Storied plates from Blake’s Night Thoughts acquired by the University of Toronto

The University of Toronto has recently acquired hand-coloured plates from Blake's designs to Edward Young's Night Thoughts

The University of Toronto has recently acquired two hand-coloured plates designed and painted by either William or Catherine Blake. Produced for Edward Young's long poem Night Thoughts at the end of the eighteenth century, this was the largest project conceived by Blake and, although a financial disaster at the time, was recognised at the time as one of his major works.

The plates have been purchased to add to the existing collection of William Blake materials donated in 2005 by Gerald E. Bentley Jr., the famous Blake scholar and a former English professor at the University of Toronto.

Victoria College houses this collection, as well as that of Northrop Frye who helped to rescue Blake from obscurity with his 1947 study, Fearful Symmetry. As Chief Librarian Lisa Sherlock observes:

Blake died in utter poverty, for the Illuminated work which he loved to produce did not pay, although it is those works for which he is now best known. Blake was not highly regarded by his contemporaries save for his valued patrons who purchased pieces of his work to keep him afloat. Many of his commercial commissions were not well paid and he was often unpaid as with the unpublished Night Thoughts plates.

Keywords: Blake, Night Thoughts, prints, libraries.