Poetical Sketches. By W.B.

London: 1783. Slim 8vo, 76pp. Complete with the final blank. Modern full green morocco, enclosed in a quarter green morocco box. With the bookplates of J.O. Edwards in the book and H. Bradley Martin in the box. First edition of Blake’s first book, of which 24 copies are recorded with three of those in private hands; this is Copy E. Of these copies, all are in Institutions except for one known but unlocated copy, Essick’s copy, and this copy, which was sold at the Bradley Martin sale in 1990 for $121,000 and resold to a private collector. Presentation copy inscribed by John Flaxman to William Long. This copy has five manuscript corrections by Blake that are also found in two other copies. “The original 1783 copies were seventy-two pages in length, printed in octavo by John Flaxman's aunt, who owned a small print shop in the Strand, and paid for by Anthony Stephen Mathew and his wife Harriet, dilettantes to whom Blake had been introduced by Flaxman in early 1783. Each individual copy was hand-stitched, with a grey back and a blue cover, reading "POETICAL SKETCHES by W.B." It was printed without a table of contents and many pages were without half titles. Of the extant copies, eleven contain corrections in Blake's handwriting. Poetical Sketches is one of only two works by Blake to be printed conventionally with typesetting; the only other extant work is The French Revolution in 1791, which was to be published by Joseph Johnson. However, it never got beyond the proof copy, and was thus not actually published.

Even given the modest standards by which the book was published, it was something of a failure. Alexander Gilchrist noted that the publication contained several obvious misreadings and numerous errors in punctuation, suggesting that it was printed with little care and was not proofread by Blake (thus the numerous handwritten corrections in printed copies). Gilchrist also notes that it was never mentioned in the Monthly Review, even in the magazine's index of "Books noticed", which listed every book published in London each month, signifying that the publication of the book had gone virtually unnoticed. Nevertheless, Blake himself was proud enough of the volume that he was still giving copies to friends as late as 1808, and when he died, several unstitched copies were found amongst his belongings.” (Wikipedia)

See BB 128; BBS p. 107. Provenance: William Long 1783 (surgeon and acquaintance of Flaxman); Thomas Thorp bookseller 1919 (bound with other works); Henry D. Hughes; George C. Smith (Parke Bernet 1938 to Gabriel Wells); E.W. Keese (Sotheby’s 1961); Bradley Martin (Sotheby’s 1990); J.O. Edwards (sold privately 2006); private collection 2017. Item #108501

Price: $250,000.00

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