Saturday, February 26, 2011


By the age of 36, Blake had produced a body of work which he wished to exhibit to the public and offer for sale. He devised this prospectus which reveals much about his circumstances, his methods, and his self evaluation as well as the works he had for sale.

[Prospectus], (E 692)
TO THE PUBLIC October 10, 1793.

"The Labours of the Artist, the Poet, the Musician, have been proverbially attended by poverty and obscurity; this was never the fault of the Public, but was owing to a neglect of means to propagate such works as have wholly absorbed the Man of Genius. Even Milton and Shakespeare could not publish their own works.
This difficulty has been obviated by the Author of the following productions now presented to the Public; who has invented a method of Printing both Letter-press and Engraving in a style more ornamental, uniform, and grand, than any before discovered, while it produces works at less than one fourth of the expense.
If a method of Printing which combines the Painter and the Poet is a phenomenon worthy of public attention, provided that it exceeds in elegance all former methods, the Author is sure of his reward.
Mr. Blake's powers of invention very early engaged the attention of many persons of eminence and fortune; by whose means he has been regularly enabled to bring before the Public works (he is not afraid to say) of equal magnitude and consequence with the productions of any age or country: among which are two large highly finished engravings (and two more are nearly ready) which will commence a Series of subjects from the Bible, and another from the History of England.
The following are the Subjects of the several Works now
published and on Sale at Mr. Blake's, No. 13, Hercules Buildings,

1. Job, a Historical Engraving. Size 1 ft.7 1/2 in. by 1ft. 2 in.: price 12 s.
2. Edward and Elinor, a Historical Engraving. Size 1 ft. 6 1/2 in. by 1 ft.: price 10s. 6d.
3. America, a Prophecy, in Illuminated Printing. Folio, with 18 designs: price 10s. 6d.
4. Visions of the Daughters of Albion, in Illuminated Printing. Folio, with 8 designs, price 7s. 6d.
5. The Book of Thel, a Poem in Illuminated Printing. Quarto, with 6 designs, price 3s.
6. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, in Illuminated Printing. Quarto, with 14 designs, price 7s. 6d.
7. Songs of Innocence, in Illuminated Printing. Octavo, with 25 designs, price 5s.
8. Songs of Experience, in Illuminated Printing. Octavo, with 25 designs, price 5s.
9. The History of England, a small book of Engravings. Price 3s.
10. The Gates of Paradise, a small book of Engravings. Price 3s.

The Illuminated Books are Printed in Colours, and on the most beautiful wove paper that could be procured,
No Subscriptions for the numerous great works now in hand are asked, for none are wanted; but the Author will produce his works, and offer them to sale at a fair price."
Tiriel led by Hela
Not included in list of items for sale are his two initial books All Religions are One and There is No Natural Religion which were his first experiments with illuminated manuscripts, and Tiriel his first prophetic manuscript for which he made illustrations which were never engraved.

Blake was ambitious and energetic in devising a way to combine his text and images, in originating new ways to print the materials he was inventing, and in producing books and paintings to sell to the public. His willingness to produce works with popular appeal was limited. His advertising strategy seems to have been unproductive. Failure to produce enough income to continue his artistic pursuits contributed to his decision to leave Lambeth and move to Felpham under the patronage of Hayley which he did in 1800.

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