Large 4to. London: R. Noble, 1797. Large 4to, viii, , 95,  pages; with 43 full-page engravings by Blake after his own designs surrounding the letterpress text. Half calf, black label, marbled boards of the period, verso of final leaf with small ink stain, slight offsetting as often from the plates. Generally a very good copy with the C.A. and V. Baldwin bookplate and ink signature of Virginia Baldwin (Hobart) dated 1902. First edition with Blake’s illustrations, complete with the leaf of “Explanations” misbound in after the “Night the First” leaf. Essick and LaBelle explain in their commentary how Blake, virtually in a frenzy, completed 537 watercolor designs when he was commissioned by the publisher Edwards to illustrate Young’s masterpiece. Edwards issued only the first four “Nights” (or sections) and had Blake etch and engrave 43 plates to test the market. The response must have been poor since no further engravings were requested of Blake and Edwards ceased business shortly thereafter. Ironically, today the poet Young, once compared with Shakespeare and Milton, is largely forgotten save for this edition. Colored copies are known in two palettes, the earlier of which may have been colored under Blake’s direction. Bentley, Blake Books, 515. Easson and Essick, William Blake Book Illustrator, vol. 1, IV. Essick and LaBelle, Night Thoughts, Dover, 1975. Bindman, Complete Graphic Works of Blake, 357-379. Ray, The Illustrator and the Book in England, 3. (Inventory #: 108055)
Books and manuscripts in all fields, especially medieval illuminated and text manuscripts; material on California, Hawaii, and Pacific voyages; illustrated books and fine bindings from the 15th through the 20th century; children's books from 1750 to 1950; and fine press printing. William Blake, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Thomas Frognall Dibdin are special interests.
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