William Blake’s Watercolour Designs for the Poems of Thomas Gray

  • By Thomas Gray
  • Illustrations by William Blake
  • Trianon Press, Paris, 1972, for the William Blake Trust, London
  • Book: 352mm x 432mm x 85mm
  • Box: 380mm x 460mm x 125mm
  • Bound in 2013
  • Private Collection, UK

Full leather binding in scarf-jointed maroon and green goatskin with miscellaneous coloured leather onlays and inlays.
The leather is embroidered over the onlays with coloured silks and metallic threads using a variety of embroidery stitches.
Sections of the cover leather are washed with acrylic paint before embroidering.
The endpapers and doublures are printed, drawn and embroidered with cotton and metallic threads.
The back endpaper has a hand-drawn cat on it, with gold foil-tooled whiskers.
There are holes cut into the front and back boards enabling the endpapers to be viewed through them, the inside of the holes are lined with coloured papers.
The text block is sewn on five cotton tapes that are laced into the boards.
 
Description of Design
 
I chose to base my design on the poem from the book, ‘Ode on the Death of the Favourite Cat, Drowned in a Tub of Gold Fishes’, using the fish as the statement feature on the front, and an additional fish tail depicted on the back. The cat is viewed through one of the circular windows on the back of the binding, as if under water. The exuberance of Blake’s illustrations led to the colourful design choices, the circles like bubbles on the water, reflecting the colours of the fish.
 
*Further publication details:
One of 518 copies.  The watercolour designs were reproduced by the collotype and hand-stencil process in the workshops of Trianon Press (France) in Paris. The texts of Gray’s poems were printed on pure rag laid paper from copperplates, using three additional printings to reproduce Blake’s pencil crosses and to obtain the tone of the paper. It was distributed throughout the world by Bernard Quaritch, London.

 

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