R. H. Cromek, Engraver, Editor, and Entrepreneur
Based on meticulous archival research, Dennis M. Read's study offers the most accurate and thorough account to date of the engraver, editor, and arts enthusiast R. H. Cromek. Though he is best known today as William Blake's nemesis, Cromek made significant contributions to the vitality of the arts in nineteenth-century Britain. Read traces Cromek's early years as an accomplished engraver, his collaborations and falling out with Blake, and his editing and publishing ventures, showing him to be a pioneer who recognized the opportunities of the emerging market economy. Read's descriptions of Cromek's disastrous associations with the Chalcographic Society, his publication of Robert Burns's unpublished works, and his duping by the perpetrator of a literary hoax make for fascinating reading and tell us much about the commercial art and publishing scenes in England and Scotland. Perhaps most important, Read salvages Cromek's reputation as an unscrupulous exploiter of Blake and others. A fuller and more balanced portrait emerges that shows Cromek's efforts to bring the arts to emerging cities of the midlands and beyond, describes his friendships and associations with luminaries of the fine arts and literature such as Leigh Hunt and Benjamin West, and challenges more biased reports of his successes and failures as an entrepreneur.
'... provides clear examples of artistic networks stretching well beyond the capital, and how some major artistic projects were made possible by the support and collaboration of individuals living and travelling outside London... these aspects of Read’s study are made all the more compelling as they are described and expressed in Read’s meticulous, clear, jargon-free style, which makes for particularly satisfying reading.' Review of English Studies
'This is a valuable book, and the new information in it is likely to lead eventually to revision of key points of Blake’s biography.' Blake: An Illustrated Quarterly
'... this is an important biography that increases our understanding about the world of commercial engraving and book and print publication and goes a long way to rescuing the historical Cromek from Blake and his biographers.' BARS Bulletin
'Dennis M. Read's book is an extensively-researched, well-written and very readable reassessment of the career of Robert Hartley Cromek.' Journal of the Printing Historical Society