The Ancient of Days NFT

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William Blake (1757-1827), Europe Plate i: Frontispiece, The Ancient of Days, c.1827, relief etching, ink, watercolour, body colour on paper. H 232 x W 170 mm. Gift from John Edward Taylor, 1892. The Whitworth, The University of Manchester.

The Ancient of Days NFT

The first uk museum collection nft to be made available for sale, supporting social projects, available now on an environmentally friendly platform.

The Ancient of Days NFT forms part of the Whitworth’s socially-driven project, Economics the Blockbuster, which looks at alternative ways of living together in the world. Collaborating with partners across a range of disciplines, the project will culminate in a major exhibition at the Whitworth, The University of Manchester, in Summer 2023.


This NFT is generated using one of the most iconic and widely reproduced images within the Whitworth's collection: William Blake's The Ancient of Days. This is an image that has been reproduced endlessly since its original print for mass circulation in the 19th century. It formed the frontispiece for Blake's illuminated book Europe: a Prophecy, and has since been realised in all kinds of forms, from postcards and posters, to a projection onto the dome of St Paul's Cathedral.

At a time of great social and economic instability, the gallery is entering into the emerging and chaotic world of NFTs to test alternative models of financing social practice. The Ancient of Days NFT will be sold in an edition of 50 with 20% creator royalties written into each NFT. The income raised by the sales of The Ancient of Days NFT will be used to fund social projects co-produced by the Whitworth and its constituents. By minting a collection-derived NFT for sale on the open market, this experiment will explore the potential of directing new flows of private digitised capital into social capital.

As part of Economics the Blockbuster, the NFT sales activity will be tracked to analyse the impact of this emerging phenomena on the established operations of collections and museums. By disrupting habits and familiar understandings, we can imagine and test other ways of doing things.

The Project

The release of this NFT and the Economics the Blockbuster exhibition are part of the wider transformation of the Whitworth as a museum dedicated to using art for social change.

All the income the Whitworth receives from the sales of the NFT will be directed to a new Whitworth community fund, to be used in socially beneficial projects in partnership with communities, organisations and constituents of its surrounding neighbourhoods and networks. These projects will be dedicated to applying creative solutions in the key strategic areas of education, health, environment and social cohesion.

In addition, a unique NFT will be minted that tracks all the sales of The Ancient of Days NFT, to remain within the museum collection in perpetuity.

Over the next two years, in conjunction with the release of this NFT, the Whitworth will work with a range of practitioners - from artists, writers and activists to environmentalists, bankers and technologists - to explore alternative economies. The project will include an online research platform dpe tools alongside artist commissions, residencies, workshops, teaching, research, social enterprise, publications, community projects, merchandise, symposia, banking, sponsorship, trading and more.

The exhibition Economics the Blockbuster will open at the Whitworth in Summer 2023.

About the Ancient of Days NFT image

The Ancient of Days NFT has been created using multispectral imaging equipment and expertise developed by the imaging team at The John Rylands Research Institute and Library. This state-of-the-art Advanced Imaging capability is led by the Rylands to support research and conservation across The University of Manchester. This technology and expertise have enabled the Whitworth to generate new visual readings of this iconic and much-repeated image.

Whilst originally produced in 1827 as a print multiple, The Ancient of Days was hand-coloured by the artist – which also speaks to the ways in which NFTs use the blockchain to enhance, authenticate and rarify digital images that can otherwise be endlessly copied and reproduced. The title of Blake's work also has added resonance in relation to the hyper-inflation and speed of the NFT market, as demonstrated with the March 2021 sale of Beeple's Everydays: the First 5000 Days at Christies for $69 million.

The subject matter is pertinent at this moment too. The figure of Urizen is pictured in the act of imposing precision and control, the antithesis of creative freedom. In that sense there is a nod here to the instability of art and who controls its use, meanings and value in an age of digital reproduction and distribution.

Launching the First Museum NFT Webinar

How To Buy

First you must set up an account with a digital currency exchange platform that supports Tezos. There are many out there, but Coinbase is one of the largest for example. Here are a few others if you would like some options.

Step 1) Create your Coinbase account here.

Make sure to have a form of identification ready to authenticate your account since this is secure, financial service.

Step 2) Connect your payment method

You will need to connect a credit card/bank account with FIAT (non-crypto currency like £ or $) to your Coinbase account in order to purchase. From there, you can convert it into any cryptocurrency.

Step 3) Buy your Tezos (XTZ)

Have everything set up with your Coinbase? You are ready to buy! Click on BUY/SELL in the top right corner.

When purchasing you can either select the amount of Tez you would like to purchase or select the amount of FIAT you would like to convert into Tezos. The Whitworth NFT costs 999 XTZ so we recommend purchasing at least 1000 XTZ in order to have enough for your transaction fees. (this is due to the fact that some of your XTZ is lost when transferring it to your cryptocurrency wallet.

The current exchange rate is roughly XTZ = £4.90. You can check the latest exchange rate for Tezos here.


Once you've added Tezos to your Coinbase account, it's time to get your cryptocurrency wallet that will enable you to collect the Whitworth NFT on the platform.

Step 1) Visit and click 'Sync'.

The system will offer you several wallet options, either as browser extensions or web/desktop versions. We use Kukai for example - click on its icon and select 'New Wallet'.


Step 2) Follow the instructions to set up your wallet.

Step 3) You can now top up your Kukai wallet with XTZ from your Coinbase account.

Copy your Kukai wallet address (it should be a string of characters right below your account name, like tz).
Return to your Coinbase homepage and click 'Send / Receive' at the top right of your screen. Here you enter the amount you want to send and paste the Kukai address we just copied into the 'To' recipient box. For the 'Pay with' field you enter the amount of 'Tezos' (XTZ) you wish to transfer.

Now that you have added your Tezos to your crypto wallet. Click 'Sync' again on in the corner and your wallet will sync automatically with the platform.
You are now officially ready to purchase an edition of The Ancient of Days NFT!

Step 1) View the Whitworth NFT on here

Step 2) Click 'Buy for 999ꜩ', approve the transaction, and you've done it!


Congratulations on your very first purchase of an NFT!

Frequently Asked Questions

NFT is an acronym that stands for "Non-Fungible Token", which is a unit of data stored on a digital ledger, called a blockchain, that certifies a digital asset to be unique and therefore not interchangeable. NFTs are tracked on blockchains to provide the owner with a proof of ownership and normally purchased using cryptocurrency.
The Ancient of Days NFT is a rare and exclusive digital reading of the Whitworth's original hand-coloured relief etching print by William Blake. The NFT image is generated through the use of John Rylands Research Institute and Library's Multispectral Imaging (MSI), an Advanced Imaging technique that examines the physical attributes of the print. The ability of the MSI to provide data on the content of an artwork, including pigment and ink analysis, makes this NFT a distinctive image that is born out of the multi-disciplinary research, conservation and collections management expertise held across The University of Manchester.
All sales income from the The Ancient of Days NFT will be allocated to a Whitworth community fund, which will be used to finance socially useful projects co-produced by the gallery and constituents. In addition, The Ancient of Days NFT forms part of the research and development of a major project called Economics the Blockbuster. This examines the problems of existing economic models and proposes new ones that offer wider social benefit, culminating in a large-scale exhibition at the Whitworth in 2023. By owning an edition of this NFT you will not only have a collectable item, but also be a part of the exhibition development.
See our "How to buy" guide here .
Together with the Whitworth and Manchester Museum, The University of Manchester's John Rylands Research Institute and Library, hold some of the most important collections in the world. The Library's Special Collections of rare books, manuscripts, archives, maps and visual collections are internationally significant, and in the UK are the second most important university special collections after those of the University of Oxford.
These rich and varied collections have provided the basis for a broad range of arts and humanities research by staff at The University of Manchester and by scholars from other universities. The holdings of all three institutions are heavily used by researchers from multiple disciplines and by those conducting interdisciplinary research who utilise a variety of innovative methodological approaches to collections-based research.
Collections-based research incorporating new approaches in Digital Humanities (DH) in the study and conservation of collections has been made possible by the University's on-going commitment to facilitating access to its collections. This includes the provision of specialist facilities and equipment across a large campus – thus enabling in situ study of collections to protect fragile items from damage in transit and ensuring easy access to materials – and the employment of specialists in imaging, conservation and curation. This practice of on-going support means that Manchester is currently the only university Special Collection in the UK to offer a permanent Multispectral Imaging service to researchers.
As a research-intensive university it is committed to supporting and undertaking excellent research and is at the forefront of the use of multispectral imaging in arts and humanities research. The recent acquisition of leading-edge equipment will now enhance this research further and make new discoveries possible.
Sales made on the Tezos blockchain are public and can be viewed by everyone. In addition, a unique one-of-a-kind, not for sale NFT will be issued that tracks the sales of all the NFTs that are part of this project. You can also check this site after the drop date in order to see the record of all transactions placed.
By buying the NFT you are agreeing to your wallet ID to be tracked and made public as part of the project.
After consultation across the sector we have chosen to use the Tezos platform. The open-source Tezos network is a 'Proof of Stake' blockchain that consumes over two million times less energy than 'Proof of Work' networks like Bitcoin or Ethereum. The low carbon footprint of Tezos means developers and users can prioritize innovation without compromising sustainability. The recent interest in the ecological impact of NFTs has amplified a relevant and substantial advantage Tezos has against other networks.
The Ancient of Days NFT has been jointly developed by the Whitworth and Vastari Labs. In their first collaboration together, this project connects the Whitworth's collection and community with Vastari's advancements in technology within the ACET (Arts, Culture, Exhibitions & Technology) space.