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The Complete Illuminated Books

4.39  ·  Rating details ·  2,994 ratings  ·  52 reviews
In his Illuminated Books, William Blake combined text and imagery on a single page in a way that had not been done since the Middle Ages. For Blake, religion and politics, intellect and emotion, mind and body were both unified and in conflict with each other: his work is expressive of his personal mythology, and his methods of conveying it were integral to its meaning. ...more
Paperback, 480 pages
Published April 17th 2001 by Thames & Hudson (first published 1974)
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I began seeking out the illuminated books of William Blake almost as soon as I was introduced to his poetry around 1983 or 1984. I like the illustrations almost as much as I like the poetry.

Blake had a rich poetic palette to work with. He used dialectical dualism in the structure of "The Songs of Innocence and Experience" and in "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell." That alone delivered an interesting set of ideas to think about. He had visions that were important to his work and added depth to his
Peter Tillman
I was surprised at how little I liked this book, since I generally like Blake's art. Perhaps because of its religious themes? Anyway, I browsed through most of this VERY LARGE book, and finally gave up, since I couldn't find any art I really wanted to look at. Note that a fair bit of most plates is almost illegible, hand-written text. Very little like the attractive cover art, sigh. Not for me!
Jul 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Polypi, vegetating couches, emanations
Will I ever learn to bow to the great weight of History and Literature, to recognize my agonizing lack of context and knowledge, and grant myself permission to have something distilled for me rather than read it myself? I had thought William Blake was a poet who quite ingeniously crafted his own illustrated pamphlets; I was not prepared for the profound extent of his universe and his madness, and have subsequently been driven to keep searching for some great scholar to please, please spell out ...more
Melissa Massello
May 25, 2007 rated it it was amazing
O Rose, thou art sick!
The invisible worm
That flies in the night,
In the howling storm,

Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.

One of my favorite poems in the world. What would life be without the Romantics? I shudder to think.
Jacques Coulardeau
Nov 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing

The English Language and English Literature have two visionary geniuses, William Shakespeare and William Blake. They are equal because different and they are both great because they see beyond words and beyond the surface of things, though with different means at times. And American English Literature has a third one, Walt Whitman. Three pillars of English visionary mythology that make any other mythology, Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu or Buddhist very
Mary Overton
From the Foreword: "The present volume is the latest product of The William Blake Trust's commitment to the publication of Blake's Illuminated books.... While ... fulfilling its responsibility to scholars, the Trust has been keenly aware that the pages of the Illuminated books offer delights for the eye and excitement to the imagination that are independent of full understanding of textual and visual significances. To make such satisfactions open to the widest possible public the Trust has ...more
Chris Brimmer
May 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
To really understand Blake you have to read it with the original illuminations. Get your hands on the largest format you can find. I visited the NYC Library almost everyday for almost a year as they turned one page a day of an original. Great poetry, great art.
Apr 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, myth, spirituality
William Blake just cracked open my brain and poured in the entire universe.

I looked through this book mostly for the artwork, since a lot of the plates are somewhat difficult to read. Nonetheless, what an experience. Blake's engravings got much more complex as he went along, and the coloring... it's just beyond words. It's the entire human experience expressed in mythological art. Now I'm really, really glad that I began dipping my toes into Joseph Campbell before re-approaching Blake. Having
Oct 20, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: devotees & students
Shelves: pretty
PRETTY pictures. And wonderful pictures. And awful pictures. I mean that in the clearest origin of the words: awe full and wonder full, ok? For my personal study of how I am not able to draw, or perhaps might alter what I have done already, like a touchstone, since it's impossible to imitate; therefore infallible. The first hippie. I wouldn't read Blake unless I had to for a grade. I could look at the pictures all day, though, till the pastel and tortured teenage notebook aspects start to revive ...more
Matthew Wielgus
Jun 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If you have any interest in William Blake, this should be a default choice for reading. It takes some of his best prints and provides them for the reader at home at (mostly) 1:1 scale. By doing so, the book enables the reader to better appreciate Blake's artistry and attention to detail. Also, it gives his poetry the physical context of the page which collected volumes sorely lack.

There is an online source, free of charge, that gives you visual access to the poems, but having them physically and
May 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
A delectable book in terms of design and illustration. Blake still had the need of drawing from his poem's scenes. His was a case like that of Rossetti, who also paint and wrote on a same theme. I still wonder which thing was first. I agree with some comentaries, that this is not exactly a book to approach Blake's poetry, there are other books for that purpose.
Ned Netherwood
Feb 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A thing of wonderous beauty, giving you a true view of how Blake was a true multimedia artist. The text is a little hard to read at times but who cares when there is genius to be viewed. Still can't make it though the whole epic Jerusalem, though, but the pictures are great ...more
Jackie Carreira
Nov 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
My idea of sheer beauty through words and pictures in one book.
Morgana Blackrose
Oct 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy-art
Astounding publication...been getting into Blake quite a lot in recent months, and I finally decided to get his complete works, all in one volume. And what a volume! This softback is A4 in size, heavier than some hardbacks, and contains not only every original page Blake wrote, painted and printed but the full texts as well (since his own handwriting, while meticulous, is heavy-going on the eye for long periods). His marriage of art and text - not just a combination, but a perfect integration - ...more
Aug 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Erdman's analysis of each plate of illustration or text is superb, but the book itself is in black and white only, a shame because Blake was a wonderful colorist. Furthermore, the plates are qute small. However, all is not lost because the large reproductions of Blake's works (which I've also reviewed) are in color and you can compare these larger colored plates with Erdman's analyses. These are not, to me, booksI can ever say I'm done reading, as I take in no more than a few plates at a sitting ...more
Aug 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
The heaviest paperback I own. It's a large book with plates of all of Blake's books and etchings. I found it wonderful with the explanations in the Damon Dictionary and Erdman's plate by plate analysis. Although Erdman is also a complete work, the plates are not in color as they are here, and the plates are far smaller. I find myself comparing the two, plate by plate. All of these Blake books are of the sort that one never really finishes. One studies a plate or more at one time, then puts it ...more
Jan 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience are absolutely fantastic, but absolutely need to be read in context with their illustrations. Blake engraved every one of his poems and the text is continually interacting and engaging with its engravings. Interestingly, Blake was wholly irrelevant during the Romantic period and sold only a handful of copies of his work. It is only in recent history that scholars have included Blake in the romantic literary canon, where he is now impossible to ignore.
Gemma Humphrey
Aug 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I ordered this some time ago (months in fact) as part of some research i'm doing for a project but when it arrived i was amazed at its quality. the prints are beautiful and, although i was familiar with a lot of the poems and writings, when you combine them with the illustrations its fascinating and brings a whole new depth to the text. if you have any interest in Blake and his works, i would recommend this whole-heartedly!
Nov 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I think William Blake created some of the most visually remarkable works of literature EVER. Finding his art in museums was one of the most meaningful things I did in England. I rated this book a 5 because of the artwork, and some of writing as well. However, I can't say I enjoy all of his writing because I just really don't. Even when I don't care for what he is saying, I still linger and enjoy what is on the page because it is so incredibly beautiful.
Dec 28, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Blake is insane, that's for sure. He leaps back and forth over the line of genius/madman like no one else. The illuminated books are intense. Reading his works in his own handwriting coupled with his illustrations gives them a great and unique power. He creates an entire mythical world in these works, much of which is tricky to wrap one's brain around, but I enjoyed trying.
Jun 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, the-classics
I've got a copy of this amazing edition and I'm mesmerized by the beautiful beautiful production. This is definitely a must for every Blake fan! The album size paper allows you to enjoy both the artwork and the written-work of this complicated and symbolic writer, in a way which redefines the concept of poetry reading. Wonderful book.
Jul 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Do you know where The Doors got their name from? Or from where Aldous Huxley stole his title The Doors of Perception? Willy Blake! In middle school, we sang "The Tyger" and "The Lamb" in choral...and "The Tyger" especially stuck with me. I love it. So in college, when I learned more about Blake, I fell in love all over again and ended up writing my thesis about him.
Laurel Narizny
Jun 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
A great collection of Blake's illuminated works, complete with transcripts. The only thing I'd change (aside from adding some more explanations/analysis of each work) is to make all the plates large enough to read and to match the size of the paper. As is, they're printed at their original size, which in some cases takes up less than half the page and is hard to read.
Mar 07, 2007 rated it it was amazing
"Lo! to the vault of paved heaven, with sorrow fraught thy notes are driven, they strike the ear of night, make weep the eyes of day, they make mad roaring winds, and with tempests play." The combination of Blake's vivid, manic poems and watercolors is a multimedia extravaganza. Gesamtkunstwerk 4-ever!
Jul 24, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, art, essays, religious
Blake isn't my favorite Romantic, but this is a stunningly beautiful collection of his illuminated manuscripts. It's definitely worth a look if you're interested, and worth owning if you're a Romantic(ist)-type person.
Oct 12, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: occult-esque
This one's not exactly reviewable as it's more of a reference book. I wanted to get an idea of what Blake's work was all about - he really was a man out of his own time as far as his religious views went.
Jan 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Blake produced such interesting works of art. As a printer/writer, I really think if you are going to study his work, you ought to look at the original printing. Though it's fascinating, Blake really had his own mythology and it's a little bit out there, even as myths go, and kind of dark.
Mike Shaw
Blake's prose coupled with the illuminations offered her are spine chilling and often angelic. A veritable bible for the soul...If you are not already prone to madness. A must have for your library. And if your not into pictures!
F.J. Commelin
Sep 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: art
A wonderful work, lavishly illustrated and with all the texts also in normal typescript to make it a easier reading.
After reading Peter Ackroyd's biography about Blake i took this one from the shelf again and it spoke even more to me than before.
Alex Obrigewitsch
Jul 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
If you are going to read Blake then this is a must-have. for it is a reading beyond mere words, and art beyond pictures. Blake fuses vision and word into a transcendental art that burns itself into the brain as he did his art into the copper plate.
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William Blake was an English poet, painter, and printmaker. Largely unrecognised during his lifetime, Blake's work is today considered seminal and significant in the history of both poetry and the visual arts.

Blake's prophetic poetry has been said to form "what is in proportion to its merits the least read body of poetry in the language". His visual artistry has led one modern critic to proclaim
“none can desire what he has not perceiv'd.” 6 likes
“He who sees the Infinite in all things sees God. He who sees the Ratio only sees himself only.” 4 likes
More quotes…