begin page 110 | back to top


Wings of Fire: Exhibition at Muhlenberg College, 19 March-19 April 2008

MUHLENBERG College’s Wings of Fire, an exhibition curated by Grant Scott and his senior seminar students, offered a range of Blake originals and historically significant facsimiles and other editions that collectively represent

                          Opposition is true friendship.
                          Eternity is in love with the productions of Time. 

                            [Go]ds or Geniuses, calling
                            [properti]es of woods, rivers, mountains,
                            [nu]merous senses could perceive.
                            country, placing it under its
                            & enslav’d the vulgar
                            [fr]om their objects: thus began
                            [order]ed such things.

                            And did those feet in ancient time.
                            Walk upon Englands mountains green
                            And was the holy

                            And did the Countenance Divine.
                            Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
                            And was Jerusalem builded here,
                            Among these dark Satanic Mills?
Image courtesy of Grant Scott, the Martin Art Gallery, and Paul Pearson Photography.  
the complex history of Blake’s relationship with his audiences. The core of the exhibition comprised two originals on permanent loan to Muhlenberg’s Martin Art Gallery: a rare third-state impression of the 1810 engraving of Chaucers Canterbury Pilgrims and a colored copy of the 1797 Edwards edition of Young’s Night Thoughts with Blake’s illustrations. Florence Foerderer Tonner collected Canterbury Pilgrims and Night Thoughts in the early twentieth century, eventually leaving most of her large Blake collection to the Philadelphia Museum of Art; these two pieces were first donated to the Lutheran Church of America then passed on to Muhlenberg College. A local Blake scholar also loaned an uncolored copy of Night Thoughts, a first edition of The Grave with Blake’s illustrations, an 1874 edition of Blake’s engravings of the Book of Job, editions of William Muir’s lithographic reproductions from the 1880s, and high-quality facsimiles produced by the Trianon Press between 1951 and 1979. Wings of Fire also featured such additions as a beautifully bound copy of the Yeats edition of Blake’s works and two replica printing plates based on electrotypes cast from Blake’s original copperplates at the time of Gilchrist’s biography. Joseph Viscomi loaned these plates to the exhibition, opening it on 19 March with the lecture “Blake’s Enlightened Graphics: Illuminated Books and New Technologies.” Muhlenberg alumni and seniors closed the exhibition with a dance adaptation of “The Tyger” and selections of Blake’s Songs set to music.

Scott and his Muhlenberg seniors playfully designed the exhibition space with a spiral half-wall set up to display Blake’s Illustrations of the Book of Job toward the rear of the room. Students stenciled lines of Blake’s text in large letters on the walls and floor in the form of concrete poems. For example, the lines “How do you know but ev’ry Bird that cuts the airy way, / Is an immense world of delight, clos’d by your senses begin page 111 | back to top five?” (E 35) were stenciled the length of an entire wall in the shape of a bird’s wings, while other lines ran along the baseboard and around display cases, swirling and diving across other walls. The students working with Scott clearly loved their subject, their playfulness a sure indicator of how much Blake’s work became their own. It’s not hard to see why. If online images or print reproductions inspire, Blake originals inspire even more. What is now called book history has long occupied Blake scholars; seeing the Muhlenberg exhibit reminded me how much of this history was a labor of love, both for Blake and his readers.

Scott, Grant. Wings of Fire: The Illuminated Books of William Blake. Allentown: Martin Art Gallery, 2008. N. pag. [14 pp. + 17 illus., mostly color]

Print Edition

  • Publisher
  • Department of English, University of Rochester
  • Rochester, NY, USA
    • Editors
    • Morris Eaves
    • Morton D. Paley
    • Managing Editor
    • Sarah Jones
    • Bibliographer
    • G.E. Bentley, Jr.
    • Review Editor
    • Alexander S. Gourlay
    • Associate Editor for Great Britain
    • David Worrall
    • Advisory Board
    • G.E. Bentley, Jr.
    • Martin Butlin
    • D.W. Dörrbecker
    • Robert N. Essick
    • Angela Esterhammer
    • Nelson Hilton
    • Anne K. Mellor
    • Joseph Viscomi
    • David Worrall
    • Contributors
    • Angus Whitehead
    • G.E. Bentley, Jr.
    • James Rovira
    • Robert M. Ryan

    Digital Edition

    • Editors:
    • Morris Eaves, University of Rochester
    • Robert Essick, University of California, Riverside
    • Joseph Viscomi, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    • Project Manager
    • Joe Fletcher
    • Technical Editor
    • Michael Fox
    • Previous Project Manager and Technical Editor
    • William Shaw
    • Project Director
    • Adam McCune
    • Project Coordinator, UNC:
    • Natasha Smith, Carolina Digital Library and Archives
    • Project Coordinator, University of Rochester:
    • Sarah Jones
    • Scanning:
    • UNC Digital Production Center
    • XML Encoding:
    • Apex CoVantage
    • Additional Transcription:
    • Adam McCune
    • Jennifer Park
    • Emendations:
    • Rachael Isom
    • Mary Learner
    • Adam McCune
    • Ashley Reed
    • Jennifer Park
    • Scott Robinson
    • XSLT Development:
    • Adam McCune
    • Joseph Ryan
    • William Shaw
    • PHP and Solr Development:
    • Michael Fox
    • Adam McCune
    • Project Assistants:
    • Lauren Cameron,
    • Rachael Isom,
    • Mary Learner,
    • Jennifer Park,
    • Ashley Reed,
    • Adair Rispoli,
    • Scott Robinson
    • Sponsors
    • Funders
    • Blake/An Illustrated Quarterly
    • William Blake Archive
    • Carolina Digital Library and Archives
    • Use Restrictions
    • Copyright © 2015 Blake/An Illustrated Quarterly, all rights reserved. Items in this digital edition may be shared in accordance with the Fair Use provisions of U.S. copyright law. Redistribution or republication on other terms, in any medium, requires express written consent from the editors and advance notification of the publisher. Permission to reproduce the graphic images in this digital edition rests with the owning institutions.