Night-Thoughts  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

"Night Thoughts" is the title by which a poem by Edward Young published in nine parts between 1742 and 1745 is most commonly described. The full title of the poem is The Complaint: or Night-Thoughts on Life, Death & Immortality. It had a very high reputation for some time after publication, and gave rise to a major series of illustrations by William Blake.

Blake's Illustrations of 1795-7

William Blake was commissioned in 1795 to illustrate Night Thoughts for a major new edition of the poem to be published by Richard Edwards. Blake began by making a series of 537 watercolour illustrations from which he planned to engrave about 200 for publication. The first volume - with forty-three engravings by Blake - was published in 1797, but it was a commercial failure and the expensive publishing venture was abandoned.

Due to the fact that the principal evidence of Blake's work on these illustrations was the comparatively short series of engravings, art history has been slow to recognise the significance of the project within Blake's oeuvre. In 1980, the Oxford University Press began publication of a projected five-volume scholarly edition of Blake's Night Thoughts, edited by J. E. Grant et al.; two volumes have so far appeared and the fifth apparently been abandoned. [1]. In 2005 The Folio Society published in two volumes a fine edition facsimile accompanied by a commentary by Robyn Hamlyn.



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