[Humanist] 22.385 William Blake Archive update

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Tue Dec 16 08:33:04 CET 2008

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 22, No. 385.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Mon, 15 Dec 2008 15:05:08 -0500 (EST)
        From: William S Shaw <wsshaw at email.unc.edu>
        Subject: Update to the William Blake Archive

Dear all,

Here's some news from the William Blake Archive.  The Stedman plates 
represent our first publication of commercial book illustrations engraved 
by Blake but designed by another artist--in this case, Stedman himself.


15 December 2008

The William Blake Archive is pleased to announce the publication of an 
electronic edition of Blake's sixteen engravings in John Gabriel Stedman's 
_Narrative, of a Five Years' Expedition, against the Revolted Negroes of 
Surinam_ (1796).  We are presenting two versions of these plates, one with 
the designs uncolored and one with the designs hand colored.  These 
commercial copy engravings are presented in our Preview mode, one that 
provides all the features of the Archive except Image Search and Inote 
(our image annotation program).

Stedman's _Narrative_ contains a frontispiece to volume 1, an engraved 
vignette on the title page of each of the two volumes, and eighty numbered 
full-page plates (including three maps).  Thirteen of the numbered plates 
are signed by Blake; a further three unsigned plates (7, 12, and 14) have 
been attributed to Blake by modern scholars.  As both title pages 
indicate, the full-page plates are based on drawings by Stedman.  None of 
the drawings on which Blake based his engravings has been traced, but it 
is likely that Blake made various minor alterations in Stedman's amateur 

Blake began work on the Stedman plates in 1791.  Stedman visited Blake in 
June 1794, and subsequently the engraver helped the author with various 
business matters, very probably including negotiations with the book's 
publisher, Joseph Johnson.  Blake's attitudes towards slavery and 
colonialism were indebted to Stedman's autobiographical narrative, as is 
particularly evident in the texts and designs of his illuminated books 
_Visions of the Daughters of Albion_ and _America_, both dated 1793. 
Stedman's relationship with a female slave, Joanna, may have influenced 
Blake's complex representations of gender and sexuality.

Most, possibly all, of the large-paper copies issued in 1796 have 
hand-colored plates that include touches of liquefied gold and silver. 
This tinting was very probably executed by anonymous commercial colorists 
hired by Johnson.  A second edition was issued in 1806 and reprinted in 
1813.  Some copies of these two later issues also have hand-colored 
plates, but in a style different from the 1796 coloring.

As always, the William Blake Archive is a free site, imposing no access 
restrictions and charging no subscription fees. The site is made possible 
by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the cooperation of 
the international array of libraries and museums that have generously 
given us permission to reproduce works from their collections in the 

Morris Eaves, Robert N. Essick, and Joseph Viscomi, editors
Ashley Reed, project manager, William Shaw, technical editor
The William Blake Archive

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