The X-ray crystal structure of (bpyH2)2[W(CN)8]·4H2O (bpyH2 = 2,2′-bipyridinium) is described. The [W(CN)8]4− anion has an approximately square antiprismatic (D4d) conformation, seemingly imposed by strong anion–water–cation hydrogen-bonding interactions. Bond distances in the anion are: WC 2.150(5), 2.163(5); CN 1.128(6), 1.145(6)Å and the angles WCN are 177.6(5), 178.3(5)°. The dihydrate and the anhydrous salt are both intensely black solids, exhibiting ion-pair charge-transfer interaction between cation and anion. E.s.r. spectra indicate that 30% of the tungsten is present as WV in the solid state, but that in solution only the WIV complex is present. The electron withdrawing effect of the cation is discussed and compared with that in a series of salts with different bipyridinium cations.