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

Wednesday, June 26, 2019


Wikimedia Commons
For the Children: Gates of Paradise
Plate 11

I was surprised to learn that Maurice Sendak, the author of numerous children's picture books, was influenced by William Blake. Sendak knew that he could not comprehend the poetry of William Blake but he loved it anyway. His mind did not function like Blake's mind but below the surface of consciousness they shared a common willingness to explore the dark unknown which lay beneath.They both knew that the mind of the child was foundational to penetrating the subconscious which was key to understanding the way that the conscious mind organizes and expresses itself. It is more than coincidental that Sendak's companion of fifty years was the psychiatrist, Eugene Glynn.

Sendak's final book, My Brothers Book, was a tribute to his brother Jack who had died eighteen years previously. Several of the pictures in it are echos of Blake images including this one from the book Milton using a pose in which Blake portrayed himself and his deceased brother Robert in mirror images. Another illustration is reminiscent of the final image of The Four Zoas.

Sendak acknowledged that his work was not specifically directed toward children. He produced books that came from his imagination and they fell into the hands of those who could respond to them. Children responded enthusiastically making Where the Wild Things Are, beloved, although parents may have been unsettled.

Sendak's use of nudity in his illustrations, such as those for In The Night Kitchen, may have owed something to his appreciation of Blake's freedom to draw the human body without obscuring its outlines with garments. Sendak, like Blake, was an iconoclast: he refused to abide within the narrow restraints dictated by the majority culture.    

Songs of Innocence, Introduction, (E 7)
"Piping down the valleys wild
Piping songs of pleasant glee
On a cloud I saw a child.
And he laughing said to me.

Pipe a song about a Lamb;    
So I piped with merry chear,
Piper pipe that song again--
So I piped, he wept to hear.

Drop thy pipe thy happy pipe
Sing thy songs of happy chear,        
So I sung the same again
While he wept with joy to hear

Piper sit thee down and write
In a book that all may read--
So he vanish'd from my sight.
And I pluck'd a hollow reed.

And I made a rural pen,
And I stain'd the water clear,
And I wrote my happy songs
Every child may joy to hear"  

Monday, June 24, 2019


Blake postulated two wheels turning in opposite directions - one in the direction of evil the other of good. We cannot deny an awareness of forces which are active in our world which embody evil or wickedness. We are aware simultaneously of the forces of goodness which are everywhere apparent. The dilemma of those who value all that is meant by good, is how can the strength of evil forces not be overwhelming when opposed by peacefulness, gentleness, and receptiveness. Jesus and Blake were not willing to be silent and allow the powerful to run roughshod over the little ones who were powerless; nor were they willing to advocate the use violence to oppose violence. Jesus suffered the punishment of crucifixion for exemplifying and preaching his opposition to the forces of the power of Rome and entrenched religion.

When we look at deplorable conditions everywhere we may succumb to despair, or, on the contrary, we may rejoice in the improvements which have taken place through the efforts and sacrifice of many individuals devoted to living out the goodness in their own hearts and spirits. The third alternative is to attempt to alter the consciousness of those who by their lethargy allow the movement counter to the direction of good to continue. The wheel moving in the direction of evil may be slowed by what people like Jesus and Blake did; they spoke out in clear unequivocal language against cruelty and hate which act as the fuel to sustain the movement of the wheel moving against the current of creation.

Four Zoas, Night 1, Page 3, (E 300)  
[4 lines of Greek text; Ephesians 6: 12
"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but
against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the
darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high
places. (King James version)"
Ephesians 6
[12] For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
[13] Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
[14] Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
[15] And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
[16] Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
[17] And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
[18] Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;

British Museum
Illustrations to Young's Night Thoughts 
Jerusalem, Plate 77, (E 232)
 "I stood among my valleys of the south
And saw a flame of fire, even as a Wheel
Of fire surrounding all the heavens: it went
From west to east against the current of
Creation and devourd all things in its loud                      
Fury & thundering course round heaven & earth
By it the Sun was rolld into an orb:
By it the Moon faded into a globe,
Travelling thro the night: for from its dire
And restless fury, Man himself shrunk up           
Into a little root a fathom long.
And I asked a Watcher & a Holy-One
Its Name? he answerd. It is the Wheel of Religion
I wept & said. Is this the law of Jesus
This terrible devouring sword turning every way    
He answerd; Jesus died because he strove
Against the current of this Wheel: its Name
Is Caiaphas, the dark Preacher of Death
Of sin, of sorrow, & of punishment;
Opposing Nature! It is Natural Religion            
But Jesus is the bright Preacher of Life
Creating Nature from this fiery Law,
By self-denial & forgiveness of Sin." 
Genesis 50
[18] And his brethren also went and fell down before his face; and they said, Behold, we be thy servants.
[19] And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God?
[20] But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.
[21] Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them.
[22] And Joseph dwelt in Egypt, he, and his father's house: and Joseph lived an hundred and ten years.

Matthew 5
[39] But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. First Peter 8
[8] Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:
[9] Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.
[10] For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile:
[11] Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it.
[12] For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.
[13] And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?

Romans 12
[21] Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.


Saturday, June 22, 2019


A valuable resource for students of Blake is the Yale Center for British Art which houses the large collection of Blake's work which was amassed by Paul Mellon. The following passage by the Chief Curator of Art Collections at the Yale Center for British Art, Matthew Hargraves, demonstrates that Melon's interest in accumulating works by William Blake was influenced by his association with Carl Jung.

From Matthew Hargraves who is Chief Curator of Art Collections at the Yale Center for British Art:

"[I]t was the interest of his first wife, Mary Conover Mellon, whom he married in 1935, in thought and methods of Carl Jung that helped transform Paul Mellon into a major collector of Blake’s work.

Mary had introduced Paul Mellon to Jung’s ideas after they met in late 1933; even before marriage they had begun Jungian analysis in New York. In the early summer of 1938, Mr. and Mrs. Mellon journeyed to Switzerland and spent several weeks in Ascona above Lake Maggiore hoping the mountain air would relieve Mary’s chronic asthma. By coincidence Carl Jung was also in Ascona and the couple met the psychiatrist for the first time that summer. They returned the following year and saw Jung again before settling in Zurich in September 1939 to meet with Jung as patients several times a week. Germany’s invasion of Poland in 1939 meant this Swiss idyll could not last. In the spring of 1940 Mr. Mellon took a walking holiday with Jung but the obvious threat from Nazi Germany could not be ignored. He and Mary returned hastily to the United States shortly before the occupation of Denmark, Norway and France in May. By June 1941, feeling compelled to take action, Paul had enlisted in the US army; December saw the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States enter the war.

While wartime service forced an end to the relationship with Jung, the year Paul Mellon enlisted was also the year he began to collect important works by Blake, an artist in whom Mr. Mellon found new interest through Jung’s exploration of the unconscious and his theories about collective archetypes. In 1941 he acquired some exceptional books. This included There is No Natural Religion (1794) [fig. 1], an “illuminated” book of eleven color-printed relief etchings with pithy text critiquing the reductive philosophical materialism of his day; a set of the engraved Illustrations to the Book of Job (1825) in its original binding; and a copy of Blake’s engravings illustrating Edward Young’s Night Thoughts (1797) , one of two copies believed to have been hand-colored by Blake himself.
At the same time that the Mellons were immersed in the worlds of Jung and Blake, Mary began to form a major collection of alchemical books and manuscripts inspired by Jung’s own collection of similar material. But the return to civilian life was soon clouded by tragedy. In October 1946 after Paul had been home only a year, Mary Mellon died suddenly from an asthma attack.
In the early 1950s Paul Mellon drifted away from Jungian influence and began almost a decade of Freudian analysis in Washington DC, a time he also got to know Anna Freud in London before becoming a significant supporter of her Foundation and what became the Anna Freud Centre for the psychiatric treatment of children. It was in 1953, as he was exploring Freudian psychology, that Paul Mellon bought his most important Blake book, Jerusalem The Emanation of the Giant Albion, a book that is at once Blake’s most difficult but also his greatest.
Yale Center for British Art
Jerusalem, The Emanation of the Giant Albion
Title Page, Copy E
For Blake, Imagination was the world of real essences of which the visible world was merely a faint echo. He once argued that “This World of Imagination is the World of Eternity. . . . This World is Infinite & Eternal whereas the world of Generation or Vegetation is Finite & Temporal.” Paul Mellon’s interest in psychology is one reason why Blake held such a lifelong fascination given that Blake’s own life’s work was to free the Imaginative faculty from the forces of repression. Despite the incomprehension of his contemporaries and his poverty, Blake kept his devotion to spiritual and mental freedom alive until the day he died. This impulse has remained a vital force long after his death. And in his final months he explained to George Cumberland that his physical body might be 'feeble & tottering, but not in Spirit & Life, not in the Real Man The Imagination which Liveth for Ever.'"

The extent of the Blake works in the Yale Center for British Art is revealed at this site

Thursday, June 20, 2019


[To] Mr [George] Cumberland, Bishopsgate,
Windsor Great Park
[From] Hercules Buildings, Lambeth. Augst 26. 1799
 As to Myself about whom you are so kindly Interested.  I
live by Miracle.  I am Painting small Pictures from the Bible.
For as to Engraving in which art I cannot reproach myself with
any neglect yet I am laid by in a corner as if I did not Exist &
Since my Youngs Night Thoughts have been publishd Even Johnson &
Fuseli have discarded my Graver.  But as I know that He who Works
& has his health cannot starve.  I laugh at Fortune & Go on &
on.  I think I foresee better Things than I have ever seen.  My
Work pleases my employer & I have an order for Fifty small
Pictures at One Guinea each which is Something better than mere
copying after another artist.  But above all I feel myself happy
& contented let what will come having passed now near twenty
years in ups & downs I am used to them & perhaps a little
practise in them may turn out to benefit.  It is now Exactly
Twenty years since I was upon the ocean of business & Tho I laugh
at Fortune I am perswaded that She Alone is the Governor of
Worldly Riches. & when it is Fit She will call on me till then I
wait with Patience in hopes that She is busied among my Friends.
     With Mine & My Wifes best compliments to Mr Cumberland
I remain
Yours sincerely
Included in this post is information from William Blake: His Art and Times by David Bindman and from other sources.

The commission which Blake reported in his letter to his friend George Cumberland, according to Bindman, was his first from Thomas Butts. In the next year, 1799-1800, Blake painted fifty small (aproximately 10x15 inches) tempera pictures illustrating the bible for Butts. The medium which Blake used to paint the temperas did not prove to be as satisfactory as would have been desired. As a binder Blake used glue and gums, sometimes in layers, which created problems as the pictures aged. Although about thirty of the pictures are available in public and private collections, their appearance is far from the original intent. Cracking and darkening is the result of failure of the original technique and also subsequent attempts at restoration.  
Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art
The Baptism of Christ
1799-1800 Tempera

In this example from the tempera set of biblical illustrations we see that the gem-like colors which Blake intended to produce have been lost, along with much of the clear definition which he so valued.

Butts continued to purchase biblical illustrations from Blake but after the first fifty, the paintings were watercolors to which time has been much kinder. Below from the year 1803 is Blake's watercolor of the same subject.       

The Baptism of Christ
c. 1803
Pen and Black Ink and Watercolour

Matthew 3
[11] I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:
[12] Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
[13] Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.
[14] But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?
[15] And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.
[16] And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:
[17] And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

Mark 1
[1] The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God;
[2] As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.
[3] The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
[4] John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.
[5] And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.
[6] And John was clothed with camel's hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey;
[7] And preached, saying, There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose.
[8] I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.
[9] And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan.
[10] And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him:
[11] And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
[12] And immediately the Spirit driveth him into the wilderness.

Luke 3
[21] Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened,
[22] And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.
John 1
[25] And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet?
[26] John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not;
[27] He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose.
[28] These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.
[29] The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.
[30] This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me.
[31] And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water.
[32] And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him.
[33] And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.
[34] And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019


Reposted from July 2012.

Blake was fond of mentioning Albrecht Durer along with Michelangelo and Raphael as artists whom he admired.

Descriptive Catalogue, (E 529)
"Colouring does not depend on where the Colours are put, but
on where the lights and darks are put, and all depends on Form or
Out-line.  On where that is put; where that is wrong, the Colouring
never can be right; and it is always wrong in Titian and
Correggio, Rubens and Rembrandt.  Till we get rid of Titian and
Correggio, Rubens and Rembrandt, We never shall equal Rafael and
Albert Durer, Michael Angelo, and Julio Romano." 
Durer's Melencolia I  1514
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Blake thought so highly of Durer's engraving Melencolia I that he kept a print of it beside his workbench. Blake admired Durer's ability to use the defining line to delineate character in his designs. Blake's appreciation of Durer would not have been confined to his skill in producing engravings in which the lines were beautifully executed. That Durer produced symbolic pictures using a range of imagery which Blake incorporated in his poetry and graphic art, increased the value of Durer to Blake. 

Right click on picture and open in new window for detail.

Here is a quote from Jonathan Jones' 2002 article for the Guardian:
"The brightness of Dürer's sharp Renaissance drawing drags with it a melancholic medieval ghost. His eyes may be on the bright sights of Venice but his soul is in the northern woods. And it is in that realm of magic, the occult, apocalyptic fantasy and religious terror that Dürer finds images welling up into his brain. Melencolia is, for this artist, the condition of genius; it is what goes with thought and creativity. Only from long, lonely nights of febrile thinking - like Melencolia's - will anything new be created in the world. Out of his melancholy he brought forth miracles."
Annotations to Reynolds, page 71, (E 649)
" What does this mean "Would have been" one of the first
Painters of his Age" Albert Durer Is! Not would
have been! Besides. let them look at Gothic Figures & Gothic
Buildings, & not talk of Dark Ages or of Any Age! Ages are All
Equal.  But Genius is Always Above The Age"        
      "The Designer proposes to Engrave, in a correct and finished
Line manner of Engraving, similar to those original Copper Plates
of Albert Durer, Lucas, Hisben, Aldegrave and the old original
Engravers, who were great Masters in Painting and Designing,
whose method, alone, can delineate Character as it is in this
Picture, where all the Lineaments are distinct."       
Public Address, Page 62, (E 576)
     "I have heard many People say Give me the Ideas.  It is no
matter what Words you put them into & others say Give me the
Design it is no matter for the Execution.  These People know
Nothing Of Art.  Ideas cannot be Given
but in their minutely Appropriate Words nor Can a Design be made
without its minutely Appropriate Execution The unorganized
Blots & Blurs of Rubens & Titian are not Art nor can their Method
ever express Ideas or Imaginations any more than Popes
Metaphysical jargon of Rhyming Unappropriate Execution is the
Most nauseous affectation & foppery He who copies does
not Execute he only Imitates what is already Executed Execution
is only the result of Invention"

Blake saw in Durer an artist of genius who was open to inspiration. His ideas were original and penetrating and his images delineated the form which lay below the surface of precise execution.


Monday, June 17, 2019


Drawings for the Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian
"Regarded as the greatest of the German Renaissance artists, Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528) created a vast body of work that ranges from altarpieces to copper engravings and portraits. Painter, printer, draughtsman, and art theorist, he remains most famous for his woodcuts.
Dürer's primary patron from 1512 onward was the Holy Roman Emperor and King of the Germans, Maximilian I." from Dover Publications

In The Traveller in the Evening Morton Paley remarks that Blake may have been moved to illustrate the borders of his engravings for Job by observing the Drawings for the Prayer-Book of Emperor Maximilian. These drawing had been executed by Durer whom Blake held in the highest regard. It is likely that Blake had the opportunity to study the facsimile edition of Albert Durer's Designs for the Prayer Book published in 1817 by Rudolph Ackermann. When the Blakes lived on Fountain Court they were just around the corner from Ackermann's print shop and showroom on The Strand.
Wikipedia Commons
Illustrations of the Book of Job
Plate 10
It seems that as Blake was working with Linnell to publish illustrations of the book of Job, he found that he could do more than engrave images with the new vitality stimulated by working with Linnell who was familiar with techniques which Blake was not accustomed to using. As he had done with his Illuminated Books, he could coordinate the images with the written word by quoting verses from the book of Job and other books of the Bible. In addition he could engrave images on the borders of the plates in a way that resembled Durer's illustrations to the Book of Common Prayer. As the project unfolded Blake drew together multiple influences as his imagination led him.   

Prayer Book of Emperor Maximilian I

Monday, June 10, 2019


Wikipedia Commons
Illustrations of the Book of Job
Plate 2
The Engravings of William Blake by Archibald G B Russell was published in in 1912. In the first two sentences of his book Russell states, "From his childhood Blake was in love with the engraver's art. It was his chief means of becoming acquainted with the old masters." The detailed commentary which Russell gives for many of Blake's engravings adds to one's appreciation for Blake's subject matter and skill in presenting it.

On page 48 Russell writes of Blake engraving illustrations for the Book of Job:

"The crowning labour of Blake's life, his engraved illustrations of the " Book of Job," had its origin in the last commission which he received from his old friend and patron, Thomas Butts, for whom, in or about 1820, the designs were first executed in a series of twenty-five water-colour drawings. In 1823 he began, at the instance of Linnell, to make a duplicate set of the designs with a view to engraving them. The work was published in 1826, the year before his death. Full particulars of the volume will be found in the Catalogue (No. 33). It is, taken as a whole, beyond question Blake's greatest achievement as an engraver. From early days he had been deeply moved by the history of the patriarch, which he would often parallel by the course of his own life. The subjects of two of his prints, the impressive line-engraving published in 1793 and the beautiful lithograph designed some fifteen years later, had already been drawn from it. But since those days his style as an engraver had undergone a considerable change. He had by this time entirely freed himself from the hard, mechanical manner which he had acquired from Basire. Much had in the meantime been learned by him from the great engravers whose works were represented in his own print collection. His attention, also, had lately been especially directed by Linnell to the works of the Italian engravers of the sixteenth century, with particular regard to Marc Antonio and Giulio Bonasone. With both of these he had of course been previously well acquainted. J. T. Smith recalls in his memoir how often he had "seen him admire and heard him expatiate upon the beauties of Marc Antonio," and in Blake's own writings this master is several times mentioned with enthusiasm. Linnell appears himself to have been the possessor of a number of Marc Antonio's prints, and he had also in his collection an example of Bonasone's large print of Michelangelo's "Last Judgment," which was doubtless an object of Blake's frequent study. The influence of these models is the predominant one in the development of Blake's latest style of engraving, which, however, none the less remains a strictly individual means of expression and shows no traces of any direct imitation. In the "Job" he further reveals a grandeur of invention and a concentration of expression beyond all his past attainment, and truly, as Ruskin claimed for him in this connection, "in expressing conditions of glaring and flickering light, Blake is" here "greater than Rembrandt."

Public Address, Chaucers Canterbury Pilgrims, (E 573)
"I hope this Print will redeem my Country from this Coxcomb
situation & shew that it is only some Englishmen [P 56] and not
All who are thus ridiculous in their Pretences Advertizements in
Newspapers are no proof of Popular approbation. but often the
Contrary A Man who Pretends to Improve Fine Art Does not know
what Fine Art is Ye English Engravers must come down from your
high flights ye must condescend to study Marc Antonio & Albert
Durer.  Ye must begin before you attempt to finish or improve &
when you have begun you will know better than to think of
improving what cannot be improvd"

Friday, June 7, 2019


Blake first met John Linnell through the son of his friend George Cumberland. The two men found that they could be helpful to one another. Linnell recognized that he could enjoy the company of an artistic and spiritual genius at the same time as he offered employment and economic support to a man of talent who had sunk into obscurity. The project of producing the book of Illustrations of the Book of Job was the outcome of the collaboration between Blake and Linnell.

As recorded on Page 169 of The Life of John Linnell, Volume 1 by Alfred Thomas Story the two men entered into an agreement to publish the book of illustrations based on the painting which Blake had created for Thomas Butts years before.

"The engravings were begun in 1823, and the agreement referred to by Gilchrist has reference to them alone. The agreement reads as follows:
'March 25, 1823.—Mem. of agreement between W. B. and J. L. W. B. to engrave the set of plates from his designs to "Job," in number 20, for J. L. J. L. to pay W. B. £5 per plate, part before, and remainder when plates are finished. Also, J. L. to pay Mr. B., £100 more out of the profits of the work as the receipts will admit of it. J. L. to find copper-plates.—(Signed) W. B., J. L.'
No profits accrued from the engravings, the sale of which barely covered the expenses. Linnell, however, seeing that the plates and the stock of engravings remained in his hands, treated Blake in a generous manner, and gave him an extra £50, which was disbursed to him from time to time, according to his needs, between March, 1823, and October, 1825. The sum which Blake thus received —in all £150—was the largest he had up to the latter date received for one commission."

Yale University
Media Library
Memorandum of agreement between William Blake and John Linnell

Wednesday, June 5, 2019


British Museum
Illustrations of the Book of Job
Engraved Copper for Plate 7

The culmination of William Blake's lifetime of creating art to give form to imagination was the production of his Illustrations of the Book of Job. Blake had experienced a renewal of his interest in life when a group of young men who cared about art and the spirit adopted him as a mentor and teacher. Principle among this group was John Linnell who conceived the idea that Blake could produce a book based on the illustrations for the book of Job which he had painted years earlier for Thomas Butts.

The copper plates from which Blake's Illustrations of the Book of Job were printed are housed in the British Museum. Over the years the copper plates on which Blake made the images for his Illuminated Books were all lost or destroyed but the set of plates for Job are preserved. In contrast to Blake's technique for the Illuminated Books which was relief printing made through etching with acid the surfaces which were not coated with a resistant varnish, the Job technique is intaglio printing made through engraving or incising plates with metal tools. Although Blake often used both relief and intaglio on the same image, Laurence Binyon believes that in the Job illustrations Blake used the burin alone. 

This is the information which accompanies the plates for Job in the British Museum:

"All lettering on printing surface is in reverse; lettered within image with text integral to the design; lettered within image with production details, "W Blake inven & sculpt"; lettered below image with publication line, 
'London. Published as the Act directs March 8: 1825 by William Blake N 3 Fountain Court Strand'. Stamped on verso, partially legible, "[...]ntifex & C[...] / [...] Lisle Street / [...]oho London".

"Plate 8, numbered '7', in reverse, on the plate; a landscape with stone monuments and a hill in the background; to the left, Job sits beside a building, nude, partially covered with a blanket; his wife kneels behind him; to the right, three men walk towards them, their arms raised; borders engraved with pictures and text (in reverse), the line under the design beginning 'And when they lifted up their eyes...'. 1826 Copperplate, engraved and etched"

British Museum
Illustrations of the Book of Job
Print of Plate 7


  1. [12] And when they lifted up their eyes afar off, and knew him not, they lifted up their voice, and wept; and they rent every one his mantle, and sprinkled dust upon their heads toward heaven.