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The Complete Illuminated Books of William Blake (Unabridged - With All The Original Illustrations) by [William Blake]

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The Complete Illuminated Books of William Blake (Unabridged - With All The Original Illustrations) Kindle Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 347 ratings

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About the Author

William Blake (1757 - 1827) was the son of a London hosier. Having attended Henry Parr's drawing school, he was apprenticed as an engraver to the Society of Antiquaries in 1772 and later was admitted to teh Royal Academy. He married in 1782 and published his first work, Poetical Sketches, in 1783. The first of his 'illuminated books' was Songs of Innocence in 1789. Blake's work over the next twenty years chart the refining of his ideas and beliefs, from a recognition of repression in Songs of Experience to his epic works Milton and Jerusalem whihc present a renewed vision of reconciliation between humanity.


Alicia Ostriker is Professor of English at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, USA.

--This text refers to the paperback edition.

Product details

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B00FMWDTQI
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ e-artnow (10 July 2013)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • File size ‏ : ‎ 31075 KB
  • Text-to-Speech ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Screen Reader ‏ : ‎ Supported
  • Enhanced typesetting ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • X-Ray ‏ : ‎ Not Enabled
  • Word Wise ‏ : ‎ Not Enabled
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 939 pages
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.6 out of 5 stars 347 ratings

Customer reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5
347 global ratings

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Dr Jacques COULARDEAU
5.0 out of 5 stars Let yourself be engulfed in the vision
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 21 November 2019
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5.0 out of 5 stars Let yourself be engulfed in the vision
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 21 November 2019
The English Language and English Literature have two visionary geniuses, William Shakespeare and William Blake. They are equal because different and they are both great because they see beyond words and beyond the surface of things, though with different means at times. And American English Literature has a third one, Walt Whitman. Three pillars of English visionary mythology that make any other mythology, Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu or Buddhist very small indeed. They can only compare with Maya mythology that enters a completely different though just as intense universe of fantastic and at times horrific, cosmic power and life.

William Blake is a poetic monument created by human surrealist nature. He refers to himself and his own roots exclusively though he has nourished his imagination with the visions of others and, first of all, of all Apocalypses ever written or simply imagined by anyone since the mutating birth of Homo Sapiens. Blake wants to assume that human history, but he tries to go beyond all categories our Indo-European languages impose onto our thinking. For him time is timeless and becomes pure duration, space is spaceless and becomes a pure and permanent reversal of the inside outside and of the outside inside. He vertically aligns three cardinal points North, South, and East, and makes West turn around this North-South-East axis delimiting a spindle that becomes a vision of our life, soul, mind, and flesh. We are that rotating spindle that collapses inwards permanently and swells outwards again incessantly and infinitely. And even if we really are that spindle in every one of ourselves, the whole universe is a spindle of all the human spindles on its own and all by itself. The whole universe is flesh, the whole universe is divine, the whole universe is satanic, the whole universe is the promise of salvation in that very Brownian chaos of our dreaming imagination that encompasses all these movements and tries to rebuild some epiphanic salvation in that seemingly incoherent apocalypse. And that salvation is visual, a vision in color, shapes, and forms, movements and drifts and the use of illuminations and graphic representations are just the shapings of this inner mentally graphic meaning.

These various dimensions are intertwined in, for example, “Jerusalem, The Emanation of the Giant Albion”: the dramatic line (single or multi-linear, if we follow the debate dominated by David Whitmarsh), the style and the music, the imagery and the menagerie, the religious inspiration and the iconoclastic anti-references, and of course the illustrations. Blake gives the lie to George Lakoff when this latter says, “Metaphor is a natural phenomenon since "conceptual metaphor is part of human thought, and linguistic metaphor is part of human language" (LAKOFF, G. & JOHNSON, M. Metaphors We Live By. The University of Chicago Press, 2003 [1980], p.247) For Blake it is all a mental graphic multidimensional semiotic hybridization, and thus has nothing to do with the natural of natural phenomena. In fact, we can wonder if Lakoff does not take “natural” with the meaning of “human-produced” because “human thought and… human language” have been devised by Homo Sapiens in his long emergence from his Hominin ancestors. Nothing natural there but only phylogenic development of the mind and language that developed pre-Sapiens Hominins into Sapiens Hominins.

To capture this art you must concentrate on some sections, even short excerpts, probably one or two plates to be able to see in full detail how this poetry tries to recreate the Hebraic Semitic capture of the world and conceptualization of life, I mean the Semitic vision of the world with a language that only starts from consonantal roots and then conceptualizes a whole network of notions derived from these roots by the use of vocalic variations, the roots keeping there meaning no matter how far from them the discursive words are built with such vocalic variations and compositions of such roots and derived discursive words. But Blake works in a language that is two phylogenic articulations further down our phylogenic evolution, a synthetic-analytical language. Blake is a typical English poet who knows those ancient and ancestral languages enough to try to transport their conceptualizing power into English itself. His prophetic texts are the visual and graphic results of that attempt.

But to really understand Blake you also need to take into account the simple, short poems like the famous Tyger poem:

Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

And these simple poems have been a phenomenal inspiration to many artists in England but also in the world. I will only take one example, Benjamin Britten and his opera The Little Sweep. It starts from two poems by William Blake, the Chimney Sweeper, one in the Songs of Innocence (1789) and the other in the Songs of Experience (1794). The two poems have contradictory meanings on the basis of the same description of a hateful and bleak occupation for boys under ten.

The first poem’s conclusion is:

“Though the morning was cold, Tom was happy and warm;
So if all do their duty they need not fear harm.”

Good boy indeed who knows his duty. The second poem’s conclusion is

"And because I am happy and dance and sing,
They think they have done me no injury,
And are gone to praise God and his priest and king,
Who make up a heaven of our misery."

This chimney sweeper shows some kind of childish happiness that hides well the real bleak misery inside.

If we keep in mind this contradictory message from the most empathetic English poet ever, we can then get into the opera whose libretto was written by Eric Crozier. In that opera, Benjamin Britten plays on the strong image of Blake’s first poem of these boys being locked up in black coffins of soot and their being freed by an angel.

“That thousands of sweepers, Dick, Joe, Ned, and Jack,
Were all of them locked up in coffins of black.
And by came an angel who had a bright key,
And he opened the coffins and set them all free;
Then down a green plain leaping, laughing, they run,
And wash in a river, and shine in the sun.
Then naked and white, all their bags left behind,
They rise upon clouds and sport in the wind.”

Benjamin Britten, or Eric Crozier, uses the image of the coffins many times: stuck in the chimney, then hidden in the toy cupboard, spending the night there, and finally being moved out of the house and onto his liberation in a traveling chest. Every time the boy is liberated in a way or another, the last time is a promise though, by the children of the house who plot that whole procedure, hence playing the role of the angel and led into that by three girls along with three boys, a perfect David’s star, from two families, the Brooks (two girls and one boy) and the Cromes (two boys and one girl), one triangle point up representing the light of divine truth poured down into the human cup and one triangle point down representing the human cup receiving the divine light.

So, enjoy Blake's poetry and try to enjoy it more than just read it. Contemplate, empathize and visualize in your mind’s eye that poignant reality, that cruel suffering in Blake’s vision and you might be engulfed in a power that has been running from 300,000 years ago when Homo Sapiens emerged from Homo Erectus or Homo Ergaster in Black Africa to today when the whole humanity and the planet itself are on the verge of going through the sixth mass extinction of life, and this time due to over-population, over-exploitation of natural resources and extreme over-pollution.

Dr. Jacques COULARDEAU
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P. F. Jeffery
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing value!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 26 August 2018
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5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing value!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 26 August 2018
This is a lovely book. Blake's illustrations are beautifully reproduced and, on my Kindle Fire, a double tap expands them to full size. Each section of illustrations is followed by the text, so there's no need to puzzle over Blake's handwriting, unless one really wants to. So much excellent content for so tiny a price is truly amazing value.
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N M Lees
1.0 out of 5 stars Badly laid out and hard to read.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 14 March 2020
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Stephen '52
4.0 out of 5 stars I'm loving it
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 24 December 2020
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Mr OE Lafe
5.0 out of 5 stars The quality
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 25 February 2020
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Blake was a poet, painter, engraver and mystic.