With his commitment to nurturing the expression of the imagination, Blake was continually experimenting with means of presenting his ideas in fresh and accessible ways. He reinvented the verbal and visual media he used in the same flexible way that he envisioned the activity of Eternity.
In the introduction to William Blake at the Huntington, Robert N. Essick, distinguished professor of English at the University of California, Riverside, comments on the development of Blake's printing technique:
"The illuminated books of the 1790s show Blake's development as a printmaker as well as a poet...We also find a concomitant shift in Blake's habits as a colorist. In 1794 he began to paint the designs on his relief-etched plates with opaque pigments and to print these with the accompanying inked texts...Blake soon found that he could print from etched shallows or even from unetched plates. This technique, always subject to accident and variation, produced reticulated patches of color that required work with brush or pen on each impression to restore essential outlines...During this same period, hand-coloring developed in a similar direction toward darker and denser effects. The finished designs look more like paintings than tinted prints." (Page 14)
Copy F of Visions of the Daughters of Albion in the Morgan Library and Museum is a departure from the earlier technique of relief etching with water coloring. Blake was experimenting with relief etching with color printing which led to the style of printing we observe in much of the Small Book of Designs.
Visions of the Daughters of Albion
Visions of the Daughters of Albion, Plate iii, (E 45)
"I loved Theotormon
And I was not ashamed
I trembled in my virgin fears
And I hid in Leutha's vale!
I plucked Leutha's flower,
And I rose up from the vale;
But the terrible thunders tore
My virgin mantle in twain."
Visions of Daughters of Albion, PLATE 1, (E 45)
"ENSLAV'D, the Daughters of Albion weep: a trembling lamentation
Upon their mountains; in their valleys. sighs toward America.
For the soft soul of America, Oothoon wanderd in woe,
Along the vales of Leutha seeking flowers to comfort her;
And thus she spoke to the bright Marygold of Leutha's vale
Art thou a flower! art thou a nymph! I see thee now a flower;
Now a nymph! I dare not pluck thee from thy dewy bed!
The Golden nymph replied; pluck thou my flower Oothoon the mild
Another flower shall spring, because the soul of sweet delight
Can never pass away. she ceas'd & closd her golden shrine."
For more on this image read Visions of Daughters of Albion.
From the Book of Urizen
Milton , PLATE 41 , (E 142)
"He smiles with condescension; he talks of Benevolence & Virtue
And those who act with Benevolence & Virtue, they murder time on time
These are the destroyers of Jerusalem, these are the murderers
Of Jesus, who deny the Faith & mock at Eternal Life:
Who pretend to Poetry that they may destroy Imagination;
By imitation of Natures Images drawn from Remembrance
These are the Sexual Garments, the Abomination of Desolation
Hiding the Human lineaments as with an Ark & Curtains
Which Jesus rent: & now shall wholly purge away with Fire
Till Generation is swallowd up in Regeneration."
Descriptive Catalogue, Page 54, (E 547)
"They cause that every thing in art shall become a
Machine. They cause that the execution shall be all blocked up
with brown shadows. They put the original Artist in fear and
doubt of his own original conception. The spirit of Titian was
particularly active, in raising doubts concerning the possibility
of executing without a model, and when once he had raised the
doubt, it became easy for him to snatch away the vision time
after time, for when the Artist took his pencil, to execute his
ideas, his power of imagination weakened so much, and darkened,
that memory of nature and of Pictures of the various
Schools possessed his mind, instead of appropriate execution,
resulting from the inventions; like walking in another man's
style, or speaking or looking in another man's style and manner,
unappropriate and repugnant to your own individual character;
tormenting the true Artist, till he leaves the Florentine, and
adopts the Venetian practice, or does as Mr. B. has done, has the
courage to suffer poverty and disgrace, till he ultimately
For more on this image read Printing House I & II.
From the Book of Thel
Book of Thel, Plate 5, (E 6)
"The daughter of beauty wip'd her pitying tears with her white veil,
And said. Alas! I knew not this, and therefore did I weep:
That God would love a Worm I knew, and punish the evil foot
That wilful, bruis'd its helpless form: but that he cherish'd it
With milk and oil, I never knew; and therefore did I weep,
And I complaind in the mild air, because I fade away,
And lay me down in thy cold bed, and leave my shining lot.
Queen of the vales, the matron Clay answerd; I heard thy sighs.
And all thy moans flew o'er my roof. but I have call'd them down:
Wilt thou O Queen enter my house. 'tis given thee to enter,
And to return; fear nothing. enter with thy virgin feet."
For more on this image read Thel I.