The English Romantic Poets and Essayists: A Review of Research and Criticism

By Lawrence Huston Houtchens; Carolyn Washburn Houtchens | Go to book overview
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I
WILLIAM BLAKE

BY NORTHROP FRYE University of Toronto


I. Bibliographies

THE LITERARY WORKS of William Blake consist, with unimportant exceptions, of: (a) the juvenile Poetical Sketches, published in 1783, (b) The French Revolution, one of seven announced books, of which the only surviving copy is a proof, (c) the "Descriptive Catalogue" printed to accompany the 1809 exhibition, (d) marginalia to a number of books, (c) the engraved (or more strictly, etched) works, (f) manuscript material. The engraved works, or illuminated books, form the central canon of Blake's literary production. When the textual unit is an aphorism or a lyric poem, it normally goes on a single plate, with an accompanying design; when it is a longer work, or "Prophecy," it forms part of a series of plates, in which a plate may be all text, all design, or any proportion of the two. An important bibliographical aid of a type peculiar to Blake study is supplied by Geoffrey Keynes and E. Wolf, William Blake's Illuminated Books: A Census ( 1953). It is obvious that each original copy of the engraved works is a separate bibliographical item. The manuscript material includes letters, a few unpublished works in foul draft ( Tiriel, An Island in the Moon, The Four Zoas), a set of lyrics in a fair draft known as the Pickering MS., and the notebook that Blake kept by him for a great part of his

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