New from Bodleian Library Publishing: Ground-breaking edition of Blake's 'The Marriage of Heaven and Hell'

22 July 2011

Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and HellA major new edition of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell has just been published, reproducing one of the earliest and most important of the nine known copies, and presenting important new evidence on Blake’s production technique for what he called his illuminated books.

In the Introduction, scholar and printmaker Michael Phillips explains how through experimental printings, he replicated Blake’s graphic techniques for illuminated printing, proving that Blake used mirror writing to draw his text and designs directly onto the copper plate, and that the technique was an extremely laborious and difficult process. This directly challenges recent scholarship on when the Marriage was completed and first published.

Uniquely, this edition reproduces the same plate from each of the surviving copies, exploring the evolution of the work over time as Blake continued to change the way in which he hand finished each one. In addition to the fine facsimile and transcript, there is a detailed commentary of the text, images, and the many interlinear images. The extensive introduction offers a cross-disciplinary critical perspective taking account of the latest scholarship.

The Marriage of Heaven and Hell is Blake at his most challenging and revolutionary – good is become evil and evil good. The reader is promised a ‘Bible of Hell’. Satire is given free reign as verse and prose, narrative and song, parody and burlesque romp across the page. Published in the late eighteenth century, this subversive, extraordinary, and complex book was apparently the result of an encounter Blake had with the Devil. It has inspired revolutions across the ages, and continues to shock, challenge and amuse readers today.

In this seminal new edition, Michael Phillips unfolds the mysteries and the meaning of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, revealing its true genius and importance.

Publicity Quotes

‘Phillips has navigated his way with great skill through the problems of chronology, textual unity, technique, contemporary context and significance of Blake’s strikingly witty, sardonic, quirky, cryptic product of his unique combination of text and illustration in his illuminated books.’

Martin Butlin, editor of the Complete Paintings and Drawings of William Blake

‘This is an excellent scholarly edition of one of Blake's most fascinating works, likely to become the defining text for generations to come. No one knows as much about Blake's work in this period as Michael Phillips and he uses his knowledge of the text, its context, and Blake's printing techniques to open up the question of what Blake thought he was doing with The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.’

Professor John Mee

‘This edition to one of Blake's most potent and provocative books will give great pleasure both to Blake enthusiasts and to those new to his work.’

Tracy Chevalier

Book information

  • The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Bodleian Library Publishing
    William Blake, Edited with an introduction and commentary by Michael Phillips
    Product format: 184 pp, 235 x 150 mm, 52 full-colour plates
    ISBN: 978 1 85124 341 9
    Hardback (collector’s edition), £50.00
    ISBN: 978 1 85124 366 2
    Paperback, £14.99
    Publication: April 2011
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