Publish Your Own Book: History of Famous Poet William Blake

About the famous poet William Blake who self-published most of his poetry, history and information.

Publish Your Own Book

Although his 1st self-published volume in 1783 was a disaster, William Blake continued to produce and publish almost his entire life's work by himself and with the help of his wife Catherine. Like many other self-published and self-produced authors, Blake learned his production methods early, as an apprentice engraver.

When Songs of Innocence was finished in 1789, Blake was without funds, without credit, without a patron, and without a publisher. Blake said that his dead brother Robert revealed the solution in a dream: He should engrave his poems and drawings on copper plates. The next morning, Blake and his wife spent the last of their money on copper.

He began the process that he would use with variations for the rest of his life. Blake outlined his verse and marginal embellishments on the copper with a liquid. The remainder of the plate was then eaten away by nitric acid or other acid, leaving the raised outlines of letters and designs, like a stereotype. After a page was printed from the copperplate, he and his wife hand-colored it in imitation of the original. Blake did everything but make his own paper. He mixed his watercolors (preferring indigo, cobalt, and vermilion), applied the colors with a camel's-hair brush, and bound his books with diluted carpenter's glue. Blake said this binding was suggested to him in a dream by Joseph, the sacred carpenter.

The 1st edition of Songs of Innocence contained 27 engravings and was small, a mere 5" by 3", in order to save money on precious copper.

Blake was constantly hounded by poverty. Many of his prints and poems have been lost to us because he was forced to melt down engraved copper for new plates. Blake published only to his friends and patrons. He was stubborn about receiving money: If he suspected it was offered as charity and not for his work, he refused the donation.

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