Wm. Blake & The Origins of  "If the doors of perception . . ."
The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, William Blake, London, 1790

Image Description:
A male body, nude, arms at his sides, extends horizontally across the plate. The blue tinting on his
body and arrangement suggest that he is dead. Hovering in flames over him is a nude, long- haired
female figure with her arms raised horizontally. She is at right angles to the male with her head
toward the viewer. At least twice Blake color printed the plate, with its text masked. His inscription for one of these, "a Flaming Sword / Revolving every way", relates the design to the so-called covering cherub, or guardian angel, whom God posted to keep humanity away from the Tree of Life after the expulsion from Eden. The top (rotating) figure in the design would then seem to be a personification of the sword-as-angel who is keeping the dead figure below away from the Tree of Life.

Information:
Title : The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (top of page is plate #14)
Origination: William Blake: author, inventor, delineator, etcher, printer, colorist
Origination: Catherine Blake: printer
Publisher: William Blake
Place of Publication: London, 1790
Number of Plates: 27
Ranging between 16.6 x 11 cm. and 13.6 x 9.8 cm. Number of Leaves: 15
Leaf Size: 26.9 x 17.9 cm.
Medium: Relief and white-line etching with hand coloring
Printing Style: relief
Ink Color: green
Support: wove paper
Watermark: J. Whatman
Binding: contemporary tree calf rebacked

Provenance:
Name: The Pierpont Morgan Library
Date: 1911
Dealer: not recorded
Price: $3500
Note: sold from the Hoe collection, Anderson Galleries, New York, 25 April 1911, lot 391 ($3500
to the Pierpont Morgan Library).

Present Location:
Pierpont Morgan Library
29 East 36th Street
New York, NY 10016-3490
Telephone: 212-685-0008
Fax: 212-685-7913
Department: Department of Printed Books and Bindings
Collection: Pierpont Morgan Library

History of William Blake

    William Blake was born on November 28th, 1757 as the third of five children to a London hosier. Because of the relatively lower middle class status of his father's profession, Blake was raised in the same state of poverty that he would experience throughout his entire life. As a child, he was already fond of painting and was eventually sent to drawing school as a result. Young William received only enough schooling to learn how to read and write while working in his father's shop. While Blake received very little of a traditional education, he was well versed in Greek and Latin literature, the Bible, and Milton.

    Blake continued to grow intellectually through the influence of his brother Robert who died by consumption when he was twenty. After he saw his brother's soul "ascend heavenward clapping its hands for joy," Blake continued to seek inspiration through his favorite brother. Blake continued his strong belief in the spiritual world throughout the rest of his life. When he was ten years old, he tried to convince his father that he had seen angels in a tree and, he asserted throughout the rest of his life, that he spoke with many of the spirits, angels, and devils that he wrote about.

    By age fourteen (1771), Blake was apprenticed to an engraver named James Basire where he
served for seven years, learning the craft that would later become the focal point around which his
other professions would center. Even before his apprenticeship, at the age of twelve, Blake began
writing the poetry that would become his first printed work, Poetical Sketches, in 1783. After this
time (1779), he enrolled at the Royal Academy but rebelled against the doctrines of its dominating
president, Sir Joshua Reynolds. It was at the Royal Academy though, where Blake established
relations with John Flaxman and Henry Fuseli whose work served as influences to his own projects.
 
    From 1779, Blake served as an engraver for a London bookseller while contracting his services to others.
It is during this time, at the age of twenty-five (1782), that Blake married his lifelong
companion and wife, Catherine Boucher. He taught her to read, write, and help him with his work.
They never had any children. It is true that his wife actually helped him produce an edition Blake's
Songs of Innocence. For this edition and various other projects, Blake engraved the plates while
Catherine made the impressions, helped hand-colored them, and bound the books together.
"When he did the bridge to 'End Of The Night', he said 'Realms of bliss Realms of light' - I said 'Jim, that's William Blake's 'Songs Of Innocence'.' He said, 'I know, but nobody's busted me yet.' The Doors really represented the first time a rock band really tapped into literature, and it worked." - Michael C. Ford, Los Angeles poet

    John Flaxman helped Blake set up his own print shop at 27 Broad Street in 1784. The business was an eventual failure. Blake continued to contract his skills to others while producing his major works with his wife. During this time, he produced An Island in the Moon (1784-5), All Religions Are One and There is No Natural Religion (1788), The Book of Thel (1789), and Songs of Innocence (1789). The year 1789 marked the beginning of tremendous creativity for Blake as he published his major works in the relatively short period to follow- The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790-93), The French Revolution (1791), America: A Prophecy (1793), Visions of the Daughters of Albion (1793), The Book of Urizen (1794), the Songs of Experience (1793-4), Europe: A Prophecy (1794) The Book of Los (1795) and The Four Zoas (1795-1804).

    Blake and his wife left London for the southern coastal town of Felpham between 1800 and 1803. It is in Felpham where Blake evicted a drunken soldier from urinating in his garden who later accused him of making seditious remarks. A jury acquitted him but the event would surface in some of Blake's later works including one of his masterpieces, Jerusalem (1804-20).

    After 1818 and until his death on August 12, 1827, Blake produced no more poetry but continued his engravings including the twenty-one plates of the Book of Job and illustrations for Dante's Divine Comedy. Blake continued his creative vision until his death having lived in London, with the exception of his time in Felpham, his entire life. He was buried in common grave in relative obscurity. His wife died four years later. The vast majority of Blake's original copper engraved plates were destroyed after his death leaving his appreciators few and rare editions of his
printed works.