Europe, A Prophecy


The English poet, illustrator, and engraver William Blake (1757–1827) first published Europe, A Prophecy in 1794, one year after the appearance of his America, A Prophecy. In both books, Blake attempted to discern the pattern behind human history, and in particular in the momentous events occurring on both sides of Atlantic between the end of the American Revolution in 1783 and the outbreak of war between France and Great Britain in 1793. At first an enthusiast for the French Revolution, Blake saw a world of deprivation and misery emerging in Europe, as depicted in “Famine” (plate 9) and “Plague” (plate 10). The frontispiece (plate 1) includes one of Blake’s best-known works of art, “The Ancient of Days,” which depicts God the Father as a powerful figure, striking the Earth with a pair of compasses. Most of Blake’s books were not published in the traditional sense but were printed for special commissions by private collectors or London booksellers. As a consequence, they are extremely rare. This copy, from the Lessing J. Rosenwald Collection at the Library of Congress, is one of only nine surviving copies of the work.

Last updated: January 8, 2018