Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - December - 2005 Issue

A Catalogue of William Blake from John Windle, Antiquarian Bookseller

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William Blake and His Circle from John Windle


By Michael Stillman

He is one of the more difficult figures to describe. Few depict his as a "renaissance man," though he was a poet, artist, engraver, printer, and spiritualist. He was something of an oddball. At least, that is how many of his contemporaries viewed him. Looking back, the description still fits, though he was certainly a most accomplished eccentric. However, he was not particularly appreciated in his time, and is no longer quite as renown as he once was. Perhaps his problem was being very talented in multiple fields, without quite making it to the top of any one.

All that notwithstanding, William Blake has a most devoted set of followers to this day. They appreciate his artistic endeavors, whether visual or literary, and many collect his works. If you are one, John Windle, Antiquarian Bookseller, has a catalogue for you. It is called William Blake and His Circle, catalogue number 40 from Windle. It is not Windle's first Blake catalogue. In fact, it is his sixth, but the San Francisco bookseller notes that this is his largest, maybe the largest such catalogue ever issued by a bookseller. It contains 424 Blake related items. Well, maybe that's 423. We'll get to that later.

Blake was born in 1857, and by a very early age, was already having visions. However, his family did not send him off for religious training. He was first sent to a school for drawing, and at the age of 14, was apprenticed to an engraver for seven years. It was an appropriate choice, as it provided Blake with skills he would use in his printing and engraving avocations, while affording him enough free time to write poetry. So by the 1780s, Blake was writing poetry as well as illustrating and printing his material. And, printing and illustrating for others too. He would continue illustrating to the end of his life, even after the writing slowed.

Meanwhile, Blake would become politically involved. He supported the American Revolution, a stance popular in America but not in Britain. He would become friendly with some of the radical thinkers of his day, including Thomas Paine, and support the French Revolution, at least until it got too far out of hand. Indeed, in 1803 he was tried for saying unpleasant things about the King, but was acquitted. Blake would also be a vocal opponent of slavery, and supported women's rights as well. He opposed all kinds of authority, which is what got him in trouble with the crown in the first place. Blake was also something of a mystic, with belief in a spiritual world. He rejected rationalism, the belief that everything could be learned scientifically. His spiritualism led many of his contemporaries to believe he was "mad," which perhaps he was. He died in 1827, and it is said that his widow continued to talk to him through the remainder of her life. If so, then his belief in a parallel spiritual world must have been correct.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> first edition of the earliest extant manual on modern chess, Salamanca, circa 1496-97. Sold for $68,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Carte-de-visite album with 83 images of prominent African Americans & abolitionists, circa 1860s. Sold for $47,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Gustav Klimt, <i>Das Werk,</i> Vienna & Leipzig, 1918. Sold for $106,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Man Ray, <i>[London Transport] – Keeps London Going,</i> 1938. Sold for $149,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Thomas Jefferson, Letter Signed, to Major-General Nathanael Greene, promising reinforcements against Cornwallis, 1781. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Nicolas de Fer, <i>L’Amerique Divisee Selon Letendue de ses Principales Parties,</i> Paris, 1713. Sold for $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Russell H. Tandy, <i>The Secret in the Old Attic,</i> watercolor, pencil & ink, 1944. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ernest Hemingway, <i>Three Stories & Ten Poems,</i> first edition of the author's first book, Paris, 1923. Sold for $23,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Walker Evans, <i>River Rouge Plant,</i> silver print, 1947. Sold for $57,500.
  • <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Ernst, Max. <i>Mr. Knife and Miss Fork</i>. Paris, 1932. DELUXE EDITION. Sold for $15,625
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Cage, John. Autograph musical leaf from his Concert for Piano and Orchestra, NY, 1958. Sold for $18,750
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Cage, John. Autograph musical leaf from his Concert for Piano and Orchestra, NY, 1958. Sold for $18,750
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Einstein, Albert. Signed Passport Photo for his US citizenship application. Bermuda, 1935. Sold for $17,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Verard, Antoine. Illuminated printed Book of Hours. Paris, 1507. Sold for $7,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Wetterkurzschlussel. German Weather Report Codebook - for Enigma use. Berlin, 1942. Sold for $225,000
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Morelos y Pavon, Jose Maria. Autograph letter signed to El Virrey Venegas, February 5, 1812. Sold for $6,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Milne, A.A. Complete set of <i>Winnie-the-Pooh</i> books. 4 volumes. All first issue points. London, 1924-1928. Sold for $5,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> A 48-star American Flag, battle worn flown at Guadalcanal and Peleliu, 1942-1944. Sold for $35,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Locke, John. Autograph Letter Signed mourning the death of his friend, William Molyneaux, 2 pp, October 27, 1698. Sold for $20,000
  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>

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