Reproducing Songs of Innocence and of Experience from the finest copy


Folio’s edition of Songs of Innocence and of Experience is reproduced from one of the finest surviving copies, known as ‘Copy W’, now held at King’s College, University of Cambridge. In this blog, Folio’s Production Director Kate Grimwade explains how she matched our edition as closely as possible to Blake’s original manuscript.


The Folio Society's edition of Songs of Innocence and of Experience


We started talking about this project as a publishing team in early 2022. There are multiple copies of Songs of Innocence and of Experience in libraries around the world, but we were drawn to Copy W held at King’s College, Cambridge for several reasons: because of its perfect condition, because we understood it to have particularly intense colouring, and finally because the borders around each picture had been drawn by Blake’s wife, Catherine, which we felt was a lovely story. 

As always, one learns so much from getting close to a manuscript. When Tom (Walker, Folio’s publisher) and I first saw it earlier this year, we were astonished to discover that these exquisite illustrations which we knew so well, were in fact set within a large page. So often these images have been reproduced as a small book, but having seen the originals, we felt we should reproduce the pages at full size, within a border, to create a much more luxurious reading experience and, of course, be true to Blake’s vision.



Access to the original manuscript was kindly facilitated by the librarian at King’s College. Although we had files of the illustrations, we were keen to re-photograph the manuscript, to take advantage of the latest photographic technology. King’s kindly arranged this on our behalf, then we worked with these new files to achieve the best colour match possible. 

There were several proofing stages which included trialling different papers, as we wanted to match as closely as possible in weight, shade and texture to the paper Blake used. King’s were incredibly accommodating, allowing us to visit several times to compare our proofs against the original pages. The intense reprographics and colour-correction process was crucial to ensure that the result of Folio’s printing matched the extraordinary colours of the original manuscript. Our aim all along was for the reader to get as close as possible to the amazing experience that we had had, of sitting with Blake’s original manuscript.


Manuscript pages

It was a huge privilege to have access to such a wonderful manuscript, and I hope that Folio readers will enjoy the beautiful edition Folio has produced.

Paintings by Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell on the library wall

An opportunity to visit the breathtakingly beautiful King’s College chapel