Saturday, 15 March 2014

Rylands Blake project 11. Archive materials relating to Rebekah Bliss

In the Bliss Bibliotheca Splendidissima, the books that were the most far-flung in their origin, the most difficult to procure in Rebekah Bliss’s lifetime, the most unexpected in an Englishwoman’s library of circa 1800, were the two Japanese books that appeared in the 1842 sale of books that had passed to her cousin's son, Samuel Roffey Maitland:
[lot] 696 Book of Fishes, printed in Colours, with descriptions and a prefatory treatise in the Japanese Language
697 Book of Plants, Reptiles and Insects, printed in Colours, with descriptions in Japanese
Sir Frederic Madden noted in his copy of the sale catalogue that these two books were purchased by Bohn on behalf of “Mr. Bland”. In fact, apart from a volume of Chinese drawings acquired for the British Museum, all the Oriental books in the 1842 sale were acquired by the noted Persian scholar Nathaniel Bland. Following Bland’s suicide in 1866 (apparently because of his gambling debts), the Bland collection was acquired en bloc by the Earl of Crawford, and the Crawford collection itself purchased in 1901 by Mrs. John Rylands.

Rylands Blake project 10. The Book of Thel (1928)

In 1789, Blake engraved & printed his Songs of Innocence & The Book of Thel. Both these early works display characteristics that become more marked in Blake’s later work. His lyrics, as in Songs of Innocence (1789) & the later Songs of Experience (1794), express spiritual wisdom in radiant imagery & symbolism & are often written with a childlike simplicity. In Tiriel & The Book of Thel Blake uses for the first time the long unrhymed line of fourteen syllables, which was to become the staple metre of his narrative poetry. Tiriel, a first attempt at a narrative poem, was never engraved. The Book of Thel, with its lovely flowing designs, is an idyll akin to Songs of Innocence in its flowerlike delicacy & transparency. It represents the maiden, Thel, lamenting change & mutability by the banks of a river, where the lily, the cloud, the worm, & the clod comfort her.
Everything that lives,
Lives not alone, nor for itself.
In the realms where Thel wanders all beings still aspire to unity with Christ through selfless giving to others (of their fragrance, nurturing care, etc). The final section, with its vivid & horrible images of death, seems to contradict the explicit Christian message of the rest of the poem.

Rylands Blake project 9. Songs of Experience (1927)

Blake never issued Songs of Experience separately but always with his Songs of Innocence. Nevertheless there have been seven facsimiles of a separate Experience.

1876.—Works by William Blake : Songs of innocence. 1789. Songs of experience. 1794. Book of Thel. 1789. Vision of the daughters of Albion. 1793. America: a prophecy. 1793. Europe: a prophecy. 1794. The first book of Urizen. 1794. The song of Los. 1794. Reproduced in facsimile from the original editions.—[London] : [Andrew Chatto, publisher].—144 leaves : ill. ; 39 cm.
“One hundred copies printed for private circulation.”
Monochrome facsimile printed by lithography and deriving from copy D (the British Museum copy).
Keynes notes that the lithographed plates are poorly executed, and that the text is inaccurate.

1885.—Songs of experience / Wm. Blake.--Edmonton : W. Muir.—1 v. : col. ill. ; 29 cm
Facsimile by William Muir.
Title from cover.
Limited ed. of 100 copies.

Rylands Blake project 8. The Book of Job (1927)

William Blake's "Illustrations of the Book of Job" is the most widely reproduced of his graphic series, at least 36 times, and more than the great book illustrations (Young, Blair, Gray) or any of the works in illuminated printing. Sometimes these reproductions (e.g. King, 1968, or Safire, 1992) provide us with surprising contexts.


ספר איוב Illustrations of the book of Job / Invented and engraved by William Blake, 1825. London, Published as the Act directs March 8: 1825 [i.e. 1826] by William Blake No 3 Fountain Court, Strand.-- 22 sheets : all ill. ; 44 cm
Despite the date on the title page, the plates were not actually issued until a year later according to the date on the wrapper.
Restrike issued 1870.

Rylands Blake project 7. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1927)

No work has challenged its readers like Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Iconoclastic, bizarre, unprecedented, it is all of these. Most extraordinary is the revolutionary method of its making—one of the first that Blake printed using the method he called "Illuminated Printing" and the only work in which he signifies its importance.

The "Proverbs of Hell" have been culled for the slogans of student protest and become axioms of modern thought. I remember from the sixties, Blake's "Proverbs" painted alongside London Underground lines and on fences surrounding waste ground. The graffitist called himself "Joseph". I've no idea who he was. Later, if I recall correctly he moved on to right-wing and racist graffiti.

There have been eleven facsimiles published. Some are facsimiles of facsimiles.

1868.—The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.—London : Hotten.—27 leaves ; 26cm
Hotten's facsimile reprint, hand-coloured.

Rylands Blake project 6. Frederic Shields: The Chapel of the Ascension (1904)

On 26 February 1911, the Pre-Raphaelite artist Frederic Shields (born 1833) died, having spent the last twenty years of his life devoted to the decoration of the Chapel of the Ascension in Bayswater, London. Conceived of in 1887, completed in 1910, bombed in 1944 during the Blitz of World War II and demolished in 1969, the Chapel represents changing Victorian precepts of religion and faith as well as attitudes towards public art and decoration on the eve of the modern age. Designed by the architect and aesthete Herbert Horne (1864-1916) and modeled on thirteenth-century northern Italian church architecture, the chapel design was a reflection of the British rediscovery of the Italian Renaissance during the Victorian period. Shields’ use of the marouflage technique, mimicking continental fresco schemes, reflects a national desire to raise public British art to a level of “high art,” which would ensure it a place in the art historical canon.—MARGARETTA S. FREDERICK.

There have been at least eleven editions of the "Handbook" to the Chapel.

Rylands Blake project 5. The Century Guild Hobby Horse

The Century Guild Hobby Horse was the journal of the Century Guild of Arts and Crafts, a group which was founded in 1880-81, growing out of William Morris’s efforts in the decorative arts. A first issue of The Century Guild Hobby Horse, edited by A. H. Mackmurdo and published from Orpington, appeared in April 1884. This issue "No 1" had no successors. Another new sequence with the same title, again edited by A.H. Mackmurdo, but published from London, started in 1886. Issue No 1 appeared in January 1886 and the journal ran to a No 28, which appeared in October 1892. This in turn was succeeded by a journal titled The Hobby Horse, edited by Mackmurdo's one-time architectural pupil and partner, Herbert Percy Horne. Three issues appeared between 1893 and 1894.

Rylands Blake project 4. America (1887)

No........ [ink numeral and Muir’s signature] Price. £ . . [ink price] | AMERICA, | A PROPHECY, | BY WILLIAM BLAKE, 1793 | [rule] |FACSIMILIED AT EDMONTON, ANNO 1887. | By W. MUIR, H. T. MUIR, E. DRUITT, & M. HUGHES. | This is the first part of the second volume of my edition of 50 copies of the Works of | William Blake, The first volume contained “The Songs of Innocence” and of “Experience;” | “Thel;” “The Visions of the Daughters of Albion;” “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell;” | “There is no Natural Religion; “ and “Milton.” Several of them can still be obtained from | the booksellers. | Mr. Quaritch, of 15, Piccadilly, W. is my only Agent. | W. MUIR. | January 1887.

AMERICA | a | PROPHECY | LAMBETH | Printed by William Blake in the year 1793.

18 leaves of lithographic facsimile printed in blue-black ink.
In blue wrappers. Rebound in crimson half leather, cloth sides.

Rylands Blake project 3. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1885)

Most copies of Muir's facsimile of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell are colured in emulation of copy A (the Beckford copy), only a very small number being coloured from the Fitzwilliam Museum copy (H). 

Number [space for numeral & Muir's signature] | The | Marriage of | Heaven | and | Hell. | Willm Blake. 1790.

A facsimile by William Muir.

Edmonton, Middlesex: Blake Press, W. Muir; London: B. Quaritch, agent,

Rylands Blake project 2. Visions of the Daughters of Albion (1884)

Muir's facsimile of Visions of the Daughters of Albion has the most complicated history of any of the Blake Press facsimiles. Both low and high-numbered copies of the limitation of fifty are based on Blake's original copy A (British Museum) but Keynes implies that the majority were done from the Butts copy (B) of the original. Essick's and other late facsimiles (executed 1923-1928) were apparently based on copy G. Seven copies were printed on “antique note-paper”.

Number [space for numeral & Muir's signature] | Visions of the Daughters of Albion | W Blake 1793

Rylands Blake project 1. Songs of Innocence (1884)

J. Pearson & Co. was a London bookselling business begun in the middle of the nineteenth century by John Pearson (d. 1919), amd continued after his retirement in 1885, by C. E. Shepheard and F.A. Wheeler, whose partnership was dissolved in 1924. The form’s stock was then sold at Sotheby’s, but Wheeler continued to trade as J. Pearson & Co. (London) Ltd. until the mid-1930s. Pearson’s first catalogue was issued in 1860. The firm specialised in high quality antiquarian material, including bookbindings and significant association copies. David Pearson notes that many of the firm's catalogues contain extensive provenance information but, despite their importance, they are not easy to trace. The British Library has only seven--most at shelfmark S.C.1105 (Pearson, 163).

His library was sold many years later: Sotheby, Wilkinson, & Hodge, 1916. Of works by William Blake, It contained the former Flaxman copy of Songs of Innocence, copy D, from which Muir’s facsimile was produced in 1884. Pearson also owned a copy of Poetical Sketches and a rather dubious-sounding water colour showing “a number of Nude figures being led captive by a Devil, and others following; the great head of a marine monster, in the mouth of which are several figures, etc.” (Sotheby's sale, lots 40, 41, 42).

Rylands Blake project: initial list

a) Books/Journals

1. William Muir: Songs of Innocence (1884)
2. William Muir: Visions of the Daughters of Albion (1884)
3. William Muir: The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1885)
4. William Muir: America (1887)
5. The Century Guild Hobby Horse (editions 1886-88?)
6. Frederic Shields: The Chapel of Ascension (1904)
7. Max Plowman (ed.): The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1927)

b) British Museum Facsimiles of Blake's books

8. The Book of Job (1927)
9. Songs of Experience (1927)
10. The Book of Thel (1928)

Friday, 7 March 2014

Blake: reproducing the works in Illuminated Printing

Every literary work that descends to us operates through the deployment of a double helix of perceptual codes: the linguistic codes, on one hand, and the bibliographical codes on the other. We recognize the latter simply by looking at a medieval literary manuscript—or at any of William Blake’s equivalent illuminated texts produced (in the teeth of) the age of mechanical reproduction.—MCGANN 
The challenge from the mid-nineteenth century onwards (up to and including the present day), has been to reproduce William Blake’s work in Illuminated Printing in a way that provides fidelity not just to the image but to the reading experience. To cite one of the founders of the Blake Archive, “what is selected for reproduction and how it is reproduced affects the Blake we know and how we know him” (Viscomi). For each attempt at reproduction we need to specify, rigorously and precisely, what these gains and losses entail and especially what they reveal about presuppositions underlying reading and writing.