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William Blake: The Complete Illuminated Books Paperback – April 1, 2001


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Frequently Bought Together

William Blake: The Complete Illuminated Books + The Complete Poetry & Prose of William Blake + A Blake Dictionary: The Ideas and Symbols of William Blake
Price for all three: $75.21

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Thames & Hudson (April 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0500282455
  • ISBN-13: 978-0500282458
  • Product Dimensions: 11.8 x 8.3 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #93,540 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Editions of Blake's poetry which as an artist and printer he frequently engraved and published himself most often fail to reproduce his integral illustrations, or do so in poor enough quality as to negate the effort. This Complete edition from the Blake Trust, published last year in a Thames and Hudson hardback edition that is now out of print, should replace the b&w-only Dover edition (but not David V. Erdman's commentary therein, or his reading text The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake) for any reader. The 366 crisp color and 30 b&w reproductions here, culled from the scholarly Princeton University Press six-volume annotated set, are little short of a revelation, giving us Songs of Innocence, Songs of Experience, America, Milton, Jerusalem and the rest of the Blake canon in a form acceptably close, as Binder's introduction makes clear, to the way Blake wanted us to see them. Many of these works are currently hanging in a special Blake exhibition the largest ever at the Met in New York, for which the Abrams book serves as an informative and revealing catalogue. Hamlyn, a senior curator at London's Tate (where the exhibition originated), and the University of York's Phillips present prints, drawings, paintings, selections from Blake's own illuminated books and other relevant materials, such as snapshots from Blake's marvelous editions of Edward Young's Night Thoughts and Thomas Gray's Poems. Introductory essays from novelist and biographer Peter Ackroyd (Blake; T.S. Eliot) and Marilyn Butler, rector of Oxford's Exeter College, synopsize Blake's life and times, while extensive "label copy" situates each work as presented. While the visual overview is useful and some of the detail shots of larger works are compelling, poetry readers who have to choose will take the Complete.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Review

This book makes a strong case that if you know Blake's poems you're getting only half—or rather none of—the picture. -- The New York Times, Christopher Benfey, 3 December 2000 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Buy yourself a copy, this book is worth a lot.
Daniel Waisberg
This beautiful paperback volume consists of high quality reproductions of Blake's original illustrated books.
Ernie
Everyone who has made the effort considers it time well spent.
Lawrence

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

99 of 107 people found the following review helpful By Matt on October 25, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book brings the words and images of Blake to brilliant life. The volume is gorgeous, and the colors extremely rich. Having read Blake's poetry in un-illuminated format before, I now am even more appreciative of the value of seeing the work as Blake originally intended. Blake is a marvelous poet and artist, and this collection of his illuminated work is a marvelous book.
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49 of 51 people found the following review helpful By William Timothy Lukeman TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 6, 2007
Format: Paperback
While many people are familiar with William Blake's poetry, if only through the handful of commonly anthologized short poems from grade school & high school English classes, this is how his work was meant to be experienced: the poetry in union with the art, creating a vision far greater & more deeply moving than the sum of its already impressive parts. The words literally flow, twine, blossom in vivid & startling color, woven into the intricate, symbolic artwork. There aren't enough superlatives for this edition, which enables everyone to finally see & feel the Universe as Blake did: ablaze with power, wonder, beauty, horrors, and the godlike beings of the human psyche, titantic aspects transcending any neat, pre-packaged psychological or symbolic labels. For anyone wanting insight into the soul of Western civilization over the past few centuries, the soul in which we all struggle to find meaning & purpose now, this volume is absolutely essential. Most highly recommended!
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Lawrence on October 29, 2008
Format: Paperback
Valuable things are not easy; easy things are not valuable. I don't know if that's a quotation from the Tao-Te Ching, but it ought to be. William Blake's longer poems, the so-called Prophetic Books, are legendary in their difficulty. Each of the two great epics, "Milton" and "Jerusalem", is a world in itself, taking years or decades to explore. Everyone who has made the effort considers it time well spent.

Blake wasn't shy about the importance of his own work. In a letter he described "Milton" as "the Grandest Poem this World Contains". But these immense, unique hand-engraved, hand-coloured cosmic-spiritual epics found no buyers in Blake's own lifetime. Only one coloured copy of "Jerusalem" is known to exist.

The Illuminated Books have been reproduced in colour before, but this is the first time all the plates have been printed full-size in a single book. Blake is fascinating even in black-and-white, but to read these books in the form intended means entering a new world. By depicting spiritual principles as People, Blake shows us the meaning of all ancient gods.

After the lyrics of the "Songs of Innocence and "Songs of Experience", the best place to start is the "Book of Thel", then the "Visions of the Daughters of Albion". When reading the long books, a plain text copy of the "Complete Poems" will come in handy: difficulty in reading Blake's graceful orange script for "Jerusalem" may be one difficulty too many. The remaining shorter books, with their anguished mythical narratives, rely more than the others on their illustrations, printed as if with fire, rust and soot: images of an age of Revolution.
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27 of 32 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 7, 2009
Format: Paperback
I certainly appreciate how much work must have gone into creating this book and it certainly was a product of love and attention to detail. My disappointment lies in the technical, mundane things. Reproducing Blake's work at the original size means that there is a lot of wasted page space and it's kinda hard to read. He hand-wrote all the text in his books and, while beautiful in its own right, my myopic little eyes have a hard time sussing out the actual words. The editors of this book helpfully include a type-written transcript of his poetry and prose... at the back of the book. There are a few pages where the text is transcripted onto the page below the original copy, but I feel that it should have been done for most of the book, since the "actual size" images leave a lot of white space that isn't utilized. Also, and this has nothing to do with the book itself, I didn't do enough research as to the contents, but there aren't any of his stand-alone paintings or his illustrations for "The Divine Comedy." This is certainly a comprehensive book, just not what I was looking for.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Ernie on November 8, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This beautiful paperback volume consists of high quality reproductions of Blake's original illustrated books. It is an incredible bargain. The pictures are powerful and Blake intended the pictures and the texts to illumine each other. I've never disciplined myself to sit down and read the text from the engraved script; its not easy or natural since the print on many plates is small and faint; but it would be worth the effort. However, there is a type face version of all the poems in the back, to refer to when needed to make out a word. This is an essential book for anyone seeking to understand Blake's profound prophetic vision more deeply.
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18 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Bill DeBroglie on May 17, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The plates included in the "Complete Illuminated Books" are not enhanced or magnified at all to the detriment of the eager reader. While seeing Blake's images as they were printed is certainly beautiful, reading the handwritten text is nearly impossible as the handwriting is either far too small or in some cases, not clear at all. True, the full text of each "illuminated book" is printed in the back, but this is hardly convenient and to read the text along with the accompanying image is nearly impossible as the text is reprinted in its entirety as opposed to page by page.

A fine book for the coffee table but those interested in getting the full experience of the illuminated works should look elsewhere.

Simply magnifying some of the smaller plates or reprinting the corresponding text on the opposite page would have completely solved this problem and made "The Complete Illuminated Books" a must-own rather than an I-wish-I-hadn't-bought-this!
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