Frontispiece, “Lenore, clasping her spectral bridegroom,” to Leonora. A Tale, Translated and altered from the German of Gottfried Augustus Burger.

Frontispiece, “Lenore, clasping her spectral bridegroom,” to Leonora. A Tale, Translated and altered from the German of Gottfried Augustus Burger.
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London: by S. Gosnell for William Miller, 1796. Frontispiece only, 8 x 6.5 in. Trimmed to the image so losing the text below, but retaining the imprint at the foot “Blake inv. Perry sc.” One or two light spots of foxing, generally very good. Frontispiece only. Blake’s illustrations to Leonora were ridiculed in the press upon publication, which might account for it being one of the rarest letterpress books to contain illustrations designed by Blake. Five copies have sold in the last 30 years; one has appeared at auction. The year 1796 saw three translations of Burger’s Lenore, one by J. T. Stanley, one by H. J. Pye, the Poet Laureate, and a third by W. R. Spencer, with designs by Lady Diana Beauclerk. Blake was commissioned to create three illustrations for the Stanley translation, including the frontispiece, “Lenore, clasping her spectral bridegroom,” which is famous for supposedly having hung as a separate print in C.G. Jung’s office. The British Critic for September, 1796, spitefully compared Lady Diana’s pictures with those of Blake’s: “We are highly impressed by the propriety, decorum and grace which characterizes all the figures of this elegant artist [Lady Beauclerk], even those of a preternatural kind; forming a most striking contrast to the distorted, absurd and impossible monsters exhibited in the frontispiece to Mr. Stanley’s last edition [i.e. Blake’s design]. Nor can we pass by this opportunity of execrating that detestable taste, founded on the depraved fancy of one man of genius, which substitutes deformity and extravagance for force and expression, and draws men and women without skin, with their joints all dislocated; or imaginary beings which neither can nor ought to exist.” The Analytical Review chimed in with comments including “perfectly ludicrous, instead of terrific.” Bentley, Blake Books, 440. Easson and Essick, William Blake Book Illustrator, vol. 2, XLVI. Bindman, Complete Graphic Works of Blake, 380-382. (Item Id: 108590)

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