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Library Discovers Hundreds of Hidden William Blake Engravings in Its Collection

by Jillian Steinhauer on January 30, 2013

One of the recently discovered William Blake etchings (image via the Independent, all others courtesy the John Rylands Library)

One of the recently discovered William Blake etchings (image via the Independent, all others courtesy the John Rylands Library)

Last week, a library in Manchester announced an incredible find: the institution holds hundreds of engravings by poet and artist William Blake that it didn’t know it had.

The discovery at the John Rylands Library at the University of Manchester was made by a group of students working with art historian and Blake expert Dr. Colin Trodd. They spent two years combing through the institution’s collection to find any and all pieces by Blake. The library already knew it had a few beloved works by him, but the students found roughly 350 more, according to the Independent.

The pieces are mostly engraved plates, many of them illustrations for books. “During the 18th and 19th century, engraving was looked down on as an art form, and commercial engraving more so,” library archivist Stella Halkyard said in the press release. “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.”

Many of the plates will go on view in an exhibition that opens at the library next month, Burning Bright, which uses designs, prints, and illustrations to examine Blake’s work with books. In the meantime, the library sent us images of a few of the recently discovered engravings. Although there are only three, they’re fairly stunning, making us wish (and hope) we can get to Manchester for the show.

Blake-3

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Burning Bright opens at the University of Manchester’s John Rylands Library (150 Deansgate, Manchester, UK) on February 8.

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