I linked to this in a post last week, but it’s so fantastic that I’d thought I should mention it specifically: The William Blake Archive. It’s a comprehensive digital archive where you can view and read multiple copies of Blake’s illuminated/printed books. Things like this are one reason why the Internet and other digital technology is good for books, and good for those of us who are interested in them.
Along with the works themselves there are also some informative essays about Blake’s life and about the process that he used to make the books. Here’s a brief passage (related to some other threads that have been running through this blog) from the essay about his process, “Illuminated Printing,” by Joseph Viscomi:
Blake realized very early that his new medium's autographic nature made the poem the only prerequisite for executing plates, that rewriting texts was also an act of visual invention, and thus that the medium could be used for production rather than reproduction. With no designs to transfer or reproduce, the placement and extent of text, letter size, line spacing, as well as placement and extent of illustration, were invented only during execution. This method of designing meant that Blake did not know what lines or stanza would go on what plate, or how many plates a poem/book would need. Working without models allowed each illuminated print and book to evolve through its production in ways impossible in conventional book-making. Blake could begin working on a book before it was completely written.
And of course you can also download Blake’s texts from Project Gutenberg.
Several worlds to get lost in.