Songs of Innocence

Songs of Innocence by William Blake cover, female figure sitting with two children under a large flowering tree

Cover of Songs of Innocence

By William Blake,  London, 1926 (1789)

Songs of Innocence

Written and Illustrated by William Blake

London, Ernest Benn, 1926 (1789)

7" x 10"

Kerlan Collection, Children's Literature Research Collections

University of Minnesota Libraries

William Blake
William Blake, 1807

This edition of Blake's Songs of Innocence was reproduced from a copy in the British Museum, printed and made in Great Britain, and was first published in the year 1926 by Ernest Benn, Ltd., Bouverie House, Fleet Street, London. The colophon within states that it's a facsimile of 1789 edition printed by William Blake.

One of English art and poetry's visionary outliers, William Blake recalled having seen, "as early as four...God press His face against the window." To him, there was nothing the least bit extraordinary about this: children, Blake believed, were spiritual guides, untarnished souls with ready access to the essential nature of things. He codified his vision of childhood in Songs of Innocence, a slender collection of lyric poetry that he wrote, designed, and illustrated—with printing and hand-coloring assistance from his wife, Catherine. He sold the book in his London print shop, originally from a edition of just 16 copies.

Songs of Innocence greatly influenced latter-day picture book artists with its organic blending of image and text. Blake was convinced that children would find much to appreciate in its quick-silver pages as well. He was far less certain about grown-ups. 


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