BLAKE, William. Sefer Iyov [Hebrew]. Illustrations of The Book of Job. Invented & Engraved by William Blake 1825. London: Published as the Act directs March 8: 1825. by William Blake N. 3 Fountain Court Strand [Binding label: "Published by the Author ... and Mr. J. Linnell, 6, Cirencester Place, Fitzroy Square, March, 1826"].
2o broadsheets (410 x 273 mm sheets; album sheets 432 x 294 mm). Engraved title and 21 plates, plate sizes vary between 206 x 105 mm and 215 x 170 mm, early "proof" states, on unwatermarked wove paper, very fine impressions, apparently from a very early printing, the full sheets, tipped onto thin wove album sheets (some minor foxing). Original buff boards, letterpress paper label on upper cover, printed by Tickman (front hinge cracked, some minor wear and chipping); cloth slipcase. Provenance: George Livingston Nichols (bookplate); acquired from Goodspeed's Book Shop, 1974.
ONE OF 65 'PROOF' SETS ON WOVE PAPER. In 1820 Blake completed a set of twenty-one watercolors to illustrate Job for Thomas Butts: this set is now in the Pierpont Morgan Library. A second set was ordered in 1821 by John Linnell, who commissioned Blake to engrave the work in 1823. The book was completed and officially published on 8 March 1825, although the plates were not approved until early in 1826. The contract between Linnell and Blake had been drawn up on 25 March 1823, specifying that Linnell was to pay £100 for the set, part before and the remainder "when the plates are finished." Blake was also to receive £100 out of the profits "as the receipts will admit of it" (Blake Records, p. 277). The total payments are recorded in Linnell's Job accounts, as £150. 9s. 3d on account and £4. 11s. 7d for the Plates by April 1826 (Blake Records, pp. 598-605).
The copies were to be sold by Linnell, and, according to his accounts, 150 "Proof" Sets on India paper (watermarked "J Whatman Turkey Mill 1825") and 65 on "French" paper were printed by Lahee in March 1826. Then the word "Proof" was removed from the plates and 100 sets were printed on "drawing paper." The price was left blank on the label to be inserted by hand, but was originally "Proofs £6. 6s" and "Prints £3. 3s." The work cannot have sold very well, as the price for plain copies declined to £2. 12s. 6d, on 30 April 1832 to £2. 10s, and to £1. 10s from November 1834 (Blake Records, p. 597, n. 3). The cost of printing was £124. 12s 1d and after Blake's death Linnell characteristically continued to pay Mrs. Blake for each copy sold. A posthumous edition of 100 copies was printed from the plates in 1874. The plates are now in the British Museum.
In Job the pastoral imagery of Songs of Innocence is reintroduced and used in much the same way to denote stability and happiness, and at the same time a form of limited perception. However, here God is not seen through a child's but through an adult's eyes. This is strongly emphasized in the first plate where Job is seated beneath an oak with his wife, surrounded by their seven sons and three daughters. The disturbing and challenging feature of the illustrations, which remain small in scale though not so small as the Songs, is the remarkable likeness between Job and God. A further mirroring effect is achieved since Job's distress reflects Blake's own situation so closely, and the renewed kindness eventually shown to Job must reflect that of the young Linnell and his circle towards the artist. Bentley Blake Books 421A; Bentley Biography, pp. 394-400; Keynes 55; Ray English 313.