Inks and Paper

The same attention to historical accuracy as in the production of the plates has been given to preparing inks, selecting papers, inking and wiping the plates, and printing. Using the Pantone colour chart, the colour of ink to be reproduced is checked against Blake’s original impressions, the ink mixed, printed, and checked again. Inks are specially mixed before each printing session from a selection of historic pigments that we know Blake used, including bone black, vermillion, madder lake, gamboge, yellow ochre and Prussian blue, supplied by Kremer Pigmente of Germany (suppliers of historic pigments to museums and galleries for restoration). To bind the dry pigments together thick linseed oil and lead white have been used to produce a dry, paste-like mix, the presence of lead white (established in laboratory analysis of Blake’s original monochrome and colour prints using x-ray fluorescence spectroscopy by Rebecca Donnan at the National Gallery of Art in Washington) helping to absorb the oil and give the printed impressions their characteristic chalky effects.

Fig. 1: Page-opening of notebook alongside the Pantone colour chart used to record experiments in mixing golden yellow ochre ink to match the ink Blake used to print Copy E of Songs of Innocence in the Berg Collection of the New York Public Library.

Fig. 1: Page-opening of notebook alongside the Pantone colour chart used to record experiments in mixing golden yellow ochre ink to match the ink Blake used to print Copy E of Songs of Innocence in the Berg Collection of the New York Public Library.

Fig. 2: Historic pigments used to mix golden yellow ochre ink shown with palette knife and leather ink dauber.

Fig. 2: Historic pigments used to mix golden yellow ochre ink shown with palette knife and leather ink dauber.

Fig. 3: Mixing historic pigments with linseed oil.

Fig. 3: Mixing historic pigments with linseed oil.

The papers used to print the impressions have been chosen from a selection of hand-made laid and wove papers that in colour, texture, and weight compare with the papers that Blake used to print his illuminated books and separate prints. A few of the impressions have been printed on laid papers produced during Blake’s lifetime, including examples made by J Whatman, as well as examples of hand-made wove papers produced in the early twentieth century. There is also a hand-made wove paper specially watermarked with Blake’s initials. The papers are torn to the same size as the copies of the illuminated books that have survived untrimmed since Blake issued them stitched into paper wrappers (for example, in the Berg Collection at the New York Public Library), approximately 195 140 for the Songs and 390 280 mm. for the sheets to print America and Europe.

Fig. 4: Hand-made laid paper showing the ‘J Whatman 1809’ watermark

Fig. 4: Hand-made laid paper showing the ‘J Whatman 1809’ watermark