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William Blake Hardcover – March 1, 2001

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Editorial Reviews Review

One day in the late 1760s, when William Blake was a little boy enrolled in a London drawing school, a strange thing happened as he walked across Peckham Rye. He saw "a tree filled with angels, bright angelic wings bespangling every bough like stars." These spirits, and a host of other creatures that peopled his fervent imagination, would later be immortalized in the engravings and poems he printed on his own press, which have placed him in the first rank of British artists and literary figures. And so it is surprising that this fine book--impeccable in every respect, from the detailed yet easy-to-follow notes on individual prints, drawings, and paintings to the quality and thoughtful presentation of the 250 reproductions--wasn't published sooner. It accompanies "William Blake," the largest-ever exhibition of the artist's works, which originated at the Tate Britain and is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York through May 27, 2001.

Essays by biographer and novelist Peter Ackroyd and Romantic poetry specialist Marilyn Butler set the stage for the haunting images of powerful, accursed, and spectral figures on succeeding pages. The four sections of the book address key aspects of Blake's art. The first one focuses on the influence of Gothic style and spiritualism on his style. The second deals with Blake's life during the 1790s in the South London village of Lambeth, where he harnessed his printmaking innovations to radical political views. It is intriguing to learn how even Blake's new, typically contrary method of etching in relief was a metaphor for his belief in divinely inspired innate ideas. The third section discusses the odd characters that peopled Blake's works, and the fourth surveys his major illuminated books (including Songs of Innocence and Experience), which he created, in his words, "under the direction of Messengers from Heaven, Daily & Nightly." --Cathy Curtis

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. (Apr. 30)
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Harry N. Abrams; First American Edition edition (March 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810957108
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810957107
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 1.2 x 12 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #688,042 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Bruce P. Barten on August 31, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I used to buy art books only from bargain shelves and tables, sometimes from bookstores that were only selling bargain books. has both varieties of books, and it would be unfair for me to review one book when I really think you should buy the other (bargain) variety. There should not be much confusion between two 304 page books with the title WILLIAM BLAKE when the books are actually the same, but the contents are of such variety, listing Peter Ackroyd, Marilyn Butler, Robin Hamlyn, and Michael Phillips as authors of the exhibition guide for the exhibition at Tate Britain, London, 9 November 2000 - 11 February 2001, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 29 March - 24 June 2001, so it might be possible for someone who was looking to see if the listing in two places was identical to discover differences in the information given, though I believe both books are published in 2001 by Harry N. Abrams, Incorporated, New York (Printed and bound in Great Britain).

If you just want pictures, some of which seem quite large, this book has 250 illustrations, including 240 plates in full color. If you like descriptions of pictures, you might find yourself jumping around in the book. A large picture on page 10 is labeled: `Opposite: `Newton' 1795/c. 1805 (no. 249, detail) on page 11. After the Index on pages 296-298 is a Checklist of Works Exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on pages 299-304 provide a variety of numbers, including a catalogue number in brackets as follows:

129 [249] Newton 1795/c. 1805 Color print finished in pen and ink and watercolor 46 x 60 (18 1/8 x 23 5/8) on paper approx. 54.5 x 76 (21 1/2 x 30) Tate; presented by W.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By J. R. Veber on April 23, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The works of Blake are represented here on wonderful gloss paper with large images to fully appreciate the artistic genius of William Blake. This book is also intersperesed with essays that explain his life, his writing, and his art. through his various images you can see his complex and troubled life come into view. A must have for anyone who loves Blake and Extremely helpful for anyone who wants to know him and his work.
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By Arnazas on January 11, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is really amazing book! William Blake is a great poet and artist. And this book is a great mix of art and poetry. Large high quality pictures, best Blake's poems and interesting articles about William Blake. This is must have book.
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By Mary Estes on February 17, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Beautiful detailed book. Bought for a gift and while it was well received the buyer would have enjoyed more time to study the many fascinating pictures and thoroughly read the text.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Julia on January 10, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
and what a book!
Sensitive, detailed, ethereal, exceptional....12 more words needed to make this a valid review...really, buy this book....(I wonder how many potential William Blakes are busy frying their brains on their ipods, ipads and x-boxes right now?)...thankfully, we will never even notice. This book is alive with life & portrays a vivid facet of William Blake.
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