1827. [London: William Blake, 1827].
Printed in black ink on thick card. Very finely printed, in good condition though trimmed very close to the image at the left and right edges, once pasted down and thus with traces of mounting on the verso and pencil notes from an earlier collector (c. 1950?), image and plate mark exactly as per Essick 1DD.
§ Blake’s last engraving, executed for one of his closest friends. “Blake inscribed the plate, lower right, with his name and age, “A Æ 70.” He may have sensed that 1827 could well be the last year of his life, but took pride in being capable of pursuing his art and craft to the end. Blake was in fact 69 when he died; perhaps he inscribed “70” on the Cumberland card in anticipation of working on it until he turned that age. At least when considered in retrospect, this most unusual inscription contributes to the elegiac and prophetic iconography of the design.”
The images invoke one of Blake’s greatest themes—the relationships between time and eternity. Although probably intended as a calling card, two books have been located with this card pasted in, both written by George Cumberland Jr. Thus it has on occasion been sold as a “bookplate.” Examples on card not in Cumberland’s book are exceptionally rare and have been presumed to be of the earliest printing and possibly by Blake himself. All other impressions (on laid paper most often) are posthumous. Thirty-nine examples in all are known to Essick, not including examples now untraced, of which eight are on card, of which one is described as printed in green ink. Essick, The Separate Plates of William Blake, XXI, see entry 1DD for identical measurements (but not this copy). Bindman, Complete Graphic Works of Blake, 654. Item #105078