Saturday, February 28, 2015


Satiric Verses and Epigrams, (E 514)
"Rafael Sublime Majestic Graceful Wise
His Executive Power must I despise  
Rubens Low Vulgar Stupid Ignorant
His power of Execution I must grant"

Metropolitan Museum of Art
Angel of Revelation
Signature bottom right
In his early career Blake was fond of signing his work 'WB inv'. He recognized that the original conception of the work of art provided the essential foundation upon which the final product was built. Blake worked in various media including drawing, watercoloring, tempera, engraving, poetry and prose. Each depended on an 'Original Invention': an idea or mental image which existed only in his fertile imagination.

Blake's ability to invent was recognized by his contemporaries, but they sometimes denied his ability to execute which depended upon different skills. Blake would not concede that his ability to execute was any less than his ability to invent. 

Blake's training was as a reproductive engraver whose skill is faithfully reproducing images which have been conceived by others for printing in published form. Since his goal was to execute his own inventions, not just the inventions of others, he developed a broad set of skills encompassing disciplines which spanned visual and verbal communication. Engraving in the conventional practice became his vocation; his imaginative creations became his art which he considered to be the 'whole business of man.'
Blake's ability to execute was dependent on a two pronged method of learning: study of his predecessors and experimentation. He found in Michelangelo the finest ability to conceive and execute so he set him up as a model in art, as he did Milton in poetry. His experimentation led him into novel methods of printing, painting and writing. Learning through experiments was another facet of his inventiveness; gaining mastery of his new methods allowed him to execute his images in an individualistic manner. If his aim had been to follow current trends and appeal to popular tastes he would have applied different strategies.

Invention and Execution became for Blake two of his contraries; two opposed but equally true expressions of the unity of his art. His work was in consolidating the inner dimension - the invention, with the outer expression - the execution. If they were not perfectly balanced, the work of art would be spoiled by failing to communicate Eternal truth.
Public Address, Page 60, (E 576)
 "No Man Can
Improve An Original Invention. [Since Hogarths time we have
had very few Efforts of Originality] but   
Drawn with a firm hand at once [with all its Spots & Blemishes which are beauties & not faults] like Fuseli & Michael Angelo Shakespeare & Milton>"
 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 ... He who copies does
not Execute he only Imitates what is already Executed Execution
is only the result of Invention" 
Public Address, Page 24, (E 582)
     "I know my Execution is not like Any Body Else I do not
intend it should be so 
...I defy any Man to Cut
Cleaner Strokes than I do or rougher when I please & assert that
he who thinks he can Engrave or Paint either without being a
Master of Drawing is a Fool  Painting is Drawing
on Canvas & Engraving is Drawing on Copper & nothing Else
[Drawing is Execution & nothing Else] & he who Draws best must be
the best Artist [&] to this I subscribe" 
 Annotations to Reynolds, P iii, (E 637)
     "Invention depends Altogether upon Execution or
Organization. as that is right or wrong so is the Invention
perfect or imperfect.  Whoever is set to Undermine the Execution
of Art is set to Destroy Art   Michael Angelos Art Depends on
Michael Angelos Execution Altogether" 
 Annotations to Reynolds, p 126, (E 654) 
    "Can any Man be such a fool as to believe that Rafael &
Michael Angelo were Incapable of the meer Language of Art & That
Such Idiots as Rubens. Correggio & Titian Knew how to Execute
what they could not Think or Invent" 
 Descriptive Catalogue, (E 528)
 "If Italy is enriched and
made great by RAPHAEL, if MICHAEL ANGELO is its supreme glory, if
Art is the glory of a Nation, if Genius and Inspiration are the
great Origin and Bond of Society, the distinction my Works have
obtained from those who best understand such things, calls for my
Exhibition as the greatest of Duties to my Country." 
Descriptive Catalogue, (E 547)
"...when the Artist took his pencil, to execute his
ideas, his power of imagination weakened so much, and darkened,
that memory of nature and of Pictures of the various
Schools possessed his mind, instead of appropriate execution,
resulting from the inventions; like walking in another man's
style, or speaking or looking in another man's style and manner,
unappropriate and repugnant to your own individual character;
tormenting the true Artist, till he leaves the Florentine, and
adopts the Venetian practice, or does as Mr. B. has done, has the
courage to suffer poverty and disgrace, till he ultimately

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Books 3

From Wikipedia

Title page from There is No Natural Religion, printed c1794

In 1822, Blake completed a short two-page dramatic piece which would prove to be the last of his illuminated manuscripts, entitled The Ghost of Abel A Revelation In the Visions of Jehovah Seen by William Blake. Inscribed in the colophon of this text is "W Blakes Original Stereotype was 1788". It is almost universally agreed amongst Blakean scholars, that the "Original Stereotype" to which he here refers was All Religions are One and/or There is No Natural Religion.[2]
During the 1770s, Blake had come to feel that one of the major problems with reproducing artwork in print was the division of labour by which it was achieved; one person would create a design (the artist), another would engrave it (the engraver), another print it (the printer) and another publish it (the publisher).[3] It was unusual for artists to engrave their own designs, due primarily to the social statusattached to each job; engraving was not seen as an especially exalted profession, and was instead regarded as nothing more than mechanical reproduction.[3] Artists like James Barry and John Hamilton Mortimer were the exceptions to the norm insofar as they tended to engrave their own material.[3] A further division in the process was that text and images were handled by different artisans; text was printed by means of a movable letterpress, whereas images were engraved, two very different jobs.[4]
During Blake's training as a professional copy engraver with James Basire during the 1770s, the most common method of engraving was stippling, which was thought to give a more accurate impression of the original picture than the previously dominant method, line engravingEtching was also commonly used for layering in such aspects as landscape and background.[5] All traditional methods of engraving and etching were intaglio, which meant that the design's outline was traced with a needle through an acid-resistant 'ground' which had been poured over the copperplate. The plate was then covered with acid, and the engraver went over the incised lines with a burin to allow the acid to bite into the furrows and eat into the copper itself. The acid would then be poured off, leaving the design incised on the plate. The engraver would then engrave the plate's entire surface with in a web of crosshatched lines, before pouring the ink onto the plate and transferring it to the printing press.[6]
Frustrated with this method, Blake seems to have begun thinking about a new method of publishing at least as early as 1784, as in that year a rough description of what would become relief etching appears in his unpublished satire, An Island in the Moon. Around the same time, George Cumberland had been experimenting with a method to allow him to reproduce handwriting via an etched plate, and Blake incorporated Cumberland's method into his own relief etching; treating the text as handwritten script rather than mechanical letterpress, and thus allowing him to make it a component of the image.[7]
Blake's great innovation in relief etching was to print from the relief, or raised, parts of the plate rather than the intaglio, or incised, parts. Whereas intaglio methods worked by creating furrows into which the acid was poured to create 'holes' in the plate and the ink then poured over the entire surface, Blake wrote and drew directly onto the plate with an acid-resistant material known as a stop-out. He would then embed the plate’s edges in strips of wax to create a self-contained tray and pour the acid about a quarter of an inch deep, thus causing the exposed parts of the plate to melt away, and the design and/or text to remain slightly above the rest of the plate, i.e. in relief, like a modern rubber stamp. The acid was then poured off, the wax was removed, and the raised part of the plate covered with ink before finally being pressed onto the paper in the printing press.[8] This method allowed expressive effects which were impossible to achieve via intaglio.[9] The major disadvantage was that text had to be written backwards as whatever was on the plate would print in reverse when pressed onto the paper. The dominant theory as to how Blake solved this problem is simply that he wrote in reverse.[10] Another theory, suggested by David Bindman, is that Blake wrote his (acid resistant) text on a sheet of paper the correct way around, and then pressed the paper onto the plate, thus reversing the text and producing the same result as if had he written it backwards in the first place.[7]
Blake could also colour the plates themselves in coloured inks before pressing them or tint them with watercolours after printing. Because of this aspect, a major component of relief etching was that every page of every book was a unique piece of art; no two copies of any page in Blake's entire oeuvre are identical. Variations in the actual print, different colouring choices, repainted plates, accidents during the acid bath etc., all led to multiple examples of the same plate.
Blake himself referred to relief etching as "printing in the infernal method, by means of corrosives [...] melting apparent surfaces away, and displaying the infinite which was hid."[11] A contemporary description of the method was provided by Blake's friend, J.T. Smith; "writing his poetry, and drawing his marginal subjects of embellishments in outline upon the copper-plate with an impervious liquid, and then eating the plain parts or lights away with aquafortisconsiderably below them so that the outlines were left as Stereotype."[12]
Relief etching was the same basic method used for woodcutting, and copper relief etching had been practised in the early eighteenth century by Elisha Kirkall, but Blake was the first to use such a method to create both words and designs mixed together on the same plate.[13] Apart from the unique aesthetic effects possible, a major advantage of relief etching was that Blake could print the material himself. Because the text was in relief, the pressure needed for printing was constant, unlike in intaglio printing, where different pressures were needed to force the paper into the furrows, depending on size. Additionally, intaglio etchings and engravings were printed with great pressure, but in relief etching, because the printed material was a raised surface rather than incised lines, considerably less pressure was required.[14] As such, relief etching tackled the problem of the division of labour of publishing. Blake's new method was autographic; "it permitted – indeed promoted – a seamless relationship between conception and execution rather than the usual divisions between invention and production embedded in eighteenth-century print technology, and its economic and social distinctions among authors, printers, artists and engravers. Like drawings and manuscripts, Blake's relief etchings were created by the direct and positive action of the author/artist's hand without intervening processes".[15] Blake served as artist, engraver, printer and publisher.

Thursday, February 26, 2015


We saw in a previous post that Blake thought Natural Religion an "Impossible absurdity." Something which calls itself religion and limits perception to sensing and reasoning, has misunderstood the meaning of the concept of religion. Without God religion is absurd. In one of Blake's earliest engraved poems he presents his argument that man sees only himself, not God, if he relies of his senses and his reasoning to provide him with a religion.
There is no Natural Religion, (E 2)
The Author & Printer W Blake 
The Argument 
Man has no notion of moral 
fitness but from Education. 
Naturally he is only a nat- 
ural organ subject to Sense.   

 Man cannot naturally Per- 
cieve, but through his natural 
or bodily organs
As a natural man all data from the exterior world comes through the senses.

II Man by his reason- ing power. can only compare & judge of what he has already perciev'd.
Man's reason can only process what it has received

III From a perception of only 3 senses or 3 ele- ments none could de- duce a fourth or fifth
Each sense is limited to its own ability to receive data.

IV None could have other than natural or organic thoughts if he had none but organic perceptions
Sense perceptions provide only material which can be processed mechanically.

V Mans desires are limited by his percept ions. none can de -sire what he has not 
Without the ability to perceive extra-sensory data man is cut off from desire for more.

VI The desires & percepti- ons of man untaught by any thing but organs of sense, must be limited to objects of sense.
Without desire or additional means of perceptions, man is trapped in a state of 'single vision.'

THERE is NO NATURAL RELIGION [b] I Mans percepti- ons are not bound- ed by organs of perception. he per- cieves more than sense (tho' ever so acute) can discover.
Man's senses provide limited information. However man has the ability to perceive more than the narrow range which his eyes, ears, nose, mouth and skin can sense.

II Reason or the ra- tio of all we have already known. is not the same that it shall be when we know more.
If we were to depend on reason alone we would not be able to go beyond the limit that reason is able to discern.

[III lacking] IV The bounded is loathed by its pos- sessor. The same dull round even of a univer[s]e would soon become a mill with complica- ted wheels.
Input from outside of a limited system prevents it from becoming a continual repetition of the same events.

V If the many be- come the same as the few, when pos- sess'd, More! More! is the cry of a mista -ken soul, less than All cannot satisfy Man.
Continually treading the same ground cannot satisfy man no matter how often it is repeated.

VI If any could de- sire what he is in- capable of pos- sessing, despair must be his eternal lot.
The desire for more than man can access through his senses and reasoning power would lead to a dead end if he were incapable of perceiving more.

VII The desire of Man being Infi- nite the possession is Infinite & him- self Infinite
If man is capable of desiring more than his limited faculties provide, he opens himself to achieving a perception of the Infinite through perceiving the Infinite within himself.

Conclusion, If it were not for the Poetic or Prophetic character. the Philo- sophic & Experimen- tal would soon be at the ratio of all things & stand still, unable to do other than repeat the same dull round over a- gain
There is a level of perception which is beyond that which is reached by sensing and reasoning. Poetry and Prophecy are expressions which allow man to reach outside of the static repetition of natural patterns.

Application. He who sees the In- finite in all things sees God. He who sees the Ratio only sees himself only.
Unless an individual develops the ability to go beyond depending on his own sense perception and reasoning power, he is trapped within himself. Seeing more than the surface - into the depths - will open the way to seeing the Infinite in all things and God.

Wikimedia Commons There is No Natural Religion
Plate 6
The presence of God within man provides him with the ability to recognize that Presence. Through that recognition he develops the ability to see as God sees - the Infinite in all things. We are in the process of becoming with God. The whole of creation is an expression of God. As creation recognizes God, God becomes as we are and we as he is. God has chosen to be articulated through his creation. As creation strives to respond to the God which is embodied in it, Man and God become One


John 17
[20] Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;
[21] That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
[22] And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
[23] I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

Romans 12
[2] And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Colossians 1
[15] He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation;
[16] for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities -- all things were created through him and for him.
[17] He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
[18] He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent.
[19] For in him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell,
[20] and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Books II

From wikipedia:
All Religions are One is a series of philosophical aphorisms by William Blake, written in 1788. Following on from his initial experiments with relief etching in the non-textual The Approach of Doom (1787), All Religions are One and There is No Natural Religion represent Blake's first successful attempt to combine image and text via relief etching, and are thus the earliest of his illuminated manuscripts. As such, they serve as a significant milestone in Blake's career; as Peter Ackroyd points out, "his newly invented form now changed the nature of his expression. It had enlarged his range; with relief etching, the words inscribed like those of God upon the tables of law, Blake could acquire a new role.

One of two known impressions of the title page from All Religions are One, printedc1795

All Religions are One

The Voice of one crying in the Wilderness
As the true method of Knowledge is Experiment, the true faculty of knowing must be the faculty which experiences. This faculty I treat of:
Principle 1
That the Poetic Genius is the True Man, and that the Body or Outward Form of Man is derived from the Poetic Genius. Likewise that the Forms of all things are derived from their Genius, which by the Ancients was call'd an Angel and Spirit and Demon.

In the first principle Blake introduces the fundamental current in all his poetry, the two fold existence of man: either spirit or matter. He uses poetic genius as the man of spirit and the body as the material life we so often identify with.

Principle 2
As all men are alike in Outward Form; so, and with the same infinite variety, all are alike in the Poetic Genius.
Here he points our that body and spirit are present in all people.
Principle 3
No man can think, write, or speak from his heart, but he must intend Truth. Thus all sects of Philosophy are from the Poetic Genius, adapted to the weaknesses of every individual.
Heart and Truth are facets of the Poetic Genius. In the poetic genius there is no deceit.
Principle 4
As none by travelling over known lands can find out the unknown; so, from already acquired knowledge, Man could not acquire more; therefore an universal Poetic Genius exists.
This is a hard one; he seems to be saying that sticking to the known, the conventional won't discover any Truth.
Principle 5
The Religions of all Nations are derived from each Nation's different reception of the Poetic Genius, which is everywhere call'd the Spirit of Prophecy.
Different peoples certainly have different ideas, customs, etc, but the creative exists in that form.
Principle 6
The Jewish and Christian Testaments are an original derivation from the Poetic Genius. This is necessary from the confined nature of bodily sensation.
Principle 7
As all men are alike, tho' infinitely various; so all Religions: and as all similars have one source the True Man is the source, he being the Poetic Genius.
We are  infinitely various, as is our Religion and all that goes with it, the Truth of which is the Poetic 


The central concern in All Religions are One is the notion of the "Poetic Genius", which is roughly analogous to the imagination. Blake argues that the Poetic Genius is greater than all else and "is the true man." The Poetic Genius thus replaces traditional concepts of divinity insofar as "The body or outward form of Man is derived from the Poetic Genius [...] the forms of all things are derived from their Genius. which by the Ancients was call'd an Angel & Spirit & Demon." Thus, the Poetic Genius supplants theological belief. This Poetic Genius is universal, common to all Mankind; "as all men are alike in outward form [...] all men are alike in the Poetic Genius." Similarly, all philosophies are derived from the Poetic Genius; "all sects of Philosophies are from the Poetic Genius adapted to the weaknesses of every individual", and so too are all religions, which are merely expressions of the Poetic Genius; "the Religions of all Nations are derived from each Nations different reception of the Poetic Genius which is everywhere call'd the Spirit of Prophecy," again emphasising the theological character of the Poetic Genius. Even the Bible originates with the Poetic Genius; "The Jewish & Christian Testaments are An original derivation from the Poetic Genius." Thus, as all Men are alike in their Poetic Genius, and as all religions originate with the Poetic Genius, so too must all religions be alike, thus all religions are one.

    Tuesday, February 24, 2015


    Without a perception of the infinite Deism became associated with Natural Religion through which the workings of nature replace the workings of God. Man became dependent on nature to provide an object of worship and a system of ethics. Newtonian science became the primary tool to understand reality. The outer material world absorbed his attention and commanded loyalty. In as much as man finds all of his enjoyment in material pleasures and his ethics are directed by the desire for accumulating material goods, he is an adherent of Natural Religion.

    These activities which dominate our contemporary culture may be manifestations of our devotion to Natural Religion:
    preoccupation with appearance of one's body,
    desire to exploit the resources of nature,
    fear of dying,
    willingness to exploit the weak for the benefit of the strong.

    Yale Center for British Art  
    Copy E, Plate 24

    On Plate 24 of Jerusalem we see Albion, the Universal Man, being tortured by Rahab, Vala and Tirzah, three aspects of Natural Religion. All three are manifestations in the fallen world of Eternal realities which have been debased. Rahab as Moral Virture imputes sin or righteousness to individuals rather than to the states through they pass. Vala spreads her veil to prevent man from perceiving the Eternal through the world in which he lives. Tirzah provides man with a physical body to lure him from consciousness of his spiritual body.

    Blake saw the danger of replacing revealed religion with the worship of the material world, and spoke out with great force against Natural Religion.

    Four Zoas, Night VIII, Page 115, (E 386)
    "The Synagogue of Satan therefore uniting against Mystery
    Satan divided against Satan resolvd in open Sanhedrim
    To burn Mystery with fire & form another from her ashes 
    For God put it into their heart to fulfill all his will
    The Ashes of Mystery began to animate they calld it Deism
    And Natural Religion as of old so now anew began
    Babylon again in Infancy Calld Natural Religion"
    Jerusalem, Plate 90, (E 250)
    "So Los spoke. And the Giants of Albion terrified & ashamed  
    With Los's thunderous Words, began to build trembling rocking Stones
    For his Words roll in thunders & lightnings among the Temples   
    Terrified rocking to & fro upon the earth, & sometimes
    Resting in a Circle in Maiden or in Strathness or Dura.
    Plotting to devour Albion & Los the friend of Albion
    Denying in private: mocking God & Eternal Life: & in Public
    Collusion, calling themselves Deists, Worshipping the Maternal  
    Humanity; calling it Nature, and Natural Religion 
    But still the thunder of Los peals loud & thus the thunder's cry 
    These beautiful Witchcrafts of Albion, are gratifyd by Cruelty" 

    Milton, Plate 40 [46], (E 141)
    "Before Ololon Milton stood & percievd the Eternal Form
    Of that mild Vision; wondrous were their acts by me unknown
    Except remotely; and I heard Ololon say to Milton
    I see thee strive upon the Brooks of Arnon. there a dread
    And awful Man I see, oercoverd with the mantle of years.   
    I behold Los & Urizen. I behold Orc & Tharmas;
    The Four Zoa's of Albion & thy Spirit with them striving
    In Self annihilation giving thy life to thy enemies
    Are those who contemn Religion & seek to annihilate it
    Become in their Femin[in]e portions the causes & promoters       
    Of these Religions, how is this thing? this Newtonian Phantasm
    This Voltaire & Rousseau: this Hume & Gibbon & Bolingbroke
    This Natural Religion! this impossible absurdity
    Is Ololon the cause of this? O where shall I hide my face
    These tears fall for the little-ones: the Children of Jerusalem  
    Lest they be annihilated in thy annihilation.
    No sooner she had spoke but Rahab Babylon appeard
    Eastward upon the Paved work across Europe & Asia
    Glorious as the midday Sun in Satans bosom glowing:
    A Female hidden in a Male, Religion hidden in War  
    Namd Moral Virtue; cruel two-fold Monster shining bright
    A Dragon red & hidden Harlot which John in Patmos saw
    But turning toward Ololon in terrible majesty Milton
    Replied. Obey thou the Words of the Inspired Man
    All that can be annihilated must be annihilated   
    That the Children of Jerusalem may be saved from slavery"

    If we are inclined to think that it is science that upholds the notion that the world is matter only, we should note what Max Planck had to say:
    "As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent Mind. This Mind is the matrix of all matter."
    Max Planck, Das Wesen der Materie, 1944

    Monday, February 23, 2015

    The Books I

    The books

    • Tiriel (c. 1789)
    • Tiriel was not an illuminated book, but the first that Blake
    • wrote.

    • The Book of Thel (c. 1789)
    • There are a lot of posts on this subject.
    • Thel , in the Vales of Har (Heaven?) contemplates how it would be to go down into the world.
    • She sees herself succesively as worm, a lilly, and a cloud (and what else?) and of course death; she doesn't want it; she draws back to Har.

    • America a Prophecy (1793)
    Blake wrote this book soon after the American Revolution.

    Urizen functions as the terribly
    frightened King of England, to be
    revolted against

    Europe a Prophecy (1794)
    This one was virtually a sequel of the last one.

    The picture shows Orc who is most familiar with blood, which spread over Europe after the American Revolution

    Commons Wikipaedia
    Europe 15

    A few descriptive words and an impressive Image!