Printing in the 'Infernal Method’: William Blake’s Illuminated Printing: Block Museum - Northwestern University
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Printing in the 'Infernal Method’: William Blake’s Illuminated Printing

Printing in the 'Infernal Method’: William Blake’s Illuminated Printing
6 PM

Event Details

Date & Time:

Fri November 3, 2017
6 PM


The Block Museum of Art
40 Arts Circle Drive
Evanston, IL 60208


Open to the public


In 1788 William Blake invented a method of relief etching that he later called ‘Illuminated Printing’. This made it possible to print both the text of his poems and the images that he created to illustrate them from the same copper plate in an engraver’s copper-plate rolling press. The lecture by renowed Blake scholar Michael Philips will explain Blake's invention in the context of conventional eighteenth-century (and earlier) illustrated book production, its metaphorical significance for Blake, the creation of the first illuminated books like the Songs of Innocence, and how the further development of his method of colour printing led to the revolutionary development of the monotype and to the production of the Large Colour Prints of 1795, Blake’s supreme achievement as an artist-printmaker.

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About Michael Philips

For more than 25 years Michael Phillips has researched the materials and methods Blake used in producing his illuminated books. His archive of research and experiments is now part of the Rare Book and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress in association with the Blake Collection formed by Lessing J. Rosenwald. It includes photographic materials used in re-creating and perfecting replica relief-etched copper plates, papers old and new used in printing, notes of experiments in matching Blake’s coloured inks using historic pigments, and recovering his method of colour printing, as well as copper plates, proofs and sets of printed impressions, that are all now available for study.

Examples of his re-creations of Blake’s relief-etched copper plates and printed impressions are also in the Berg Collection of the New York Public Library, Pierpont Morgan Library, Department of Rare Books, Rush Rhees Library, University of Rochester, Victoria University Library, University of Toronto, the Manuscript, Archives & Rare Book Library of Emory University, University of Glasgow Special Collections, and the British Library, amongst other public and private collections.

Exhibitions of his re-creations of Blake's relief-etched copper plates and printed impressions from the illuminated books have been held at the Cornell Fine Art Museum, Rollins College, Winter Park, FL., in 2009, and at the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery, College of Holy Cross, Worcester, MA., in 2013.

Research into Blake’s printmaking methods together with study of his manuscripts has also been called upon in William Blake, The Creation of the Songs, From Manuscript to Illuminated Printing (2000), in papers published in The British Art Journal and Print Quarterly, in his recent facsimile edition of the Bodleian Library copy of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (2011), and acclaimed exhibition and catalogue published by the Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford, in 2014, William Blake Apprentice & Master.

Contact The Block Museum of Art for more information: (847) 491-4000 or email us at