1797. London: R. Noble, 1797.
Large 4to, pp. 23/24 with 2 full-page engravings by Blake surrounding the letterpress text. A loose sheet, fore-edges untrimmed (some still with deckle), minimal trimming to top and bottom edges. Only five leaves in the book have engravings recto and verso.
§ First edition, perfect for display or for teaching as the leaves are quite sturdy and can be carefully handled or matted for framing. Blake, virtually in a frenzy, completed 537 watercolor designs when he was commissioned to illustrate Young’s masterpiece. The publisher only issued the first four ‘Nights’and had Blake engrave (and partially etch) 43 plates to test the market. The response must have been poor since no further engravings were requested of Blake. Ironically, today the poet Young, once compared with Shakespeare and Milton, is forgotten save for this edition. Bentley, Blake Books, 515. Essick and LaBelle, Night Thoughts, Dover, 1975. Ray, The Illustrator and the Book in England, 1790-1914, 3. Item #104586