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Life Of William Blake, "Pictor Ignotus." With Selections From His Poems And Other Writings By The Late Alexander Gilchrist, Of The Middle Temple, Barrister-At-Law; Author Of "The Life Of William Etty, R.A." Illustrated From Blake's Own Works, In Facsimile By W.J. Linton, And In Photolithography; With A Few Of Blake's Original Plates. In Two Volumes. Vol. I. (II.)

Alexander Gilchrist

RA Collection: Book

Record number




London and Cambridge:: Macmillan And Co., 1863. [The Right of Translation is reserved.]

Physical Description

2 vols.; 229 mm. (Octavo.)

General Note

Vol. I: xiv, [2], 389, [1] p., frontis. (port.), [11] pl.: illus. (In the Royal Academy's copy the plate of the Canterbury Pilgrims listed as facing p.230 has been bound in as a folding frontis. to Vol. II.) - Vol. II: viii, 268 p., frontis. (fold.), [40] pl.: illus. (The 'List of Illustrations' calls for 39 pl., incl. 21 for the Book of Job but 22 for the latter are printed incl. t.pl.) (In the Royal Academy's copy the two plates called for to face pp. 1 & 268, are not present.)


Vol. I: [Half-t., frontis., t.p.] - Preface [by Anne Gilchrist] - Contents Of Volume I. Part I. Biography; Errata - List Of Illustrations. Volume I. (II.); Directions To Binder. Volume I. - [Text, with pl.] - Index To Part I.; [colophon]. - Vol. II: [Half-t., frontis., t.p.] - Contents Of Volume II. Part II. Selections - [Text] - Appendix - [Plates].

Responsibility Note

In Volume I the frontispiece is captioned 'Fac-simile of a Portrait on Ivory Painted from life by John Linnell 1827 Engraved by C.H. Jeens.' It carries the publishers' imprint of Macmillan & Co.

In Volume II the folding frontis. is signed as engraved by Chas. Simms.

The printers' names are given on the half-title verso and colophon of Volume I and the title-page verso of Volume II: 'London: R. Clay, Son, And Taylor, Printers, Bread Street Hill.'


G.E. Bentley, Stranger from Paradise: a biography of William Blake (2001); A. Ward, 'William Blake and the hagiographers', in Biography and source studies, ed. F.R. Karl (1994), p.1-24; J. King, William Blake: his life (1991).

Summary Note

Gilchrist's became the most widely-read biography of Blake. After Gilchrist's death his widow, as she explains in her Preface, saw the work through the press, assisted by D.G. Rossetti, who edited the Selections in Volume II, and by W.M. Rossetti, who compiled the catalogue raisonnée in the Appendix. The first volume presents a biography of Blake; the second, a selection from his writings, with an appendix listing his pictures, drawings and engravings.

The plates of Volume I are listed in the 'Directions To Binder' as showing: a portrait of Blake by Linnell (frontis.) and designs by Blake - three from 'Job' (after p.4 and facing p.286), one for 'Plague' (facing p.54), one from 'America' (facing p.112), two from 'Europe' (facing pp.126, 129), three from 'Jerusalem' (facing p.182, and after p.194), one of Canterbury Pilgrimage (facing p.230).

Those of Volume II are listed as two 'From Daughters of Albion' (facing pp. 1 and 268), twenty-one from 'The Book Of Job' (at end) and sixteen from 'Songs Of Innocence Of Experience' (at end).

There are numerous illustrations in Volume I, several drawn from designs by Blake.

Immediate source of Acquisition

Purchased in , 1867. [Librarian's Report, RA Annual Report for 1867, p. 26.]

Copy Note

Apparently defective: see note on collation.

Binding Note

19th-century red cloth-covered boards, upper and lower covers stamped with design after Blake and lettered 'The Life of William Blake. By Alexander Gilchrist.' - the upper covers gilt-stamped, the lower blind-stamped; spines lettered 'The Life Of William Blake. Gilchrist. Vol.I. (II.) Macmillan & Co.'

Name as Subject


Artists - Painters - Engravers - Poets - Great Britain - London - History - 18th century - 19th century
Biography - Art history - Great Britain - 19th century
Pictorial works - Great Britain - 19th century


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