William Blake and the Book of Urizen

The book of Urizen (1794) is a mythical story written and illustrated by William Blake, a poet and artist. The story or poem deals with the subject of creation, or rather pre-creation, and each stanza is dramatically illustrated and etched into copper plates. The story is seen as a parody of the Book of Genisis.

The story follows the central character Urizen, a Lucifer like character who casts himself apart and away from the other ‘eternals’ to create his own world of religious enslavement.

When the books were published they really didn’t garner much success. In his time he was actually thought to be mad by his contemporaries due to his outlandish theories and stories, and his equally strange habits. Blake is said to have drawn on this idea of his madness to create the work as a way to express his radical religious views without fear of prosecution. Blake was indeed religious, but was ardantly opposed to the teachings on the Church of England and its practises as well as all other religions.

His apparent trademark style is apparent here, with hauntingly dramatic images, and equally dramatic colours in dark hues of green blue and purple, which set a distinctly ominous tone. The swirling pattern of the woman’s dress and the long grass, which frame the message, compliment the calligraphic style of the type. Each image is just as detailed.


(Slideshow images: (l-r) Book of Urizen Title Page, William Blake, 1794, From Old Books; Book of Urizen extract, William Blake, 1794, From Old Books)

(Portrait of William Blake (1807) by Thomas Phillips, sourced from Wikipedia)