- Museum number
- Series: Milton: a Poem in 2 Books
Copy A, plate 1: title-page; nude male figure seen from behind, right arm raised; smoke or clouds in background; text etched below, "To Justify the Ways of God to Men". 1804-1811
Hand-coloured relief etching and white-line etching
- Production date
Height: 159 millimetres
Width: 110 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- "Milton: a Poem in 2 Books" explores the inspiration that Blake received throughout his working life from the poet John Milton. It also describes Blake's years living with William Hayley (poet and patron of the arts) between 1800-1803.
"Milton" is an illuminated book comprised of 45 relief-etched plates with white-line etching. Its pages vary, from sheets of relief-etched text with minimal adornment to full-page illustrations. Each sheet is numbered in ink in the top right corner. In this copy, the sheets measure approximately 238 x 165 mm.
There are four copies in existence. Copy B contains the same plates as the British Museum's copy A, following the same order; copies C and D lack the Preface, have additional plates and were reordered by Blake. All four copies are hand-coloured; A-C are printed in black, and D is printed in black and red.
This copy is hand-coloured with watercolours throughout. Black ink and grey wash have also been applied with a brush, sometimes just to define the borders of a plate and sometimes very liberally. Conservation work in October 2017 has revealed gold particles applied with a brush to select areas of the "Preface" (Plate 2), Frontispiece to Book the Second (Plate 29) and "Blake's Cottage at Felpham" (Plate 36). The gold is visible only under a microscope. Examination of the other plates may reveal further traces.
The book was probably begun in 1804, the date etched onto the title page. Blake seems to have finished etching all the plates in copies A-C in 1811, despite the fact that copy A and some plates in copies B and C are watermarked J WHATMAN 1808. Copy D, which has a plate contained in none of the others, was not completed until 1818.
For a reproduction of Copy C of "Milton", owned by the New York Public Library, together with descriptions of that copy, textual transcriptions and a bibliography, see Eaves, Morris; Essick, Robert; Viscomi, Joseph (eds.), The William Blake Archive (www.blakearchive.org).
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1995 July-Oct, London, Tate Gallery, William Blake and his Patrons
2000/1 Nov-Feb, London, Tate Britain, 'William Blake'
2001 Mar-Jun, NY, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 'William Blake'
2004 July-Oct, Cumbria, The Wordworth Trust, 'Paradise Lost'
2014/15, Nov-Feb, Oxford, Ashmolean Museum, William Blake
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Copy A was most likely owned by Philip Hurd, who probably also owned the British Museum's copy of "Jerusalem". See Viscomi, Joseph. Blake and the Idea of the Book (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993), 315-29.
Palgrave sold this copy of "Milton" to the British Museum along with copy D of "The First Book of Urizen" and copy D of "Europe".
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number