TWO RECENT LECTURES IN LONDON
Lectures given in London this year have fleshed out, slightly but significantly, the circumstances surrounding two publishing ventures that involved Blake’s designs. G. E. Bentley, Jr., in his lecture on “Blake and the Illustrated Book Publishers of his Time” at the Tate Gallery on 19 April 1978, set Richard Edwards’ deluxe edition of Edward Young’s Night Thoughts in the tradition of Boydell’s Shakespeare and Macklin’s Bible, and pointed out that it was the continental market that made all the difference to the viability of such ventures. When war with France destroyed this market in the 1790s, restricting sales to Great Britain alone, such publications were no longer profitable, hence the collapse of Edwards’ venture after only one of the projected four parts had been printed, in 1797.
Dr. Pedro Schwartz, in a paper on “Ackermann and the Latin-American Market” given at the Ackermann symposium held at the Berkeley Hotel on 22 September 1978, gave the background to what has always seemed, begin page 275 | at least to me, the inexplicable re-issue of Blake’s designs for Robert Blair’s The Grave to accompany a completely new text in Spanish by José Joaquin de Mora (1783-1864). This was the Meditaciones Poeticas published in 1826 by “R. Ackermann, No. 101, Strand: y en su Establecimento en Megico: asimismo en Colombia, en Buenos Ayres, Chile, Peru, y Guatamala.” As Mora explained in his preface, he had written new poems to complement and throw light on the magnificent designs of “Guillermo Black.”
Robert N. Essick and Morton D. Paley, in their article on “The Printings of Blake’s Designs for Blair’s Grave” (The Book Collector, winter 1975, pp. 545-57), have supplied a considerable amount of information on Mora, this edition of Blake’s designs, and Ackermann’s Spanish-language publications. But Dr. Schwartz has demonstrated that Mora played a major role in Ackermann’s Spanish publications, a fine example of enlightened self-interest. Already in 1815 Ackermann was assisting Spanish exiles in England. In 1820 the Spanish troops sent to quell a rebellion in South America themselves rebelled and established a liberal constitution including the freedom of the press, hitherto subject to the Inquisition in its most restrictive form. This led Ackermann, in 1822, to establish a Spanish-language journal similar to his Repository of Arts. This was first edited by the lapsed priest Joseph Blanco White (1775-1841) but in 1826, under a new title, its editorship passed to Mora, who had already edited other publications for Ackermann including a Spanish-language equivalent of the annual Forget me not, translations of Sir Walter Scott, and works on history and geography. The re-issue of Blake’s designs, bought by Ackermann from Cromek’s widow and already re-issued with the original text in 1813, thus falls into place as part of Mora’s literary work for Ackermann’s Spanish-American ventures during the years 1824-7. MARTIN BUTLIN, TATE GALLERY, LONDON