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New book showcases Blake like never before

Published: 5 April 2023 at 10:11

A new book featuring a visual reworking of William Blake’s Auguries of Innocence

Poetry book features letterpress artworks by 66 ARU students

A new book featuring a visual reworking of William Blake’s Auguries of Innocence through the medium of letterpress will be launched next month at an event run in partnership with Anglia Ruskin University (ARU).

The project, almost a decade in the making, has seen several cohorts of BA (Hons) Graphic Design students at the Cambridge School of Art given the challenge of using the unfamiliar technique to print a couplet from William Blake’s renowned poem.

In each academic year between 2014 and 2018, students tried their hand at this brief and now, alongside essays by editor and project director Nicholas Jeeves, letterpress tutor Elizabeth Fraser and William Blake scholar Sibylle Erle, their works are set to be published in a book comprising the entire poem told through letterpress arrangements.

Not only are the final works included, but also a selection of over 50 experiments and works in progress – all selected to celebrate the process of letterpress printing which is experiencing a resurgence after having fallen out of favour when digital technologies advanced.

Ruskin Arts Publications, supported by The Blake Society, will release the book at a special event held at London’s Swedenborg House on 22 May. At the launch, the original letterpress prints will be on display and accompanied by talks from Nicholas Jeeves, Elizabeth Fraser and The Blake Society’s Sibylle Erle and Stephen Pritchard.

50 copies of the book will be available to buy at the event – half of which will be signed and numbered hardbacks, featuring dust jackets letterpress printed by Jeeves and Fraser. The paperback edition of the book will subsequently be made available for purchase via the print-on-demand platform Blurb.

Nicholas Jeeves, Course Leader for MA Graphic Design at ARU, said:

“Letterpress is a great way for students to make new discoveries about themselves and their work, as its inherent limitations require a complete change of mindset. 

“Every time I look at the collected prints, and the numerous experiments and works in progress, I notice something wonderful, some evidence of learning that a student will carry through their creative life. 

“What we are seeing in this book is the evidence of 66 transitions between innocence and experience. You can also read Auguries of Innocence from beginning to end as you might with any other printed edition. I think Blake would have liked that, both as a poet and as a printmaker. He might also have thought of these designs as sacred evidence of the youthful mind at serious play – and so might we.”


Stephen Pritchard, Secretary of The Blake Society, added:

“I have a strong conviction that Blake would love to see the words fly about the page in all directions, and not only the words, but the letters too. ‘To see a World in a Grain of Sand...’ is, unsurprisingly, Blake’s most quoted verse. The genius of these student designs is to take words that are familiar to many and allow them to surprise us, as if for the first time. Innocence indeed. Our imaginations fly free, that we may now read.”


The launch event will take place at 6.30pm on Monday 22 May, with a limited number of free tickets available here.