Saturday, May 22, 2010


During 1795 and 1796 William Blake spent a large part of his time preparing illustrations for a new edition of Edward Young's Night Thoughts a popular book which had been issued first in 1742. There were to be 4 new volumes published for which over 500 illustrations were needed. With impressive energy Blake produced watercolor designs at a fast pace.

In the book William Blake, by Hamlyn, Phillips, Ackroyd and Butler, we read that: "[Blake] gave emphasis to the poem as a Christian narrative by including numerous images of Jesus Christ; for example, at the beginning of the collected watercolor designs Blake added images of the Resurrection of Christ, a subject of minor interest in the poem."

An example of image of Christ: arm'd them with fierce flames. Click on Image to zoom.

The first volume with Blake's images was published in 1797 with 43 engravings which Blake made from his designs. These were to be the only images to be published since the publisher went out of business before additional volumes were issued. The 43 engraved plates of the published volume can be viewed in the Blake Archive.The watercolors which represented the bulk of the work and the labor of 2 years of Blake's life are in the British Museum and can be viewed online but it takes some patience.

For his work in producing 537 watercolor designs and 43 engravings Blake earned 20 guineas!

A recent publication values his work more highly:
The only full, colour facsimile ever published. Your chance to own this magnificent Limited Edition facsimile with 537 illustrations by William Blake. Last few copies remaining. Published price: US$ 1,975.00
The Folio Society Night Thoughts

Where I can find appropriate designs to accompany my posts, I will provide links to images in the British Museum.

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