January 23, 2013

Researchers uncover hundreds of William Blake etchings


William Blake

Here’s a story my high school English teacher must be thrilled about — a huge stockpile of previously lost engraved plates designed by poet William Blake has been unearthed in the UK.

The Independent reports that researchers at the University of Manchester, after two years of work, have found some 350 etchings that Blake designed.

The John Rylands Library already had a collection of Blake’s works, such as a set of illustrations to Edward Young’s long blank verse poem, Night Thoughts, which he completed from 1795-97. But the research team thought there would likely be more of them buried in the library’s collection of a million books, just waiting to see the light of day again.

Luckily for Blake enthusiasts, they were right; Stella Halkyard, a library activist, explained that “the students had some specialist training in identifying prints from David Morris at the Whitworth Art Gallery before hunting through the collection. They found out we actually had a huge number of commercial engravings by Blake.”

While Blake is probably best known as a poet, he was also a painter and printmaker; he illustrated many of his own poems with beautiful and evocative images. Among his illuminated works are the Songs of Innocence and Experience, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, and the Continental Prophecies.

Many of the newly discovered etchings will be put on the display at the John Rylands Library next month.



Nick Davies is a publicist at Melville House.