Writer, art commentator, watercolour painter, geologist and long time friend of William Blake, Cumberland attended the Royal Academy Schools and endured as an insurance company clerk until an inheritance in 1784 allowed him to travel and live in Florence and Rome. His interest in neoclassicism and the art of ancient Greece led to his treatise Thoughts on outline (1796), and his collaboration with Blake for the engraved plates. Cumberland assisted Blake in many ways, purchasing his work, advocating with booksellers on his behalf and assisting with obtaining commissions. In 1807, he moved to Bristol and became involved not only with geological research and fossil collection but also with local artists whom he assisted. It was from Bristol in 1818, through the agency of his son George Cumberland Jr. that he arranged the introduction of John Linnell to William Blake. In addition to Cumberland 's published work, the Bentley Collection contains a substantial number of his literary manuscripts, including correspondence, commonplace books and sketches.

Item No. 28
Designed and engraved by William Blake

George Cumberland's Card

Line engraving inscribed "W. Blake inv& sc: A AE 70 1827

In a letter of 12 April 1827 Blake wrote: "The little card I will do as soon as Possible but when you Consider that I have been reduced to a Skeleton from which I am slowly recovering you will I hope have Patience with me." In a comment later added to the letter, Cumberland noted "My little Message card was the last thing he executed." Blake died in August of that year.

Item No. 29
Designed by George Cumberland, engraved by William Blake

Thoughts on outline, sculpture and the system that guided the ancient artists in composing their figures and groupes: accompanied with free remarks on the practice of the moderns, and liberal hints cordially intended for their advantage; to which are annexed twenty-four designs of classical subjects invented on the principles recommended in the essay.
London: printed by W.Wilson, 1796

24 plates, 15 engraved by Cumberland , 8 by Blake and one (frontispiece) unsigned.

In Blake Books, Bentley suggests that Blake provided
the inscriptions as well, for they show "the idiosyncratic 'g'
with a leftward serif which Blake used at the time."