BRYANT, Jacob; BLAKE, William (illus.)

A new system, or, an analysis of ancient mythology:

Wherein an attempt is made to divest tradition of fable; and to reduce the truth to its original purity. In this work is given an history of the Babylonians, Chaldeans, Egyptians, Canaanites, Helladians, Ionians, Leleges, Dorians, Pelasgi... also the various migrations, which ensured, and the settlements made afterwards in different parts...

London: P. Elmsly in the Strand, 1773-76 Stock Code: 139708
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Illustrated by Blake, and inspiring his mythology

First edition of the work for which Bryant is most often remembered, complete with the rare first volume, of which ESTC locates only three copies, and the final plate by William Blake. "Bryant's importance to modern readers lies in the influence he had upon the poet and artist William Blake, who in his own time was generally considered mad. The many plates appearing in Bryant's Mythology were prepared and signed by James Basire, a well-known London engraver, to whom Blake was apprenticed from 1771 to 1778. It is possible that several of the plates in Bryant's Mythology were Blake's work, and the final, unsigned one (on the last page of volume three) almost certainly is. In his prose Descriptive Catalogue (1809), written to accompany an exhibition of his art, Blake affirmed that all myths 'are the same thing, as Jacob Bryant and all antiquaries have proved'. In his long self-illustrated poem Jerusalem (180420), Blake also followed Bryant in placing the Erythrean (Red) Sea not surrounding Sinai but in the Indian Ocean. In illustrating the same poem, he depicted the Ark as a crescent moon, just as he had done on the last page of Bryant's Mythology" (ODNB).

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3 volumes, quarto (287 x 221 mm). Contemporary full vellum, brown morocco spine labels, marbled endpapers and edges.


With 30 engraved plates and 3 maps (of which 2 are folding).


Contemporary ownership signature to front free endpaper verso, partially erased to vol. III. A little soiling to vellum, couple of leaves with marginal pencil annotations, couple of ink corrections, a little inconsequential spotting to a few leaves, vol. II tiny split to foot of front joint, vol. III with light marginal splash to p. 69. A near-fine, wide-margined copy, text crisp and clean, the plates in beautiful condition.


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