Illustrations of the Book of Job, in Twenty-One Plates, Invented and Engraved by WIlliam Blake. London. Published by the Author & Mr. J. Linnell. 1825. (March 1826)., 1825
15 1/4 x 11 1/8 in. (39 x 28.5 cm)
Folio. Engraved title and 21 engravings on J WHATMAN / TURKEY MILL 1825. (Sheet size: c.15 x 10.5 Inch). Bound in ¾ brown morocco, printed title label with corrected address pasted to latter sheet. Small tear and corner repaired on first page, otherwise in fine condition.
The engravings for the Book of Job were commissioned formally by painter John Linnell (1792–1882) in an agreement of March 25, 1823. Despite a publication date of March 8, 1825 (the plates bear this date), they probably did not appear until early 1826 (the title label states “March, 1826”) and were sold sporadically by Linnell and his heirs over the course of the next century. Indeed, the family sold 68 sets of India proof copies at Christie's in 1918. Sets of the Illustrations for the Book of Job —the last complete series of engravings completed before Blake's death in 1827—with a contemporary provenance are of the utmost rarity and sets sold during the artist's lifetime and within a month of publication, are in practical terms unknown. Always fascinated by the Book of Job, Blake's engravings were based on a series of watercolors executed between 1805 and 1806 for his patron Thomas Butts. The first edition was issued in 3 versions: 150 copies on laid India with the word 'Proof' as here, 65 copies on French paper with 'Proof', and 100 on Whatman paper with the word 'Proof' erased.
*This edition is the Whatman paper first edition.
“It was produced while Blake was still working on Jerusalem, his most obscure book; yet the Illustrations are Blake's most lucid; and they are the supreme example of his reading the Bible in its Spiritual Sense.” (S. Foster Damon, A Blake Dictionary , pg. 217).
“This [Illustrations for the Book of Job] was the last work he completed, upon the merits of which he received the highest congratulations from the following Royal Academicians: Sir Thomas Lawrence... and many other artists of eminence.” (John Thomas Smith, [Joseph] Nollekens and His Times, 1829.
“Are there any greater illustrations to be found? They are Blake's most ambitious, most unchallengeable, series. His inspiration was never richer, and his execution never more consistently maintained.” (Osbert Burdett, William Blake, 1926).
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