For the Sexes: The Gates of Paradise. Plate 4 “Water”.

For the Sexes: The Gates of Paradise. Plate 4 “Water”.
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[London: c. 1825?] Single plate, 13.8 x 11.7, loose intaglio etching/engraving, in fine condition. Printed in black and white on wove paper with large margins. A superb lifetime impression of the plate. This plate is from the (incomplete) set in the final (5th) state that was found bound into a copy of Gilchrist with much other fine material all subsequently dispersed. This set of plates was sold at Sotheby’s on May 9, 1991 ($105,000 on an estimate of 15,000-25,000) to the current consignor. Bentley records it as copy N (Blake Books Supplement p. 79-80): the plates measure as Bentley outlines and seem to follow a Morgan Library set (copy J) in the variety of sizes. “Copy N strikingly complements copy J; together they have all the plates of For the Sexes save pl. 1, 11-12, with duplicates of pl. 7-8.” Viscomi, supported by Essick, tentatively dates lifetime copy J to c. 1825 and since this set seems to be its companion one can guess they were printed together or at about the same time.The rarity of printings of “The Gates” in the marketplace either in the first form as “For Children” or the second form “For the Sexes” is well established. Essick records one single plate from the 2nd state “For Children” which he purchased recently, and this set which in 1991 made over quadruple the high estimate. The first state is known in one copy; the second in four; the third in one, the fourth in two, and the fifth in about 11 copies, including this copy and five which, according to Viscomi, are posthumous printings. Copy M in Bentley, Blake Books Supplement, p. 78, is now known to be a Muir facsimile. Viscomi, Blake and the Idea of the Book, has the most thorough discussion of printings. He designates copies E, F, G. H, and I as probably posthumous (with a question mark before E) in his chart of printings of the illuminated books, p. 381. Viscomi discusses the printing of For the Sexes on pp. 366-67. He is unsure about copy E being posthumous, but more confident about F, G, H, and I being posthumous as these copies (F-I) are printed on J Whatman 1826 paper which is distinctly different from the paper of copies J and N.. They "were printed without plate 19" (p. 367), but E does have that plate and might be posthumous. At least J includes plate 19--a point in favor of its being lifetime (along with, therefore, its companion, copy N).  Viscomi does not mention copy J, pp. 366-67, but he does include it in his chart of printings, p. 380, as lifetime, printed 1825. The group of plates he discusses in endnote 8, p. 426, which makes reference to Essick, is what is now called copy N (Bentley's designation). This note is probably the most authoritative published comment on copy N. (Item Id: 107343)

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