Songs of Innocence and of Experience goes on sale for estimated $1.8 million

The first sale of this copy of Blake's most famous work to since 1989 comes with a high estimated price tag.

Songs of Innocence and of Experience is the most famous of Blake's illuminated books, and an original copy has been put up for auction at Sotheby's, New York, with an estimated price tag of between $1.2 million and $1.8 million.

Copy J, owned by Emma Rothschild, is one of only six remaining in private hands. Printed by Blake in 1795 and hand coloured, it is the first copy of the Songs to come onto the open market since 1989. This is also the copy that was owned by the Swedenborgian and early patron of Blake, Charles Augustus Tulk, who loaned it to S.T. Coleridge in 1818.

According to Selby Kiffer, Sotheby’s Senior Vice President of Books & Manuscripts:

Each [copy] is a unique object merged from two books: Songs of Innocence, first published in 1789, and Songs of Experience, in 1794. ...The coloring was done by Blake and his wife Catherine in wildly different palettes; this is a soft pastel palette, which is very beautiful.

The sale was announced on 12 June at a special event in London, when Shahidha Bari, Graham-Dixon joined John Higgs, the author of William Blake vs the World, and Kiffer gathered in London to discuss the significance of Blake's work and the particular features of this copy.

You can read more about the copy that is due to be auctioned, as well as the podcast with the speakers at the launch, on the Sotheby's web site