London: J. Osborn and T. Longman, 1733. Thick 8vo, xvi, 700, lx (index) pages. Original calf, final two leaves creased, lacking rear free end-paper. William Blake’s copy, signed on the title-page “William Blake his Book” in brown ink. The signature corresponds almost exactly with the example reproduced by Bentley in Blake Books Supplement, facing p. 314. A hand, perhaps Blake, has also noted the price at the front on the free end-paper. Although only a couple of pages bear markings in ink (underlining, not writing), some twenty leaves are folded down to emphatically mark those pages, and numerous other leaves are less obviously dog-eared. Whether or not these markings were made by Blake is unknown, but a relationship between the state of his health and the passages marked, however conjectural, might be illuminating.
Books owned by Blake are extremely rare. Bentley lists 43 in Blake Books and four in the supplement, of which 24 are untraced and known only by repute, and of the remaining 23 only seven are signed by Blake and some of those are dubious. There are perhaps twelve books in all that were almost certainly once in Blake’s possession and of these seven were signed by Blake. Of these twelve, seven belonged to Keynes (three signed) and are now at Cambridge, two are at Harvard (both signed), one at the Morgan (signed), three at the Huntington, and one at the BL. In the supplement to Blake Books, Bentley notes that Michael Phillips and an anonymous owner have a further two or possibly three books that may have belonged to Blake though one has been shown to have belonged to a different “WB”. It is also instructive to look at the signature in Island in the Moon reproduced by Bindman in the Fitzwilliam Catalogue, and the title-page reproduced in Bentley’s Blake Books supplement as noted above. The signature in this book is closest to examples of his earliest handwriting and less like examples of his later hand. Bentley is comfortable with the attribution; Essick is not. Item #108502