Blake etchings discovered at John Rylands Library

21 Jan 2013

A team at The University of Manchester’s John Rylands Library have discovered designs and engravings by one of Britain’s greatest poets and artists - William Blake.

Blake etchings discovered at John Rylands library
Blake etchings discovered at John Rylands library

The students, working with University of Manchester art historian and  acclaimed Blake expert Dr Colin Trodd, have over the past two years been working with The John Rylands Library to locate works by Blake kept across the University’s collections.

A number of Blake’s works - including hand-coloured illustrations of Young's Night Thoughts - have always been among the library's most treasured possessions.

But staff suspected more might be hidden in its collection of a million books and records.

To their amazement, they discovered that a large proportion of the books Blake engraved had found their way into the Rylands collection including a number of engraved illustrations by the artist.

Many of  the works will go on show at the library next month at a special exhibition, called ‘Burning Bright’: William Blake and Art of the Book.

John Rylands library Achivist Stella Halkyard said : "As well as being a creative artist, Blake was an engraver and produced a wide variety of work.

"The students had some specialist training in identifying prints from David Morris at the Whitworth Art Gallery before hunting through the collection. They found out we actually had a huge number of commercial engravings by Blake.

"During the 18th and 19th century, engraving was looked down on as an art form, and commercial engraving more so.

“But Blake is a hugely influential figure whose work was ahead of his time and whose poems are taught in our classrooms.

"It is incredibly rare to have so many engravings by Blake together in one place. It is an incredible array of subjects and really showcases his talent."

She added: “The Blake project has also benefited from the knowledge and expertise of colleagues at the Whitworth Art Gallery, especially David Morris (Head of Collections) and Mary Griffiths (Curator of Modern Art).

“We intend to look for ways to connect the remarkable Blake collections that are held across the city in The Whitworth Art Gallery, The Manchester Art Gallery and The John Rylands Library to foster more research and study and to cultivate the delight of all our audiences.”


Notes for editors

The Blake exhibition called Burning Bright’: William Blake and Art of the Book runs at the John Rylands Library from February 7 - June 23.

Images are available

For media enquires contact:

Mike Addelman
Press Officer
Faculty of Humanities
The University of Manchester
0161 275 0790
07717 881567