About this Resource

About this Resource

An Island in the Moon is an incomplete manuscript written in pen and ink in Blake’s hand. It contains the earliest extant drafts of "Nurse’s Song," "Holy Thursday," and "The Little Boy Lost," which make their first published appearance in his Songs of Innocence (1789). Topical allusions and the history of Blake’s associations with the London social circle of the Rev. A. S. Mathew and his wife Harriet in the 1780s suggest a period of composition c. 1784-85. The use of dialogue interspersed with song lyrics links the narrative to both contemporary theatrical forms and broader eighteenth-century satirical traditions. Blake and his brother Robert play central roles as the philosophers “Quid” and “Suction.” Although Blake left it orphaned, untitled, and unfinished in a heavily revised manuscript, Island is in some sense a primary literary experiment for him, setting the undertone of much to follow.

Performance/Publication History

An Island in the Moon was originally performed in Cornell University’s Kaufmann Auditorium, 7-8 April 1983, as part of “Blake: Ancient and Modern,” a two-day symposium (8-9 April) at Cornell. Its success enabled encore presentations on 11-12 May in Cornell’s Drummond Studio, which were videotaped with two cameras each night. Viscomi edited the 3/4” videotapes for Ithaca Public Television, which aired it on 2 December 1983 and a few other nights the following spring. The tapes were then transferred to 1/2” videotape for home and classroom showings. The Web site was first created with the assistance of Todd Stabley and published in 2003 at http://www.ibiblio.org/jsviscom/island/index.html.


 In early spring of 2011, the original site went off line due to server upgrades, which removed the legacy video streaming software. In preparing to resume streaming the video and its clips, fall 2011, Joseph Viscomi redigitized the 3/4" master videotape and with his assistant Bihan Zhang made all new video and audio clips.

Copyright Notice

Video, text, and photographs copyright © 2003 by Joseph Viscomi, songs and musical compositions copyright © 2003 by Margaret H. LaFrance, all rights reserved. Materials may be shared in accordance with the Fair Use provisions of U.S. copyright law. Redistribution or republication on other terms, in any medium, requires express written consent from the copyright holders.

About the Design and Markup

This volume was TEI-encoded by Dave Rettenmaier, a site manager for Romantic Circles. The table of contents banner, also designed by Dave Rettenmaier with the assistance of Joseph Viscomi, includes an original photograph of the 1983 performance of the play. The initial transformation from WORD Doc to TEI P5 was made using the OxGarage tool, with further TEI markup modifications according to RC house style by Dave Rettenmaier. TEI renders text archival quality for better preservation and future access. Laura Mandell and Dave Rettenmaier developed the modified versions of the transforms provided by the TEI that were used to convert the TEI files into HTML.