William Blake. “The Ecchoing Green.” Two hand colored relief etchings. Printed c. 1803.
One of the poems from his Songs of Innocence, Blake first self-published, hand printed and hand colored Songs of Innocence in 1789. Beginning in 1794 he issued the Songs in combination with its companion volume Songs of Experience, and continued to print occasional copies of this for the rest of his life. Only about 30 copies are known to exist, and most of these reside in institutional collections. Because Blake experimented with different coloring schemes in these prints no two copies are the same. Generally speaking his colors became bolder and richer over the course of his life. The two prints comprising “The Ecchoing Green” that we acquired came from what is known as Copy Y of the Songs (a designation given to it by Blake bibliographer G.E. Bentley). Copy Y was printed sometime around 1803. For unknown reasons Copy Y was broken into separate leaves and over time these were dispersed into various hands. Seven of the poems from Copy Y were recently put up for auction. The opportunity to acquire “real” Blakes, works written, designed, printed and colored by the man himself, hardly ever occurs. While we have slowly built up an excellent collection of Blake’s commercially issued books and prints, until the wonderful arrival of “The Ecchoing Green” we had no example of his self-published color relief poetry. These exquisite little prints, washed in a delicate rainbow of colors with highlights in shell gold, were meant to be facing pages and were designed with that in mind.