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One of Trinity Library’s rare William Blake prints is on display as part of the Bodleian Library’s exhibition Melancholy: A New Anatomy.
The exhibition revisits Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy, a huge and innovative encyclopaedia of mental and emotional disorder, as understood in the late Renaissance, using library objects to highlight common experiences and connections over time.
The Biblical topic of Job’s trials proved a recurrent source of inspiration throughout Blake’s career. The scene in the print held by Trinity, ‘The Lord Answering Job out of the Whirlwind’ was selected for exhibition in the ‘Spiritual Physic’ section. According to Gulamabbas Lakha, a member of the exhibit’s curatorial team, the illustration can be interpreted as ‘a powerful metaphor for the metacognition offered by the psychotherapeutic encounter, empowering the individual through a renewed sense of agency and a reframing of perspectives.’
Trinity Librarian Emma Sillett says: ‘For the first time, the Bodleian Libraries have brought together a curatorial team with experts across the fields of psychiatry and the humanities. The items on display highlight the (often surprising) resonances between Robert Burton’s 400 year-old publication The Anatomy of Melancholy and our understanding of mental health today.
Blake’s Illustrations of the Book of Job (1825) series is an arresting late example of his "infernal method" (creating relief etchings of reversed text and image together) and his improvised freehand design. Trinity is fortunate to possess a donated set from the first proof print run, limited to 150 copies.’
Melancholy: A New Anatomy is open with free admission until 22 March 2022.
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