William Blake invented a printing technique known as relief etching and used it to print most of his poetry. He called the technique illuminated printing and the poetry illuminated books. Nearly all of his critics believe that the idea for illuminated books preceded the invention of relief etching, that either the the complete guide to print and printmaking john dawson pdf of text integrated with images on the same page or Songs of Innocence actually mocked up on paper was the mother of invention. This essay, however, approaching the question of the technique’s origin from the context of other new print technologies of the day, argues that illuminated poetry was the child and not the mother of invention.
Blake’s idea of publishing himself occurs only after the invention of relief etching, once he sees that he could use his new mode for writing as well as images and both in the same space. He printed impressions in colored inks and often finished them in watercolors and pen and ink. And that is troubling, because they are not stereotypes, the invention of which was a major economic development in book production. Stereotypes were solid plates of type-metal cast from standing types and used to print books expected to be reprinted many times. Once cast, they allowed the compositor to redistribute type and saved him from having to reset the type for subsequent issues. Blake’s illuminated texts with their letterpress translation reveals immediately that Blake’s poetry is pictorial, his lettering calligraphic, and that images, coloring, and design contribute significantly to the poem’s meaning and aesthetic experience. His illuminated books do not look like any of the books of his day and are far looser and bolder than illuminated manuscripts, to which they are often compared.
1780s there was much interest in stereotype printing in France and Britain, with inventions in 1784 and 1785 by Franz Ignaz Joseph Hoffmann, Alexander Tilloch, and George Cumberland. Blake’s experiments in printing letters from plates. Such contextualization cannot because Blake’s earliest graphic experiments were exclusively about producing images and not about producing text. To assume, nonetheless, that these early experiments in making printable images reveal Blake’s intentions about text is to disconnect what Blake expressed and displayed from what he was thinking. Blake considered its creation a major event, and, indeed, why it is a major event in print technology. From Smith onward, critics commenting on Blake’s illuminated book have misunderstood its origin and Blake’s motivation, with the misreading of motivation ensuring a misunderstanding of origin. Critics have inferred motivation or cause from effect, the books themselves, as well as from comments Blake stated in his prospectus of 1793 and, more troubling, from the prices for his books made in letters to Dawson Turner in 1818 and George Cumberland in 1827, rather than from his actual practice leading to the prospectus and his even earlier graphic experiments.
Robert stood before him in one of his visionary imaginations, and so decidedly directed him in the way in which he ought to proceed, that he immediately followed his advice, by writing his poetry, and drawing his marginal subjects of embellishments in outline upon the copper-plate . The plates in this state were then printed in any tint that he wished, to enable him or Mrs. Blake to colour the marginal figures up by hand in imitation of drawings. By the end of 1788, the first portion of that singularly original and significant series of Poems , . Long and deeply he meditated. How solve this difficulty with his own industrious hands?
After intently thinking by day and dreaming by night, during long weeks and months, of his cherished object, the image of the vanished pupil and brother at last blended with it. In a vision of the night, the form of Robert stood before him, and revealed the wished-for secret, directing him to the technical mode by which could be produced a facsimile of song and design. Refuting their shared premise, however, is quicker and equally effective. Illuminated poetry, however, was the child and not the mother of invention. Suction the Epicurean, also a philosopher, is based on Blake’s younger brother Robert, who was seventeen at the time and whom Blake was teaching to be an artist. Reynolds as an artist for hire—or, what seems more likely given Quid’s roles as painter and publisher, to Reynolds demoted to Blake’s former apprentice role. By noon, Ill be hangd if I don’t have them illuminating the manuscript.
Nor does Quid claim the manuscript as his own. It appears to be one piece in a preposterously elaborate multi-year and multi-volume publishing project that he is directing and which is presumably undertaken by his wretched devils. Much time and effort went into this endeavor—and all of it completely unnecessary and impractical for the purpose at hand, which required only a fair copy manuscript. Perhaps the devils were put to work gilding letters. Equally extreme, unnecessary, and expensive, the text is engraved and lavishly illustrated. Text and illustration, however, remain conventionally separated, unlike works in illuminated printing. Blake, still thinking in terms of conventional book structure, pushes each stage of this variant mode of producing an illustrated book to absurd levels.
Perhaps this was how it was done on the Moon. It had long been conjectured by the author of this paper, in the course of his practice of etching on copper, that a new mode of printing might be acquired from it. Blake, for example, learned as an apprentice to sign his name and write inscriptions backward on the plate, that is, to use etching to delineate words. But Cumberland’s using etching to multiply a single-page manuscript may have struck other amateur authors as novel—and confusing, since he forgot to instruct his reader to write backward. In other words, the poem’s text was written in his hand correctly in italic, etched in intaglio, and printed to produce an impression in which the text was reversed and that impression counterproofed to produce a readable impression—adding costs and time to the process. The copper plate, measuring 11.