The works, which depict striking scenes of physical drama, are individual prints of some of the images that Blake reproduced from his series of illuminated books. Six of the etchings are from his major work The First Book of Urizen (1794), one is from the mythological poem The Book of Thel (1789), and one is from his revolutionary prose work The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790-93).
The etchings are each finished in pen and ink and were hand-coloured by laying tempera on watercolour. They feature pencil inscriptions of numbers as well as stitch holes, which suggests that they were bound together at some point as a longer numbered series of prints. Twenty-three of these prints, reproduced from Blake’s illuminated books as separate plates, were notably brought together in a volume for the artist’s friend Ozias Humphrey, known today as Copy A of the Small Book of Designs, which is currently held at the British Museum. A further eleven prints were known to exist before the discovery of this set of eight images, one of which was already in Tate Collection.
The eight etchings are due to go on display at Tate Britain in July 2010.
- William Blake, The First Book of Urizen, Plate 7 Small Book of Designs, Copy B (1796/c.1818 )