Blake seeks to provide the Golden String which can lead us through the labyrinth of our experience or his own poetry.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


William Blake and Henry Fuseli together were involved in illustrating Erasmus Darwin's The Botanic Garden which was published by Joseph Johnson in 1791. The book is a set of two poems, The Economy of Vegetation and The Loves of the Plants by an author who was both poet and naturalist. Blake, Fuseli and Johnson shared many of the liberal, anti-establishment ideas which were incorporated in the book.
The Wikimedia article on The Botanic Garden includes these statements:

"But it was not only organic change that Darwin was illustrating, it was also social and political change. Throughout The Botanic Garden, Darwin endorses the ideals of the American and French revolutions and criticizes slavery.
When Johnson published The Botanic Garden in 1791, he charged a hefty twenty-one shillings for it. Seward wrote that "the immense price which the bookseller gave for this work, was doubtless owing to considerations which inspired his trust in its popularity. Botany was, at that time, and still continues a very fashionable study." However, the high price would also have discouraged government prosecution for a book that contained radical political views. Any subversive ideas that the poem contained were therefore limited to an audience of the educated elite who could afford to purchase the book."

An illustration named Fertilization of Egypt was engraved by Blake from a design by Fuseli. A caption in British Museum gives this information about  the image:

"the God Anubis with the head of a dog praying to the star Sirius for rain, he stands with one foot on either bank of the river, beyond the winged figure of Jupiter Pluvius."

British Museum
Illustration for The Botanic Garden
Drawing by Fuseli
British Museum
Illustration for The Botanic Garden
Drawing by Blake


British Museum
Illustration for The Botanic Garden
Engraving by Blake

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