Unbound pages from a printed facsimile edition of 'Illustrations of The Book of Job' by William Blake (1757-1827), poet and artist, c.1935

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

This item is made up of unbound pages from a facsimile edition of William Blake's 'Illustrations of the Book of Job'. There are 39 printed pages of facsimile engravings, sketches and watercolours. The pages are mostly undated and it is difficult to determine which of the several facsimiles listed on the British library catalogue they were published for. The most likely edition is 'Illustrations of the Book of Job...Being all of the water-colour designs, pencil drawings and engravings, reproduced in facsimile. With an introduction by Laurence Binyon...and Geoffrey Keynes' (New York: Pierpont Morgan Library, 1935). However, as this edition contained 134 plates, many plates are missing here.

The pages in this collection comprise:

Illustrated title frontispiece (MS 320/1); and eight of the 21 plates from the 'Illustrations of Job', 1826: black and white engravings depicting religious scenes, surrounded by decoration and lines from the 'Book of Job'. Plates 3-5, 7-8, 13, 17 and 20 are present here, all marked 'proof' (MS 320/2-9).

Watercolour illustrations [the Butts drawings]. The watercolours which eventually became plates 4, 6-7, 9-18 and 21 in the 1826 edition are present here. The version of plate 10 is marked 'submitted 31/8/32' (MS 320/10-24);

Two different watercolour versions of plates 3 and 4 (MS 320/25-26);

And thirteen pencil sketches, the basis for plates 3-4, 8-9, 11, 15, 18-21 (MS 320/27-39).

Administrative / Biographical History

William Blake (1757-1827), poet, painter and engraver, was apprenticed to James Basire, engraver to the Society of Antiquaries, from 1771 to 1778. He then spent a year as a student at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. He exhibited at the Academy from 1780 to 1808 and was a prolific illustrator and engraver. His published works of illustration include: 'Songs of Innocence' (1789), 'Songs of Experience' (1794), and 'Prophetic Books' (1793-1804).

The 'Illustrations of the Book of Job' is a narrative of Biblical texts illustrated by engravings. It was published by Blake in London in 1826. Blake was commissioned for this work by his friend John Linnell, the landscape and portrait painter. The final work consisted of a title page and 21 engraved plates. The 'Illustrations' were to a certain extent based upon an earlier set of 19 watercolour illustrations, produced for Blake's patron Thomas Butts. Blake and Linnell made copies of these in the early 1820s and Blake added two more.. Pencil sketches and a further three watercolours were produced to assist the transition from watercolours to engravings.


No archival arrangement has been necessary.

Conditions Governing Access

Accessible to all registered readers.

Other Finding Aids

This description is the only finding aid available for the collection. Copyright in the description belongs to The University of Nottingham.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements


Conditions Governing Use

Reprographic copies can be supplied for educational use and private study purposes only, depending on access status and the condition of the documents.

Identification of copyright holders of unpublished material is often difficult. Permission to make any published use of any material from the collection must be sought in advance in writing from the Keeper of Manuscripts and Special Collections (email mss-library@nottingham.ac.uk).

Custodial History

This item was given to The University of Nottingham's Department of Manuscripts in February 1982.

Related Material

Other archive collections relating to William Blake are recorded on The National Archives' Discovery online catalogue.

Editions of Blake's 'Illustrations of the Book of Job' held at the British Library are recorded on its website.


William Blake, 'Illustrations of the Book of Job' (London: William Blake, 1826) 'William Blake: Illustrations of the Book of Job...Being all of the water-colour designs, pencil drawings and engravings, reproduced in facsimile'. With an introduction by Laurence Binyon...and Geoffrey Keynes (New York: Pierpont Morgan Library, 1935)