on February 1, 2004
This wonderful volume contains what are referred to as Blake's Continental Prophecies. They are: "America", "Europe", and "The Song of Los". The last has two sections called "Africa" and "Asia" and is by far the shortest.
They are all beautifully illustrated and the first plate in "Europe" is probably the most famous image from Blake's illuminated works - the bearded white man kneeling and reaching down out of the sun with the measuring compass. "The Song of Los" is also full of beautifully colored images. The "America" plates are monochrome although a couple of colored plates are shown in the supplementary plates.
Since "America" has 18 plates and "Europe" 17 and "Los" 8, it follows that most of the volume's 367 pages are filled with commentary, notes, and supplementary material. This helps a lot because these prophecies are part of Blake's rather opaque personal mythology. Scholars have filled shelves with conjecture about what it all means and they do have some good notions, but it is tough sledding without the background material to ease the way. This is a great edition and will be a treasure on the bookshelf of all who love the works of William Blake.
on April 11, 2001
Blake's work must be read in reproduction. An engraver by trade, Blake revolutionized book production with his "infernal method" of engraved illumination, hand-crafting each book. In the Continental Prophesies, Blake revolutionizes historiography; _America_'s retelling of the American Revolution, for instance, juxtaposes Washington and Paine with Orc and Urizen, fact with myth, to produce something that powerfully transcends the dull round of history. The accompanying illuminations cannot be omitted-- they do not simply illustrate the text, but ILLUMINATE it, supplementing and counter-pointing. And Blake's art is awesome. The Blake Trust's series is superb, conveniently transcribing the handwritten text of the engraved text on the adjacent page, offering important visual variations between versions of the book, and amply providing comprehensive glosses (in seperate sections, both interpretative and contextual) on each plate/page visually and textually. It is expensive to buy the entire series, but one MUST have Blake's illuminations, and Blake is an author for whom one needs all the notes one can get (Blake's allusions are extremely complex, so one must at least recognize them on the most basic level). One cannot say enough about the the visions of Blake presented in these books, but this is too much; you must SEE.