William Blake and the Idea of the Book.

Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993. Oblong small folio, xxxvi, 453 pp, with many illustrations and 13 color plates. Near Fine in original cloth and dust-jacket. First edition, long out of print. Bentley, BB, (new edition 2000) notes on p.11 that this is one of two books designated “the most important and lastingly influential” of the last twenty-five years. Shamefully, Princeton, notorious for remaindering Essick’s Separate Plates catalogue, has let this work go out of print also. In this highly innovative “history of the book,” Joseph Viscomi drastically revises our understanding of William Blake as he explores the technology behind the Illuminated Books. By using facsimiles created in his own studio, Viscomi, an experienced printmaker, offers the most complete explanation of how the illuminated plates were made, how Blake’s techniques compared to other eighteenth-century print technologies, and how the plates were printed and the impressions colored. His analysis of these procedures reveals that the Illuminated Books were produced in small editions and not, as is assumed, one copy at a time and by commission. These new facts of production redefine such basic concepts in Blake scholarship as “style,” “period,” “intention,” and “difference,” which in turn alter the dates of nearly all copies of all the Illuminated Books and refute current approaches to reading and editing Blake. By placing Blake’s modes of production in their historical, technical, and aesthetic context, Viscomi enables us to see how profoundly Blake’s metaphors, images, symbols, themes, and analogies are grounded in graphic execution, while exposing a wealth of connections between material processes and larger meanings throughout the works.Bentley, BBS, postscript 2000. (Item Id: 108953)

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