Symbol and Image in William Blake

By George Wingfield Digby | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

THIS book is based on three lectures which were given at the Victoria and Albert Museum in February 1954; they have been considerably expanded, especially the third lecture which here forms Chapter II. The third chapter has been added.

The book is a study of the meaning of Blake art based on The Gates of Paradise and the newly found picture at Arlington Court, with reference to nearly sixty other designs and paintings by him, all of which are reproduced here.

Chapter I is an elucidation of Blake's symbols and ideas presented in the form of a commentary on The Gates of Paradise, his picture sequence which bears this title. It is a picture-book of sixteen engraved plates, with an additional frontispiece and epilogue (with an eighteenth picture inset). The original edition of The Gates of Paradise contained only the sixteen pictures and frontispiece; it was engraved in 1795, when Blake was aged thirty-five. The second edition was engraved in about the year 1818, when Blake was aged sixty, and to this edition he added a short text of rhyming couplets and some additional inscriptions below the pictures. This text consists of a prologue of six couplets; twenty-four couplets which refer specifically to the sequence of sixteen pictures; and an epilogue of eight lines with picture inset. The whole of this is reproduced here in the illustrations, except for the twenty-four couplets of text, which form two engraved plates in Blake's second edition. The complete text will, however, be found printed on pages 1-3, preceding Chapter I; this has been transcribed from the British Museum (A. G. E. Carthew) copy. It should be noted that the illustrations given here are taken from the 1793 edition (with the exception of the first and last, figs. 1 and 19), whilst the inscriptions below the pictures are quoted as they appear in the second edition.

The Gates of Paradise is a pictorial treatise on the life of man and

-xv-

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Symbol and Image in William Blake
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Contents ix
  • List of Illustrations (At End) xi
  • Introduction xv
  • The Gates of Paradise for the Sexes 1
  • I - The Gates of Paradise 5
  • Epilogue 52
  • II - The Arlington Court Picture: Regeneration 54
  • III - On the Understanding of Blake's Art 94
  • Notes 128
  • Select Bibliography 130
  • Addendum 133
  • Index of Quotations from Blake 135
  • General Index 137
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