Book of Thel, The

The Trianon Press Facsimile of William Blake’s “Book of Thel”

BLAKE, William. The Book of Thel. [Clairvaux, Jura, France: Published by The Trianon Press for The William Blake Trust, London, 1965].

One of 380 numbered copies (this copy being No. 309), out of a total edition of 426 copies. Printed on Arches pure rag paper made to match the paper used by Blake, each page watermarked with Blake’s monogram. Quarto (10 7/8 x 8 1/2 inches; 277 x 215 mm.). Eight numbered color collotype and hand-stenciled facsimile plates. [7], [1, blank], [1, colophon], [1, blank] pp. “Description and Bibliographical Statement” by Geoffrey Keynes.

Original quarter brown morocco over marbled boards. Spine lettered in gilt. Top edge gilt. A fine copy. Housed in the original marbled board slipcase with brown morocco tips.

Facsimile of Copy O in the Rosenwald Collection, Library of Congress.

“The Book of Thel is Blake’s first illuminated book written in lines of fourteen syllables, a measure used in most of his subsequent books. Thel, a virgin shepherdess burdened by her sense of mortality, seeks meaning for her life by talking with several creatures—a lily, cloud, worm, and clod of clay. These speaking symbols of life’s transience are satisfied with their lot because all believe themselves to be part of natural cycles related through self-sacrifice to a higher purpose. On the final plate, Thel comes to her grave and hears her own unanswered questions redolent with fears of both death and sexuality. This voice, and Thel’s flight from it, indicate either her failure to accept the harsh facts of life or the failure of her interlocutors’ philosophy to satisfy the human desire for transcendental truths. Blake etched The Book of Thel in relief, with a few touches of white-line work, on eight plates in 1789, the date on the title page, and 1790” (

Bentley, Blake Books, 26. Item #00091

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