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William Blake

1757 – 1827

A Surinam Planter in his Morning Dress by William Blake

A Surinam Planter in his Morning Dress   c.1791

  Engraving with etching by William Blake after Stedman.
With Blake’s name in the plate.
Ref: Essick XXXIII 10; Ray 2; Bentley 408a; Keynes 111
S 262 x 213 mm; I 182 x 133 mm
Engraving with etching by William Blake.

A very good impression from the first edition, as published in Narrative, of a Five Years’ Expedition, Against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam, by Captain J.G. Stedman (J.Johnson & J.Edwards, London, 1796). Scarce.

William Blake’s engravings for this work are ranked by Keynes among his “most interesting and important book illustrations”. The work contained 80 engravings by various hands which are generally acknowledged to have been based on drawings made by Captain J.G. Stedman, although only two of the plates bear his name. Stedman was a personal friend of William Blake’s and it is likely that William Blake modified Stedman’s designs, being those of an amateur artist. From the sole surviving watercolour by Stedman for this work, it is known that the engravers involved were allowed considerable liberty in adapting Stedman’s designs.

This plate shows a Surinam planter soon after he has taken his breakfast and watched any disobedient slaves being flogged, strolling around his estate in his morning dress. Stedman goes to great lengths to describe the exact attire “which consists of a pair of the finest Holland trowsers, white silk stockings, and red or yellow Morocco slippers; the neck of his shirt open, and nothing over it, a loose flowing night-gown of the finest India chintz excepted. On his head is a cotton night-cap, as thin as a cobweb, and over that an enormous beaver hat,...…with a pipe in his mouth, which almost every where accompanies him, and receiving a glass of Madeira wine and water, from a female quaderoon slave, to refresh him during his walk”.

On antique laid paper with wide margins beyond the image on all sides but trimmed almost on the platemark, as issued. Mild discolouration, otherwise very good original condition.