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).
2° (423 x 333mm). Mounted on guards throughout. Engraved title and 21 plates, plate sizes vary between 206 x 105mm and 215 x 170mm, early 'proof' states, fine, clear and uniform impressions on india paper, mounted on wove paper, with watermark 'J. Whatman Turkey Mill 1825'. Mounted on rectos only, two pencilled crosses in the lower corner of the title, uncut, outer and lower deckle edges, interleaved with later 'Croxley Cambric' paper. Original buff boards, letterpress paper label on upper cover [printed by Tickman] with brown ink initials 'J.L.' at lower left (neatly resewn and recased, with some neat repairs to backstrip), modern cloth box.
John Linnell (initials on label, sale Christie's, 15 March 1918 lot 184, sold £33.12s to Amor, ?on behalf of:); Violet Wyndham, Lady Leconfield (pasted-in autograph note on Petworth House headed paper, noting the gift of the book to Florence Wyndham, dated 19.3.18); George Goyder (armorial bookplate.)
ONE OF 150 'PROOF' SETS ON INDIA PAPER. In 1820 Blake completed a set of twenty-one watercolours to illustrate Job for Thomas Butts: this set is now in the Pierpont Morgan Library. A second set was ordered in 1821 by 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 (watermarked 'J Whatman 1825') 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 can not 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.
Illustrations from the Book of Job was Blake's last completed prophetic book. The text, a series of important biblical quotations, is above and below each image. "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, p.217).
G. E. Bentley Jr., Blake Books (1977), no. 421, pp. 517-525.
G. E. Bentley Jr., Blake Records (1969).
G. L. Keynes, 'The History of the Job Designs' in Blake Studies (1971), pp. 176-186.
D. Bindman, The Complete Graphic Work of William Blake (1978), nos. 625-646, pp. 486-487.