William Blake was born on November 28th, 1757 as the third of five children to a London hosier. Because of the relatively lower middle class status of his father's profession, Blake was raised in the same state of poverty that he would experience throughout his entire life. As a child, he was already fond of painting and was eventually sent to drawing school as a result. Young William received only enough schooling to learn how to read and write while working in his father's shop. While Blake received very little of a traditional education, he was well versed in Greek and Latin literature, the Bible, and Milton.
Blake continued to grow intellectually through the influence of his brother Robert who died by consumption when he was twenty. After he saw his brother's soul "ascend heavenward clapping its hands for joy," Blake continued to seek inspiration through his favorite brother. Blake continued his strong belief in the spiritual world throughout the rest of his life. When he was ten years old, he tried to convince his father that he had seen angels in a tree and, he asserted throughout the rest of his life, that he spoke with many of the spirits, angels, and devils that he wrote about.
By age fourteen (1771), Blake was apprenticed to an engraver named James Basire where he served for seven years, learning the craft that would later become the focal point around which his other professions would center. Even before his apprenticeship, at the age of twelve, Blake began writing the poetry that would become his first printed work, Poetical Sketches, in 1783. After this time (1779), he enrolled at the Royal Academy but rebelled against the doctrines of its dominating president, Sir Joshua Reynolds. It was at the Royal Academy though, where Blake established relations with John Flaxman and Henry Fuseli whose work served as influences to his own projects.
From 1779, Blake served as an engraver for a London bookseller while contracting his services to others.