1827. N.p.: n.d.
8vo, 141pp. original printed blue wrappers with the Blake plate pasted in at the front. The image and plate mark as per Essick (3.1 x 7.8 cm., and 3.3 x 8.1 cm. respectively). Printed in black on wove India paper measuring 5 x 10 cm.
§ Enigmatic version of the famous "Cumberland card", Blake’s last engraving, executed for one of his closest friends. It is lightly printed, and pasted into a copy of the Hayward catalogue: inscribed at the front by Geoffrey Keynes to Robin Skelton, and with a later pencil inscription (see below) noting that this is "a copy of Blake's engraving struck off by Keynes from the plate". This cannot be true since Keynes never owned the original plate and its whereabouts have never been established. More likely is that Keynes gave Skelton a spare proof of the card illustrated in his book Engravings by William Blake, plate 38. A subsequent owner, William Clair (?), notes in pencil: "Presented to Robin Skelton by Geoffrey Keynes with a copy of Blake's engraving struck off by Keynes from the plate." and adding "Bought in Toronto". Skelton was a highly regarded poet and academic who, though English, lived in Toronto and taught at the University of Victoria.
The images invoke one of Blake’s greatest themes—the relationships between time and eternity. Opinions vary on the purpose of this plate but it should be noted that at the time (1827) it was not uncommon to paste a calling card into a book as proof of ownership. However, no book once owned by Cumberland has been located with his card pasted in. It has also been suggested that the name of Cumberland in the center was executed by a writing engraver and Blake added his borders later. 39 examples of this print are known to Essick, not including examples now untraced (all but three on laid paper printed later, and three on card), but it is quite rare in commerce.
Offered with the book Engravings by William Blake.
Essick, The Separate Plates of William Blake, XXI. Bindman, Complete Graphic Works of Blake, 654. Item #125979