The Book of Urizen


The poet and artist William Blake was born in London in 1757. He was apprenticed to an engraver and studied drawing at the Royal Academy. In 1783 he published his first book of poetry, Poetical Sketches. Blake was a religious mystic who eschewed the traditional teaching of the Christian churches to invent his own doctrines and symbols, which he drew from classical and Celtic mythology and many other sources. This printing of The Book of Urizen from the Rosenwald Collection at the Library of Congress introduces a figure, Urizen, whom for Blake represented morality and legality. Most of Blake’s books were not published in the traditional sense but printed for special commissions by private collectors or London booksellers. As a consequence, they are extremely rare. Blake died in 1827, in poverty and relative obscurity, but by the mid-20th century he had become, in the words of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, “one of the cultural icons of the English-speaking world.”

Last updated: February 4, 2014