D, 1789
    Private Collection
  • Copy E, 1789
    Berg Collection, New York Public Library
    New York City
  • Copy F, 1789
    Houghton Library
    Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Copy G, 1789
    Yale Center for British Art
    Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut
  • Copy H, 1789
    Private Collection
  • Copy I, 1789
    Huntington Library and Art Gallery
    San Marino, California
  • Copy J, 1789
    Maurice Sendak
  • Copy K, 1789
    Carl H. Pforzheimer Library
    New York City
  • Copy M, 1789
    Private Collection
  • Copy U, 1789
    Houghton Library
    Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Copy V, 1789
    Untraced
  • Copy W, 1789?
    Untraced
  • Copy X, 1789
    National Gallery of Victoria
    Melbourne, Australia
  • Copy Z, 1789
    Bayerische Staatsbibliothek
    Munich, Germany
  • Innocence bound in Songs of Innocence and of Experience copy J, c. 1795
    Emma Rothschild
  • Copy N, c. 1795
    Private Collection
  • Copy O, c. 1802
    Humanities Research Center
    University of Texas, Austin, Texas
  • Innocence bound in Songs of Innocence and of Experience copy P, c. 1802
    Wormsley Library
    Wormsley, Buckinghamshire, England
  • Copy R, c. 1802
    Fitzwilliam Museum
    Cambridge, England
  • Copy Y, plates 4, 5, 9, 10, 13, 14, 18, c. 1802
    Collection of Robert N. Essick
    Altadena, California
  • Copy Y, plates 6-7, c. 1802
    Northwestern University Library
    Evanston, Illinois
  • Copy Y, plate 8, c. 1802
    University of Victoria Library
    Toronto, Canada
  • Copy Y, plate 11, c. 1802
    Adam Fuss
    New York City
  • Copy Y, plates 12, 16, 17, c. 1802
    Alan Parker
    London
  • Copy Y, plate 15, c. 1802
    Untraced
  • Copy P, c. 1804
    Beinecke Library
    Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut
  • Copy Q, c. 1804
    Syracuse University Library
    Syracuse, New York
  • Innocence bound in Songs of Innocence and of Experience copy Q, c. 1804
    Mrs. Seth Dennis
  • Copy S, c. 1811
    Cincinnati Museum of Art
    Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Innocence bound in Songs of Innocence and of Experience copy S, c. 1811
    Cincinnati Museum of Art
    Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Copy T, c. 1832
    Princeton University Library
    Princeton, New Jersey

All Known Related Drawings
  • Blake's Notebook, page 55
    Pencil Sketch, c. 1790-93. Butlin 201.55.
    British Library
    London
  • Songs of Innocence: Frontispiece
    Water color (?), date unknown. Butlin 215.
    Untraced
  • Songs of Innocence: Introduction
    Water color (?), date unknown. Butlin 216.
    Untraced