William Blake is a giant in the world of arts, printing, and antiquarian collectors. His legacy is so vast that, it is hard for a serious collector to avoid talking about him, as the sale of his first and limited edition works have become the stuff of legends. In recent times at Sotheby’s auction house (1999) a very rare, previously unseen first edition of a William Blake book; The Book of Urizen sold for nearly $2.5 million dollars (probably similar if not more valuable in today’s money).
But don’t let that distract you from collecting Blake! The key to finding a collectible Blake is to search perhaps for the Limited Edition reprints, private printings, and later collections. Although this may go against the grain for the ‘true-first’ collector, we have to remember that Blake’s ‘true-firsts’ were all produced between approx. 1760 to 1825, and have suffered with age (their colors are susceptible to fading, the paper susceptible to temperature fluctuations). This makes the early editions true archival museum artifacts, and appraised at around $10-20,000 easily.
One of the reasons which makes Blake so eminently collectible is the fact that he was a visual artist as much as he was a linguistic one. Working as an Etcher, Engraver, and Painter, he continued to ply his trade for publishers throughout his life, working on Dante’s Divine Comedy amongst many other works; most of which are now more sought after for Blake’s addition rather than their own value! Blake was also a controversial figure, vigorously attacking authoritarian religiosity and state control both. The fact that he managed to avoid treason or excommunication is a marvel in itself, and is another testament to Blake’s skill with words and argumentation. For any collector, I would urge considering his 1783 work Poetical Sketches or perhaps Songs of Innocence and Experience from the later period of the 1850-60’s (after Blake’s death). At this time, there were a number of private and limited editions of both of these works made available for private collectors and libraries of the nineteenth century, all very fine and with almost a direct connection to the great man himself.
Blake, William. Poetical Sketches. Basil, Montagu, & Pickering (1868). Poetical Sketches. Now First Reprinted From The Original Edition Of 1783. Edited And Prefaced By Richard Herne Shepherd; 500 Copies.
Swinburne, Charles Algernon. William Blake: A Critical Essay . John Camden Hotten (1868). Nine Color Plates By William Blake.
Blake, William . The Poems of William Blake. Basil, Montagu & Pickering (1874). Edited By R.H. Shepherd. First Part Contains Preface (Dated 1866), Songs Of Innocence, Songs Of Experience, And Miscellaneous Poems; Second Partcontains Poetical Sketches, Introduced (After Second Preface) By An Apparent Facsimile Title Page Of The Original (1783) Edition "By W. B."
Gilchrist, Alexander . The Life of William Blake. Macmillan (1880). With Additional Letters And A Memoir Of The Author. Includes 34 Letters By William Blake; Completed By Gabriel Rossetti; Two Volumes; 1500 Copies; 64 Full-Page Engravings; Monochromes; Woodcuts.
Blake, William. The Works of William Blake. Bernard Quaritch (1893). Three Volumes; 500 Copies; There Were Also 150 Large Paper Sets Issued; Edited By William Butler And With An Introduction By W. B. Yeats. Illustrated Throughout With Lithographs And Other Full Page Illustrations Including Portraits, Folding Plates, Plans And Other Decorations.
Blake, William. XVII Designs to Thornton's Virgil . Mosher Press, Portland ME (1899). Introduction By Thomas Mosher; 17 Woodcuts By William Blake With Additional Woodcuts By Selwyn Image And Arthur Macmurdo; Translated By Ambrose Phillips And Samuel Palmer; 450 Copies.
Blake, William. The Poetical Works. Chatto & Windus (1906). Two Volumes; Edited And Annotated By Edwin J. Ellis.
Blake, William. A Bibliography of William Blake. The Grolier Club of New York (1921). 250 Copies; Color Illustrations By William Blake; Four Are In Full Color, Forty Reproductions In Monchrome, And Twelve Other Reproductions In The Text.
Blake, William . Designs for Gray's Poems. Humphrey Milford and the Oxford University Press (1922). 650 Copies; 117 Plates Including 6 Color Plates.
Blake, William. Writings. Nonesuch Press (1925). Three Volumes; 1500 Numbered Copies; Printed On Vidalon Handmade Paper; Edited By Geoffrey Keynes; 58 Plates By William Blake Printed By Emery Walker With 24 Illustrations In Colotype; Printed Under The Supervision Of Francis Meynell At The Chiswick Press.
Milton, John . Poemsin English. Nonesuch Press (1926). Illustrations By William Blake; Two Volumes; 1450 Hand-Numbered Copies; Vellum. Printed Letterpress At The Chiswick Press On Dutch Deckle Edge Handmade Rag Paper.
Blake, William. The Prophetic Writings. The Clarendon Press, Oxford (1926). Edited By D.J. Sloss; Introduction And Annotation By J.P.R. Wallis; Two Volumes.
Blake, William. Songs of Innocence. Medici Society (1927). Prefatory Letter By William Butler Yeats; Illustrated By Jacynth Parson; 12 Color Plates.
Alighieri, Dante . The Inferno . Cheshire House (1931). Translated By Rev. Harry Francis Cary; Printed By Richard Ellis; 1200 Copies; 7 Engravings By William Blake.
Blake, William . Illustrations of the Book of Job. The Pierpoint Morgan Library (1935). Facsimile; Introduction Of Laurence Binyon And Geoffrey Keynes; 105 Black And White And Color Facsimile Engraved Plates, Pencil Drawings, And Watercolors By Blake, In Six Fascicles.
Blake, William . The Illustrations of William Blake for Thortons Virgil. Nonesuch Press (1937). Introduction By Geoffrey Keynes; First Eclogue And The Imitation By Ambrose Phillips; 1000 Copies; 117 Wood-Cuts; Enclosed Folder With 17 Hand-Titled Woodblock Prints.
Blake, William . The Poetical Works. Oxford University Press (1943). Printed By Humphrey Milford; Frontispiece; 15 Plates.
Blake, William. Jerusalem. Trianon Press (1951). Introduction By Joseph Wicksteed; Bibliographical Statement By Geoffrey Keynes; Facsimile; 516 Copies; 100 Hand-Colored Collotype Plates; Printed On Arches Pure Rag Paper.
Blake, William . Songs of Innocence. Trianon Press (1954). Facsimile; 1600 Hand-Numbered Copies, 800 In The Us And 800 In The Uk; 31 Plates In Color Collotype And Stencil; Printed On Arches Pure Rag Paper.
Blake, William. Illustrations to the Bible. Trianon Press, Clairvaux (1957). Compiled By Geoffrey Keynes; 506 Hand-Numbered Copies; Volor Frontispiece, 174 Images In Black And White On 13 Pages, With Caption Text Opposite. 8 Color Plates At The Back Of The Book; Printed On Arches Pure Rag Paper.
Blake, William. The Book Of Urizen . Trianon Press (1958). Description And Bibliographical Statement By Geoffrey Keynes; Facsimile; 240 Copies; 27 Plates From 2-Color Collotype And Futher Embellished By Hand-Color Stencil.
Blake, William. Auguries of Innocence . Gehenna Press, Northampton (1959). 250 Copies; Signed And With Wood Engravings By Leonard Baskin; Printed By Esther And Leonard Baskin And Richard Warren At The Gehenna Press For The Print Club Of Philadelphia; Printed On Amalfi Paper; Harold Mcgrath Was The Pressman.
Blake, William . Visions of the Daughters of Albion . Trianon Press (1959). Bibliographical Statement By Geoffrey Keynes; Facsimile; 446 Numbered Copies; 11 Colotype/Pochoir Plates; Printed On Arches Pure Rag Paper Watermarked With William Blake'S Monogram.
Blake, William . America, a Prophecy. Trianon Press (1963). Bibliographical Statement By Geoffrey Keynes; Facsimile; 526 Numbered Copies; 18 Color Plates; Printed On Arches Pure Rag Paper.
Blake, William . The Book of Thel. Trianon Press (1965). Facsimile; 426 Hand-Numbered Copies; Printed On Arches Pure Rag Paper Watermarked With William Blake'S Monogram; 8 Color Clates.
Blake, William. Milton: A Poem. Trianon Press (1967). Bibliographic Statement By Geoffrey Keynes; Facsimile; 406 Numbered Copies; 50 Hand Colored Plates; Printed On Arches Pure Rag Paper.
Blake, William. Auguries of Innocence. Grossman Publishers (1968). 100 Numbered Copies; Wood Engraving By Leonard Baskin.
Raine, Kathleen. Blake and Tradition. Princeton University Press, Princeton (1968). Two Volumes; Plates By William Blake; First Edition Based On Raines 1962 Mellon Lectures In The Fine Arts.
Blake, William. Illustrations to the Divine Comedy. Da Capo Press, Cambridge (1968). 1100 Copies; Individual Folio Sheets; 109 Plates.
Blake, William . Europe, a Prophecy . Trianon Press (1969). 526 Copies, 480 Numbered; 17 Color Facsimile Plates Reproduced From The 1794 Edition.
Blake, William. All Religions Are One. Trianon Press (1970). Introduction By Geoffrey Keynes; Facsimile; 662 Numbered Copies; Printed On Arches Pure Rag Paper Watermarks With William Blake'S Monogram; Contains Ten Illuminated Plates Reproduced By Collotype And Stencil Process From The Original Owned By The H E Huntington Library And Art Gallery.
Blake, William . There Is No Natural Religion. Trianon Press (1971). Commentary By Geoffrey Keynes; Two Volumes; Facsimile; 616 Numbered Copies; Binding By Duval, Paris; 20 Plates Printed By Collotype And Hand-Stencil; Hand-Made Slip-Case By Adine, Paris; Printed On Arches Pure Rag Paper; Ehe Editorial Matter Was Printed By The Imprimerie Darantiere.
Blake, William. The Book of Ahania. Trianon Press (1973). Commentary By Geoffrey Keynes; Facsimile; 750 Numbered Copies %2B 26 Lettered Copies Reserved For The Author'S Trust %2B 32 Roman Numeral Copies; Color Plates By The Collotype And Stencil Process; Printed On Arches Rag Paper Made To Match The Paper Used By Blake.
Blake, William. Jerusalem: The Emanation of The Giant Albion. Trianon Press (1974). Commentary By Geoffrey Keynes; Facsimile; 558 Numbered Copies; Printed On Arches Pure Rag Paper Watermarked By William Blake'S Monogram; Stencil-Colored Plates, Handmade Slipcase; Illuminated Pages Reproduced By Daniel Jacomet; Text Composed By Hand In 16 Point Garamond And Printed By Aulard & Cie.
Blake, William. The Book of Los. Trianon Press (1976). Commentary By Geoffrey Keynes; 538 Numbered Copies; Hand-Stenciled Collotype Illustrations; Morocco Spine With Handmade Marbled Sides.
Blake, William. Laocoon: A Last Testament. Trianon Press (1976). "This First Edition Of William Blakes Laocoon A Last Testament By Sir Geoffrey Keynes, Was Published In 1976. The Edition Consists Of 438 Copies: 32 Copies Numbered I-Xxxii, Bound In Full Morocco, Printed On Lana Rag Paper And Signed By The Author. The Plates Were Reproduced By Collotype In Paris In The Workshops Of Trianon Press (France). The Text Was Composed In Monotype Bembo And Printed By The Imprimerie Darantiere, Dijon, The Binding Was By Reliural, Paris, And The Hand-Made Slip-Case By Cartonage Adine, Paris. The Book Was Produced And Published, Under The Supervision Of Mr. Arnold Fawcus, By The Trianon Press, Chateau De Boissia, Clairvaux, Jura, France And 125 Avenue Du Maine, Paris. It Is Distributed Throughout The World By Bernard Quaritch Ltd. London"; 11 Plates Of Black And White Drawings.
Blake, William. The Complete Portraiture. Trianon Press (1977). Essay And Iconography By Geoffrey Keynes; 63 Plates By William And Catherine Blake; 562 Numbered Copies; Slipcase.
Blake, William. Illustrations of Dante. Trianon Press (1978). Facsimile; 440 Copies.
Bindman, David. The Complete Graphic Works of william Blake. Thames & Hudson (1978). Author Assisted By Deirdre Toomey; 765 Illustrations By William Blake.
Blake, William. Designs for Edward Young's Night Thoughts. Oxford University Press, Oxford (1980). 537 Facsimile Monochrome Plates And 80 In Colour, And A Series Of Facsimiles Of Proof Engravings Bound In The Original Cloth Gilt; 2 Volumes.
Blake, William. Songs of Innocence and Experience. The Journal of Contemporary Photography, South Dennis (2004). Photographs Joel-Peter Wilkin; Edited And With An Introduction By John Wood; Design By Carolyn Eckert; Printed On Arches Cotton Rag Paper; Numbered And Boxed; 915 Copies; Printed On Arches Cotton Paper; 62 Ten-Color Plates. From The Publisher: "40 Never Before Published Images Of Witkins Most Recent Work (Including Stunning Color Plates) Seamlessly Blend With 22 Classic Images From Our Recent Platinum Series Titles. This Is The First Photographic Book Printed In A New 10 Color, Ultra High-Resolution Process On Lush 100% Cotton Arches Paper."
Young, Edward. Night Thoughts. Folio Society (2005). Illustrations By William Blake; Designs By David Eccles; Commentary By Robin Hamlyn; Two Volumes; Facsimile; 1000 Copies; Printed On Modigliani Neve Paper; Reproductions Of All 537 Watercolors From The Original Edition In The British Museum. Each Folio Contains A Letterpress Page With A Pen-And-Watercolour Drawing, Printed By Bath Press, Blantyre On Modigliani Neve Paper. Handmade Laid Endpapers From The Fabriano Mill.