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The Grave, A Poem. By Robert Blair. Illustrated By Twelve Etchings Executed From Original Designs. To Which Is Added A Life Of The Author.

Robert Blair

RA Collection: Book

Record number




London:: Printed By T. Bensley, Bolt Court, For The Proprietor, R. Ackermann, 101, Strand; And Sold By Cadell And Davies, J. Johnson, T. Payne, J. White, Longman, Hurst, Rees, And Orme, W. Miller, J. Murray, And Constable And Co. Edinburgh., 1813.

Physical Description

[2], liv, 42 p., frontis. (port.), add. engr. t.pl., [11] pl.; 344 mm. (Quarto.)

General Note

The title page calls for twelve etchings. 'Of The Designs' also lists plates I-XII. But number 'IX', 'The Skeleton Re-Animated' is the added engraved title-plate, which incorporates a figure of a skeleton. The twelve plates do not themselves carry numbers, but most carry the number of the page to which they relate.


[Frontis. (port.), add. t.pl., t.p.] - To The Queen - List Of Subscribers - Advertisement [by R.H. Cromek] - [Note by Henry Fuseli] - Biographical Sketch Of Robert Blair - Biographical Sketch Of Lewis Schiavonetti - Biographical Sketch Of Robert Hartley Cromek - The Grave - Of The Designs [I-XII. With plates].

Responsibility Note

The frontispiece portrait of Blake is signed as painted by T. Phillips R.A. and engraved by L. Schiavonetti. The engraved title-plate is signed as drawn by W. Blake and etched by L. Schiavonetti. The twelve unnumbered plates are all signed as drawn by W. Blake; most are signed as etched by L. Schiavonetti, three as engraved by him.

Each plate (including the frontispiece and added engraved title-plate) carries the publisher's imprint of R. Ackermann and the date.

The name of the printer, T. Bensley is repeated in a colophon on the last page of 'Of The Designs'.

The dedication 'To The Queen' is in verse, signed by William Blake.


G.E. Bentley, Blake books (1977), no.435D. R.N. Essick and M.D. Paley, 'The printings of Blake's designs to Blair's Grave', in The book collector (1975).

More general studies of Blake include G.E. Bentley, The Stranger from Paradise: a biography of William Blake (2001); R.N. Essick, William Blake printmaker (1980); D. Bindman, Blake as an artist (1977); D.V. Erdman, The illuminated Blake (1974).

Surveys of writers who took up Blair's themes are P. van Tieghem, La poésie de la nuit et des tombeaux en Europe au XVII siècle (1922) and B. Zumbini, 'La poesia sepolcrale straniera e italiana e il Carme del Foscolo', in Studi di Letteratura Italiana, 1894.

Summary Note

The title on the added engraved title-plate reads, 'The Grave, A Poem. Illustrated by twelve Etchings Executed By Louis Schiavonetti, From the Original Inventions Of William Blake. 1808'. All plates carry the publication-date of March 1st 1808.

Blair's poem had first been published in 1743. A meditation on death and the fragility of human life - but including lines on friendship and the resurrection - it was the first in a line a line of 'mortuary' verses by such writers as Edward Young, Thomas Gray and James Macpherson.

The edition with Blake's engravings, engraved by Luigi Schiavonetti, was first published in 1808, in folio and in quarto. The present edition was also issued in folio as well as in this quarto format. (A small folio edition is also found, carrying the date '1813' on the title page but in fact published in 1870. This edition replaces the outline type of the words 'Original Designs' of the title page with solid type. Essick and Paley list in detail the other variants.)

The plates are captioned, and show:

[frontis.] 'William Blake';

title plate (uncaptioned);

[1] P.1. 'Christ descending into the Grave';

[2] P.21. 'The descent of Man into the Vale of Death;

[3] P.32. 'Death's Door';

[4] P.12. 'Death of the Strong Wicked Man';

[5] P.30. 'The Death of the Good Old Man';

[6] P.14. 'The Soul hovering over the Body';

[7] 'The Soul exploring the recesses of the Grave';

[8] P.11. 'The Counsellor, King, Warrior, Mother & Child, in the Tomb';

[9] i.e. the added engraved title-plate; uncaptioned but described in 'Of the Designs' as 'The Skeleton Re-Animated';

[10] P.32. 'The Reunion of the Soul & the Body';

[11] 'The meeting of a Family in Heaven';

[12] P.28. 'The Day of Judgment'.

In his 'Advertisement' R.H. Cromek states that 'the Proprietor submitted the Drawings, before they were engraved, to the following gentlemen, members of the Royal Academy of Painting, in London ... Benjamin West ... Sir William Beechey ... Richard Cosway ... John Flaxman ... Thomas Lawrence ... Joseph Nollekens ... William Owen ... Thomas Stothard ... Martin Arthur Shee ... Henry Thomson ... Henry Tresham'.

The lengthy list of subscribers includes nineteen Academicians and six Associates of the Academy.

Binding Note

19th-century half brown morocco, brown cloth-covered boards; spine lettered 'Blair's Grave Plates By Blake R.A. 1813'.

Name as Subject


Graves - Death - Future life
English poetry - Great Britain - 18th century
Pictorial works - Illustrated books - Great Britain - 18th century


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