Thoughts On Outline, Sculpture, And The System That Guided The Ancient Artists In Composing Their Figures And Groupes: Accompanied With Free Remarks On The Practice Of The Moderns, And Liberal Hints Cordially Intended For Their Advantage. To Which Are Annexed Twenty-Four Designs Of Clasical Subjects Invented On The Principles Recommended In The Essay By George Cumberland.

George Cumberland

RA Collection: Book

Record number



Variant Title

Inventions By G. Cumberland


London.: Printed By W. Wilson, St. Peter's-Hill, Doctors'-Commons; And Sold By Messrs. Robinson, Paternoster-Row; And T. Egerton, Whitehall., MDCCXCVI.

Physical Description

[iv], iii, [i], 52, [4] p., 24 pl.; 284 mm.


[Prelim. leaf, carrying epigraph from Sir William Jones] - [T.p.] - To The Reader - [Text] - Appendix - A Numerical Catalogue Of Above Six Hundred Subjects From Engraved Stones ... From Mr.Tassies' Cabinet ... Numbered, According To His Descriptive Catalogue ... - [Advertisement, 'lately Published By The Same Author ...'] - [Blank leaf] - [Plates].

Responsibility Note

The first plate is unsigned. Plates 2-11, 17, 20-22, 24 are signed as designed and engraved by G.C. (In his Appendix Cumberland thanks Blake 'for the instruction which encouraged me to execute a great part of the plates myself; enabling me thereby to reduce considerably the price of the book'.) Plates 12-16, 18, 19, 23 are signed as 'From an original Invention by G. Cumberland. Engd. by W. Blake.'

Plates 2-11, 17, 19, 20-24 carry the imprint, 'Published Jany 1 1795'. Plates 12-16, 18 carry the imprint, Publishd as the Act directs November 5. 1794'.

In the imprint on the title-page the word 'Robinson' has been struck through.


ESTC, T87534
R.N. Essick, William Blake's Commercial Book Illustrations: A Catalogue and Study (1991), no.XXXII, p.67-71.
G.E. Bentley, Blake books (1977), no.447, p.542-4.
G.E. Bentley, A bibliography of George Cumberland (1975).
F.J. Milner, George Cumberland a radical Neoclassicist [dissertation, Univy. Birm.] (1977).
G. Keynes, 'Some uncollected authors, 44: George Cumberland, 1754-1848', in Book Collector, 19:1 (1970), p.31-65.
C. Black, ed., The Cumberland papers (1902).

Summary Note

The publication-date of 1796 is carried by the title-plate and the address To The Reader; the plates carry earlier publication-dates of 1794 and 1795. The first plate forms a divisional title-plate and reads, 'Inventions By G. Cumberland'. On the title page below the name of George Cumberland the original printed motto has been replaced by a cancel, reading 'Anche Io Son Pittore.'

Cumberland's advocacy of outline drawing, probably stimulated by familiarity with the designs on ancient Greek vases, was an enthusiasm shared with other Neoclassical artists. Cumberland singles out for praise the Homer and Aeschylus illustrations of Flaxman; but describes Hancarville's publication of the vases of Sir William Hamilton as an opportunity lost (p.16).

The plates are captioned, usually with a quotation in English from a classical work, and show outlines of figures from ancient Greek mythology.

The work sold slowly; and Cumberland re-used some of the plates for his Outlines From The Ancients (1829).


An electronic reproduction was published in 2003 (Farmington Hills, Mich.: Thomson Gale). A microfilm copy was published in 2000 (Woodbridge, Conn.: Primary Source Microfilm [imprint of Gale Group]).

Copy Note

The title-page is inscribed in pencil, 'Eight of the Engravings bear the name of Wm. Blake' and '1796'.

Binding Note

20th-century half calf, marbled-papered boards; spine lettered 'Thoughts On Outline & Sculpture' and '1796'.


Mythology, Greek - Iconography
Drawing - Outline - Illustration (process) - 18th century - Neoclassicism
Essays - Great Britain - 18th century
Pictorial works - Great Britain - 18th century


George Cumberland, source artist, draughtsman, engraver
William Blake, engraver
William Wilson, printer
Thomas Egerton, bookseller