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William Blake's Night Thoughts



London: printed by R. Noble, for R. Edwards, 1797. 16 1/4 x 13". viii pp, [1] leaf (sectional title), 95 pp,


Featuring 43 IMPRESSIVE AND INTRIGUING ENGRAVED DESIGNS BY BLAKE in, and as part of, the text.

Front pastedown with the 19th century armorial bookplate of "Sir Thomas Hesketh Bart of Rufford Hall Lancashire" Joints and extremities with slight rubbing, a few marks and a little spotting to covers, but THE ELEGANT ORIGINAL BINDING WELL PRESERVED, slightly bowed, and with only minor wear. A BEAUTIFUL COPY INTERNALLY, WITH EXTREMELY FRESH LEAVES, WITH STRONG IMPRESSIONS OF THE ENGRAVINGS, AND WITH EXCELLENT MARGINS.

For this first illustrated edition of "Night Thoughts," Blake's first large scale commercial commission and his most important production between 1793 and 1800, the artist worked obsessively for two years completing watercolor illustrations. For a work intended to rival projects such as the imposing Boydell Shakespeare, Blake produced 537 strange and extraordinarily inventive watercolor drawings (many of which he claimed had been revealed to him by spirits in visions and dreams); these form one of the clearest records of Blake's genius, a genius distinguished by a rare union of exhaustless patience with a fiery, restless creative imagination. The designs are interesting not only for their own merit, but also for the clever way they have been integrated with the text, surrounding and being partly obscured by it. Our edition was engraved by Blake himself. This edition of the "Night Thoughts" was much noticed and commented upon: as Bentley reports, the "'nudity' of the figures 'alarmed fastidious people: the serious and the pious'; and Bulwer-Lytton described the designs as 'balanced between the conception of genius and the ravings of positive insanity.'" As impressive as the book is, it was not very happily designed in one significant way: as Bentley says, the paper used "was only marginally larger than the copperplate," and Blake's engravings are consequently too big for the leaves on which they have been printed; as a result, all copies of this work have proven inadequate in accommodating Blake's entire designs. Blake's monogram, are entirely visible. The provenance here is notable and in itself suggests that the present copy is of special interest. There are two other copies on the market right now , each for twice the price.

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