BLAKE, William (1757-1827, illustrator) -- Edward YOUNG (1683-1765)
The Complaint, and the Consolation; or, Night Thoughts
London: R. Noble for Richard Edwards, 1797 [watermarked J. Whatman 1794]. Large quarto. (16 5/8 x 12 3/4). 4 engraved section titles and 39 pages with engraved border illustrations by William Blake, with the letterpress Explanation of the Engravings leaf. Uncut on the fore-edge and lower edge. Minor offsetting as usual.
Later half dark green morocco and green moire cloth boards, by Riviere & Son, spine with raised bands in seven compartments, lettered in the second and fourth, the others with a repeat decoration in gilt, burgundy glazed endpapers, top edge gilt.
A spectacular work illustrated by Blake.
"Of the merit of Mr. Blake ... the editor conceives it to be unnecessary to speak. To the eyes of the discerning it need not be pointed out; and while the taste for the arts of design shall continue to exist, the original conception, and the bold and masterly execution of this artist cannot be unnoticed or unadmired" (advertisement, p.viii).
Blake originally intended the present work to be the first installment of a much larger illustrated edition of Young's best selling poem. He chose 43 images to engrave from the 537 drawings in watercolour he had made around pages of the first edition of Young's poem, inlaid in album sheets. Perhaps baffled by the novelty of Blake's interpretations, the public remained unreceptive, and the book remains what is essentially a remarkable fragment: a tantalising hint of what might have been.
A large copy. Bentley notes that "the paper was only marginally larger than the copperplate, and even in untrimmed copies ... parts of the platemark may not appear." With the explanation leaf, often wanting.
Bentley, Blake Books , 515; Bindman, Complete Graphic Works of Blake , 337-379; Easson and Essick, William Blake Illustrator , Vol. I, IV; Essick and LaBelle, Night Thoughts ; Dover, 1975; Ray, The Illustrator and the Book in England, 3.