Blake, William (1757-1827), Illustrations to 'The Book of Job', Line Engravings, 1825

Illustrations to 'The Book of Job', Line Engravings, 1825

Engraved title page and twenty-one line engravings printed on 1825 J W Whatman Turkey Mill Paper. All mounted on stubs and with tissue guards, bound into a modern half calf binding over marbled boards with red Morocco spine label.

From the Edition of 100 printed on 'drawing paper’, preceding the 150 sets on India paper and 65 sets on French paper. The 100 sets on ‘drawing paper’ are distinguished by the removal of the engraved word ‘Proof’ from the bottom right hand corner of the copper plate. Despite the attempted removal of the word 'proof', the word is still faintly visible on a number of the plates.

These are lifetime impressions, not to be confused with the impressions printed by John Linnell in 1874.

Blake follows the general outline of the story of Job in the Bible, but also incorporates into his designs many motifs representing his personal interpretation. At the beginning, Job and his family attend only to the letter, rather than the spirit, of God's laws. Job thereby falls under a false conception of God and into the hands of Satan. Job's sufferings are recorded in the first half of the series, culminating in his horrific vision of a devil-god in the eleventh design. Job's spiritual education and material restoration are pictured in the second half of the series. In the penultimate design, Job tells his story to his daughters; the entire family is restored to life in the final design. Some critics and biographers have interpreted the Job series as personal statements about Blake's own tribulations and the spiritual peace he found late in life.

Blake's friend the artist John Linnell saw this publication as a means of providing the aging Blake with an income. "Blake had produced for Butts a series of nineteen watercolour illustrations to the book of Job in 1805–6. Linnell traced these in September 1821; Blake later coloured the tracings and added two more designs. This work provided the basis for the contract, signed by Linnell and Blake on 25 March 1823, to engrave the Job illustrations. The commission provided Blake an income of about £1 a week from 1823 through 1825" (ODNB). Although the plates are dated March 1825, they were not actually printed until March 1826.

With the Job engravings Blake reached one of the greatest moments of artistic expression in his oeuvre and created some of the most inspired engraved images of all time. They are amongst the great 'masterworks' in the entire history of printmaking.

Paper Size 25.7 x 20.5 cm
Reference Keynes 55

You may also be interested in these artists

Millais, John Everett (1829-1896)

Martin, John (1789-1854)

Palmer, Samuel (1805-1881)

Calvert, Edward (1799-1883)