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A prospectus later promised 15 prints from designs “drawn and engraved” by Blake, but though Blake did produce an etching for ‘Death’s Door’, Cromek apparently pronounced it “indifferently and
carelessly done” and, without telling Blake, employed the then fashionable Louis Schiavonetti to make the engraved plates.

When the book was finally published in 1808, it contained only 12 designs, but Blake was understandably angered, for the commission to engrave even a dozen plates would have been worth much more than the £21 he received for the originals. A number of derogatory verses about Cromek, that “petty sneaking knave”, appear in Blake’s notebooks at the time.

Just how many watercolours Blake did produce for the book has been the subject of much scholarly discussion and, as only two unused illustrations were recorded, it was assumed that the collection had been split up following an 1836 Edinburgh sale of a “group of designs, probably left by Cromek to his sister”.

Then last summer Dominic Winter were approached with a collection of 19 carefully finished original watercolours, loosely contained in a contemporary red morocco slipcase titled in gilt Designs for Blairs Grave. On paper of the period and mounted on card, these watercolours were all unsigned but consultation with numerous Blake scholars, including Martin Butlin, Robin Hamlyn and Professor Bentley has left no doubt as to their authenticity and in June, the Swindon saleroom will be looking to raise £1m or more for the collection, which comprises all 12 of the published illustrations and seven that were not used and previously unknown.