Night Thoughts, by Edward Young, Illustrations by William Blake, Folio Society Limited Edition

{Ed. Note:  Thanks to LibraryThing user Virion for sending me the pictures and colophon information below.  I have always been very interested in this Limited Edition from Folio Society, it is great to see so many pictures of it.}

Folio Society (FS) produces some pretty spectacular books, especially their Limited Edition’s. Night Thoughts must rank up there as one of FS’s best editions ever produced. Fans of William Blake would be remiss to not own this spectacular facsimile, containing all 537 of his illustrations originally meant for a 1797 edition of Night Thoughts which, for financial reasons, ended up only containing 43 of them.  This FS edition is the first time all 537 watercolors have been published together in color.

Edward Young (1681-1765) wrote a number of books, but is most famous for his The Complaint: or Night Thoughts on Life, Death, and Immortality, written in blank verse, first published in 1742. Night Thoughts contains nine poems covering nine nights, where Young, driven by reflections on the loss of his wife and friends, contemplates death and human frailty. The poem was enormously successful, though eventually fell into obscurity, coming back into some amount of prominence after World War I.  Though often critically thought of as long and not put together in an extremely connected manner, there is no question it does contain some fantastic passages, such as “Procrastination is the thief of time” and “All men think all men mortal, but themselves.”

William Blake (1757-1827), largely unrecognized in his lifetime, is now considered one of the greatest poets and painters of the Romantic Age.  His work is very philosophic, with significant mystical underpinnings.  Blake claimed to have experienced religious visions throughout his life. Looking at the illustrations in Night Thoughts, as well as his work for John Milton‘s Paradise Lost, it is easy to see how these visions translated into inspiration for his work. To me, his paintings and illustrations have always portrayed a dreamlike vision to the viewer.  As an aside, Blake is claimed to have been among the mob in the famous 1780 Gordon Riots wrote about by Charles Dickens in his Barnaby Rudge, reviewed here.

About the Edition

Contributor Virion mentioned to me that Blake seems to have taken a line, from the 20 lines which fill each page, and made a literal illustration. The result of which is very stunning.  The commentary volume has a few lines of text explaining every page, which is very helpful. A glance at the facts of the making of the volume, below, shows that FS went all out in creating this magnificent limited edition.

  • 17″ x 13″, 548 pages
  • Facsimile reproduced by digital photography from the original edition in the British Museum, London
  • Each folio comprising a letterpress page framed by a pen-and-watercolour drawing (537 Blake illustrations)
  • Printed by Bath Press, Blantyre on Modigliani Neve paper specially selected to match the original Whatman paper stock
  • Binding by Smith Settle of Otley is in Nigerian goatskin leather with cloth sides printed and blocked with designs by David Eccles based on William Blake’s original drawings
  • Endleaves are of handmade laid paper from the Fabriano mill
  • Presented in a buckram covered solander box
  • Accompanied by a specially commissioned commentary volume by renowned Blake scholar Robin Hamlyn
  • Edition limited to 1,000 numbered copies

Pictures

Night Thoughts, Folio Society LE, Solander Box
Night Thoughts, Folio Society LE, Solander Box Open
Night Thoughts, Folio Society LE, Book One Cover
Night Thoughts, Folio Society LE, Book One Spine
Night Thoughts, Folio Society LE, Book Two
Night Thoughts, Folio Society LE, Introduction Page
Night Thoughts, Folio Society LE, Sample Page 1
Night Thoughts, Folio Society LE, Sample Page 2
Night Thoughts, Folio Society LE, Sample Page 3
Night Thoughts, Folio Society LE, Sample Page 4
Night Thoughts, Folio Society LE, Sample Page 5 Close-up
Night Thoughts, Folio Society LE, Sample Page 6
Night Thoughts, Folio Society LE, Sample Page 7 Close-up
Night Thoughts, Folio Society LE, Sample Page 8 Close-up
Night Thoughts, Folio Society LE, Colophon
Night Thoughts, Folio Society LE, Commentary Volume Cover
Night Thoughts, Folio Society LE, Commentary Volume Sample Text
Night Thoughts, Folio Society LE, Commentary Volume Sample Pages

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