Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - December - 2005 Issue

A Catalogue of William Blake from John Windle, Antiquarian Bookseller

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

  • Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Winston Churchill. The Second World War. Set of First-Edition Volumes. 6,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: A.A. Milne, Ernest H. Shepard. A Collection of The Pooh Books. Set of First-Editions. 18,600 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Salvador Dalí, Lewis Carroll. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Finely Bound and Signed Limited Edition. 15,000 USD
    Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ian Fleming. Live and Let Die. First Edition. 9,500 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter Series. Finely Bound First Printing Set of Complete Series. 5,650 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ernest Hemingway. A Farewell to Arms. First Edition, First Printing. 4,200 USD
  • Potter & Potter Auctions
    How History Unfolds on Paper:
    Choice Selections from the Eric C. Caren Collection
    Part IX
    Starting 10AM CST
    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: [RUTH, George Herman “Babe” (1895-1948)]. Signed photograph. Circa 1930s. 191 x 248 mm. $1,500 to $2,500.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: HARRISON, Benjamin. Document signed (“Benj Harrison”) as governor of Virginia, certifying the service of Daniel Cumbo, a Black Revolutionary soldier. $6,000 to $9,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: ONE OF THE FIRST PRINTED ANNOUNCEMENTS OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE. $4,000 to $6,000.
    Potter & Potter Auctions
    How History Unfolds on Paper:
    Choice Selections from the Eric C. Caren Collection
    Part IX
    Starting 10AM CST
    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: FIRST PRINTING OF LINCOLN’S IMMORTAL GETTYSBURG ADDRESS. $4,000 to $6,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: HIGHLY IMPORTANT MORMON ARCHIVE. ALLEY, George. Archive of 23 Autograph Letters Signed by Mormon Convert George Alley to His Brother Joseph Alley. $10,000 to $20,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: [AVIATION]. [ARMSTRONG, Neil A.] Aviation Hall of Fame Gold Medal MS64 NGC, Awarded to Neil Armstrong in 1979. $2,000 to $3,000.
    Potter & Potter Auctions
    How History Unfolds on Paper:
    Choice Selections from the Eric C. Caren Collection
    Part IX
    Starting 10AM CST
    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: NEWLY DISCOVERED FIRST PRINTING OF "WITH MALICE TOWARDS NONE... " FROM THE ONLY NEWSPAPER ACTUALLY ALLOWED TO PARTICIPATE IN LINCOLN’S SECOND INAUGURAL PROCESSION. $4,000 to $8,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: THE MOST IMPORTANT GEORGE WASHINGTON DOCUMENT IN PRIVATE HANDS; GEORGE WASHINGTON’S COMMISSION AS COMMANDER IN CHIEF, 1775, ONE OF ONLY TWO ORIGINALS. $150,000 to $250,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: A VERY RARE ACCOUNT OF BLACKBEARD’S DEATH AND ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT PIRATE ITEMS EXTANT. $3,000 to $5,000.
    Potter & Potter Auctions
    How History Unfolds on Paper:
    Choice Selections from the Eric C. Caren Collection
    Part IX
    Starting 10AM CST
    April 18, 2024
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: EDISON, Thomas. Patent for Edison’s Improvements on the Electric-Light, No. 219,628. [Washington, D.C.: U.S. Patent Office], 16 September 1879. $2,000 to $3,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: [VIETNAM WAR]. The original pen used by Secretary of State William P. Rogers to sign the Vietnam Peace Agreement, Paris, 27 January 1973. $10,000 to $15,000.
    Potter & Potter, Apr. 18: SONS OF LIBERTY FOUNDER COLONEL BARRÉ ANNOTATED TITLE-PAGE, “WHICH OUGHT TO ROUSE UP BRITISH ATTENTION”. $4,000 to $6,000.

Review Search

Archived Reviews

Ask Questions