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(BLAKE, William.) ELLIS, Edwin John, & W. B. Yeats.

The Works of William Blake.

Poetic, Symbolic, and Critical. Edited With Lithographs of the Illustrated "Prophetic Books", and a Memoir and Interpretation.

London, Bernard Quaritch, 1893 Stock Code: 137102
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First editions thus, one of 500 trade copies; 150 large paper copies were also issued. Yeats "marked down William Blake as a master early on, and with Edwin Ellis produced a large-scale commentary on Blake's prophetic writings in 1893. While often erratic and idiosyncratic, it helped establish the importance of Blake's esoteric verse" (ODNB). Yeats later identified the nature of the collaboration, explaining that the book was "mainly Ellis's, the thinking is as much mine as his" (Wade, p. 224). Ellis greatly expanded Yeats's original biographical section and was solely responsible for "the 'literary period', the account of the minor poems, & the account of Blake's art theories", while "the greater part of the 'symbolic system' was Yeats's writing". Richard Ellman suggests a certain level of self-interest for Yeats in the project: "He was pleased to find that Blake's ideas harmonized with those of the Theosophists and the Hermetic Students of the Golden Dawn, for he now had the authority of a great poet for using occult material Blake, in short, bore an astonishing resemblance to Yeats, extending even to his initials Here was a lofty justifying precedent" (Ellman, p. 177). This is an important work, making the Prophetic Books available in the later 19th century, and helping to rescue Blake from a reputation of mere eccentricity.

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3 volumes, large octavo. Original green pictorial cloth designed by Blake, titles and elaborate decoration to spines and front boards in gilt, dark green coated endpapers, top edges gilt, the others untrimmed.


Photogravure portrait frontispiece to each with tissue guards, numerous plates throughout, the "Prophetic Books" reproduced in facsimile, and 2 folding tables.


Front pastedowns with Blackwell's bookseller's tickets and black morocco book labels of Haven O'More (with initials blocked in gilt); ownership stamp of H. Linnell to front free endpapers. Spine ends gently bumped and vol. 1 with small tear, slight wear to tips, else a clean and very good set indeed.


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