Index Bibliography

The [First] Book of Urizen

Currently Available:

The First Book of Urizen, copy A, 1794 (Yale Center for British Art): electronic edition
The First Book of Urizen, copy C, 1794 (Yale Center for British Art): electronic edition
The First Book of Urizen, copy F, 1794 (Houghton Library): electronic edition
The First Book of Urizen, copy D, 1794 (British Museum): electronic edition
The First Book of Urizen, copy B, 1795 (Morgan Library and Museum): electronic edition
The Book of Urizen, copy G, c. 1818 (Library of Congress): electronic edition

Dates are the probable dates of printing.

With its double columns of text and divisions into chapters and verses, the format of The [First] Book of Urizen indicates its close relationship to the Bible. The poem is in many respects a heterodox rewriting of Genesis, one in which the creation of the universe is seen as a fall into materiality and its abstract laws. The process is initiated by Urizen when he separates himself from his fellow "Eternals" and thereby creates difference, absence, and self-consciousness. As Urizen falls into this void of his own making, Los reacts by building a material and temporal base below which Urizen cannot descend. Through this narrative of ultimate origins, Blake explores fundamental epistemological and ontological issues.

Blake etched in shallow relief the twenty-eight plates of The [First] Book of Urizen in 1794, although only copies A and B contain them all. In the same year, he printed proof copies H and I (only 3 and 2 plates respectively) and copies A, C-F, and J. Copy B was printed in 1795 and copy G in 1818. Bentley plate 4 appears only in copies A-C (an impression was pulled for copy G but not included). The full-page designs are differently positioned in each copy; copies A, B, E, and F also have variant orders of text plates.

Related Works

Related works currently available in the William Blake Archive appear as links below. Works not currently available appear as plain text.

All Known Copies

This list includes untraced copies known only from sales catalogues.
  • Copy A, 1794
    Yale Center for British Art
    Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut
  • Copy C, 1794
    Yale Center for British Art
    Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut
  • Copy D, 1794
    British Museum, Dept. of Prints and Drawings
    London
  • Copy E, 1794
    Private Collection
  • Copy F, 1794
    Houghton Library
    Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Copy J, 1794
    Albertina Museum
    Vienna, Austria
  • Copy K, possibly 1794 or later
    Untraced
  • Copy G, c. 1818
    Rosenwald Collection, Library of Congress
    Washington D.C.

All Known Related Drawings
  • A Man Seen from Behind, Rising on Clouds, Possibly for "Urizen" Plate 3
    Pencil sketch, c. 1794 (?). Butlin 230.
    Rosenwald Collection, National Gallery of Art
    Washington, DC
  • Sketch for "Urizen" Plate 22: Urizen in Fetters
    Pencil sketch, c. 1794. Butlin 231.
    Fitzwilliam Museum
    Cambridge, England
  • Illustrations to Young's Night Thoughts, Night VII, Blank Page [iv]
    Water color, c. 1795-97. Butlin 330.268.
    British Museum
    London