This work by the Trianon Press is a facsimile of a unique copy made by Blake between 1797 and 1798. Its reproduction in three volumes was purchased for Union College by the Friends of the Library.
Overview: Thomas Gray (1716-1771) was a writer and Cambridge scholar who was among the most prominent poets of the 18th century. Despite his large body of work, he was self-effacing and only published a limited number of poems in his lifetime. He is best known for his Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard and other gently melancholic works, but he also wrote verses in the more vigorous Pindaric form. He was reviled as well as admired in the Romantic era, but John Flaxman, a sculptor and friend of William Blake, commissioned Blake to illustrate a collection of Gray’s poems as a gift for his wife. The timing of this commission was especially important, coming around the time that Blake’s designs for Edward Young’s Night-Thoughts failed to get published. Blake’s 116 watercolor illustrations for Gray’s poems are similar in style to those he did for Young’s. The text of each poem is cut out and laid on the page, and the illustrations are designed around it, with reference to a specific line that Blake marked with an X. This labor-intensive process makes the connection between the text and image impossible to miss, although Blake’s imagery throughout is still wildly imaginative. – Caitlin Williams ‘18