Virtually unknown during his lifetime, William Blake is now viewed as one of the greatest artists and poets of his or any time, which I enthusiastically agree with. I first came across his work while in school. His poem, “The Chimney Sweeper,” is often taught to illustrate the way a piece of art can be used to criticize society and it’s current practices. I really love how Blake is not overtly political or preachy. His indignation is based on higher values and morality.
But this review is not about Blake’s work (what else could I possibly add?) It is about this specific edition of the book.
Although I had read much of his work since my school days, I never actually owned one of his books. I decided to browse around on Amazon for one since Blake has been such a great influence on me mine in both my writing and art. I finally purchased the Oxford University Press edition of “Songs of Innocence & of Experience.” Being just under $9, I knew that I couldn’t be too disappointed with my purchase.
This paperback version measures about 5×8 inches, neither small or large. The front and back covers feature a dark color scheme with a black background, making the front image appear vibrant and lively. Inside, the pages are cream while the font is a dark brown. This creates the illusion that the book is aged.
The beginning of the book features a lovely and simple introduction by Geoffrey Keynes. He also provides commentary on the poems and illustrations in the back of the book. This really did help enhance my understanding of Blake.
One thing that could have been done better was the numbering. While the introduction and commentary pages are numbered, the poems and artworks are not. This makes finding the specific works tiresome.
Another dissatisfying element is that layout of the book. Two pages will feature text, and the next will have the accompanying artwork. This means you have to flip the page to really understand and take in all that Blake was intending to say. It would have been much more efficient to have the artwork on the left page with the poem on the right.
Despite this, the book does have many redeeming qualities. For one, it is very affordable. I do not think I could have gotten much better for the same price. Also, the colors of Blake’s illustrations are simply beautiful. Deep and vibrant, they certainly do not appear to be cheap copies.
On the whole, this edition’s low price, insightful commentary, and faithful reproduction of the color plates leads me to believe I made a good purchase decision. I enjoy reading and viewing the poems and illustrations nearly everyday, and will continue to do so.