…I’ll be going to see this:
William Blake (1757-1827): Visionary & Illustrator
Rare Books & Special Collections
Mezzanine Exhibition Gallery
Thomas Cooper Library
University of South Carolina
through September 15 2006
This exhibition draws together both sides of Blake’s career–the illuminated poetry and prophetic writings for which he is best known and the wide range of his book illustrations and commercial engravings that often also reveal his distinctive vision.
The exhibition is designed as an introduction to Blake’s career, charting his development chronologically through both sides of his activity, from his earliest known work as an apprentice engraver in the 1770’s through the extraordinary originality of his political and prophetic poems in the 1790’s and early 1800’s, and the later illustrations he prepared for Edward Young’s poem Night Thoughts (1796-97) and Robert Blair’s The Grave (1808). Blake’s political sensitivity and humanity are evidenced in his illustrations for John Stedman’s Narrative (1796), about the suppression of slave revolts in Surinam (Guyana).
A number of the books for which Blake prepared engravings (including Stedman, Stuart’s Antiquities, Fuseli’s Lectures, Flaxman’s Theogony, and others) were acquired by the South Carolina College library soon after publication. Thirty-three of the 75 items on display (including Night Thoughts and The Grave) are original editions with designs or engravings by Blake. The illuminated books of poetry for which he is now best known, including Songs of Innocence (1789), Songs of Experience (1794), Europe (also 1794) and Jerusalem (from 1804), are shown in the Trianon color facsimiles sponsored by the Blake Trust.