A Dialogue Between a Blind-Man and Death

Richard Standfast (1608?-1684), A Dialogue Between a Blind-Man and Death (Boston: printed and sold at John Boyle’s printing-office in Marlborough-Street, 1773). Graphic Arts (GAX) Hamilton 63b

In 1660, Richard Standfast, rector of Christ Church, Bristol, wrote and published a meditation in verse titled “There’s None So Blind As He That Will Not See.” A separate edition was later printed and published, this time called “A Dialogue Between a Blind-Man and Death.”

When publisher John Boyle began planning a Boston edition in 1773, he went to the engraver and silversmith Paul Revere (1735-1818) for a title page illustration. Revere returned with this image of a man conversing with a skeleton. According to Sinclair Hamilton’s Early American Book Illustrators and Wood Engravers, Revere’s day book records that on August 7, 1773, he charged Boyle the sum of 12 shillings for 2 “leading plates.” One was this cut, which must have been made expressly for this pamphlet.

The second cut Revere sold to Boyle, which depicted four devils grouped at the mouth of hell, was also published in 1773 in the pamphlet, A Vision of Hell by Theodorus Van Shemain [Hamilton 64a]. The cut of the blind man and death was also used in A Vision of Hell and as the order of printing is not known, it is impossible to say which publication marks the first appearance of Revere’s print.