Water-Colour Designs For The Poems Of Thomas Gray. A Facsimile with Introduction and Commentary by Sir Geoffrey Keynes. William Blake, Trianon Press.

Water-Colour Designs For The Poems Of Thomas Gray. A Facsimile with Introduction and Commentary by Sir Geoffrey Keynes.

1972. London: Trianon Press, 1972.

3 volumes, folio, with 116 color facsimile leaves reproduced by collotype and hand-stencil color, the text of the poems reproduced from copper-plate with 3 additional printings to reproduce Blake’s pencillings and the tone of the paper. Marbled boards, morocco backstrips, slipcases, backstrips stained, slipcases worn, internally a fine set as issued.

§ Edition limited to 518 copies in all (including 100 copies for Paul Mellon personally) of which 12 copies were a super de luxe issue in three volumes with extra material, 36 copies were a de luxe issue also with extra material but in sheets unbound,18 copies were hors commerce (contents unrecorded), and 352 copies either bound in 3 volumes in slipcases, or as a single set of the loose sheets in a box. This is copy #37.

The 116 water-color illustrations to Thomas Gray's poems are among Blake's major achievements as an illustrator. They were commissioned in 1797 by Blake's friend, the sculptor John Flaxman, as a gift for his wife Ann, to whom Blake addressed the poem that ends the series. The commission may have been inspired by the Flaxmans' seeing Blake's water-color designs to Edward Young's Night Thoughts, begun in 1795. The Gray illustrations follow the same basic format. Blake cut windows in large sheets of the same type of Whatman paper used for the Night Thoughts illustrations and mounted in these windows the texts of Gray's poems from a 1790 octavo edition published by John Murray, leaving out some prefatory materials, fly-titles, the notes, and the 7 engraved illustrations. Blake then drew and colored his designs surrounding the letterpress texts. On blank versos near the beginning of each poem, and in one case on a separate piece of paper pasted over letterpress text, Blake inscribed with pen and ink either titles for each design or quotations from the poem to indicate the passage illustrated. On most text pages, Blake also drew a pencil cross left of the first line of the illustrated passage. He numbered most leaves consecutively in pen and ink, beginning a new sequence for each of the 13 poems.

Blake conceived of his work as an illustrated book, rather than a series of unbound designs, as indicated by his offsetting Gray's texts above and to the right (left on versos) from the middle of each leaf—then the convention for all letterpress books. Although listed by William Michael Rossetti in his catalogue of Blake's drawings and paintings, published in the 1863 and 1880 editions of Alexander Gilchrist's Life of William Blake, the Gray illustrations were virtually unknown until their rediscovery by Herbert Grierson in 1919.

The Trianon Press reproductions are recognized as the finest examples of the art of facsimile reproduction; working from the originals in Paul Mellon’s collection, each leaf is faithfully hand-colored through stencils to achieve an astonishing exactitude. The Times Literary Supplement stated that nothing like these books had ever been printed before and that it was highly unlikely that they could be printed again. Bentley, Blake Books, 385. Item #110681

Price: $1,150.00

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