Blake Re-created

William Blake, Title page from Songs of Innocence (1789), relief-etching printed in sepia by Michael Phillips in 2017 on English hand-made wove paper by W. S. Hodgkinson and Co., ca. 1927, 119 x 75 mm.

In 1788 William Blake (1757–1827) invented a revolutionary method of printing word and image together simultaneously, which he called “Illuminated Printing.” Using the copper plate like a sheet of paper and stop-out varnish like ink, Blake wrote his text in reverse, and drew images around and interweaving the words. The plate was then etched in relief to produce a surface that could be printed on Blake’s rolling-press and then, in some cases, colored by hand. The technique allowed Blake to consider word and image as an integral whole, in the manner of illuminated manuscripts, and gave him complete control over both the creation and the reproduction of his writing and art. He used it to produce volumes of his poetry, such as Songs of Innocence and of Experience (1789–1794), as well as ambitious visionary works such as The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1793) and Europe a Prophecy (1794).

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