Mysticism, mystery and philosophical wonder leap off every page of Sophie’s World, a book that has moved the consciousness of millions, and now presented in a stunning new Folio edition.
The Pilgrim’s Progress
Illustrated by William Blake
Introduced by Nathalie Collé
Limited to 750 hand-numbered copies
Editorial material: Roger Pooley
Editorial material: Roger Pooley
John Bunyan’s religious masterpiece paired with William Blake’s watercolours in a unique limited edition
Using the complete version of Bunyan’s classic text, and setting it alongside all 28 of William Blake’s stunning illustrations, this lavish new limited edition is quarter-bound in red leather blocked in gold, and housed in an elegant slipcase, as befits a literary and artistic treasure.
Limited to 750 hand-numbered copies
Quarter-bound in red leather blocked in gold foil
Cloth sides blocked on front in gold foil and printed with black ink
Binding design by Anne Yvonne Gilbert
Leather titling label blocked in gold inset on front
Set in Poliphilus with Blado as display and printed on Arctic Volume Ivory paper
28 watercolour illustrations by William Blake
Gilded top edge
Introduction by Nathalie Collé
Editorial material by Roger Pooley
Cloth-covered slipcase inset with an illustration label
12¾˝ x 9¾˝
John Bunyan’s masterpiece
The most cultivated man cannot find anything to praise more highly
- Samuel Johnson
The Pilgrim’s Progress, arguably the most influential religious book ever written in the English language, is an absorbing allegorical account of the journey of Christian, a tormented Everyman, from life in the City of Destruction, burdened by fear of damnation, to eternal salvation in the Celestial City. Nearly 350 years after it appeared, its phrases are still part of our shared language – from the Slough of Despond to Vanity Fair – and it continues to speak to modern readers, with its evocative descriptions of the doubts, fears, trials and temptations of earthly existence.
JOHN BUNYAN (1628–1688)
This Book will make a Traveller of thee;
If by its Counsel thou wilt ruled be
A tinker by trade, John Bunyan found his true calling as a non-conformist minister after a period of intense spiritual and psychological struggle. In 1660 he was imprisoned in Bedford County Gaol for holding services without a licence, a sentence which stretched to 12 years, owing to his dogged refusal to give up preaching.
It was in prison that he started work on his masterpiece, The Pilgrim’s Progress, which was eventually published in 1678. Its direct style, powerful accessible language and appealing mixture of the personal and the universal made it an instant classic. Thirteen English editions were printed during Bunyan’s lifetime and translations quickly spread around the world. Capitalising on its success, Bunyan followed up with a second part in 1684, describing the journey of Christian’s wife and sons to join him in the Celestial City, and providing a satisfying conclusion to his greatest work.
William Blake (1757–1827)
Allegory is seldom without some Vision. Pilgrim's Progress is full of it ...
- William Blake
Now regarded as a genius, and celebrated for his individual philosophy and artistic style, William Blake’s work was largely ignored during his lifetime. He was even dismissed as insane due to his experience of religious visions – precisely what makes Bunyan's dream-world the ideal vehicle for his ethereal and unsettling images.
Blake's illustrations for The Pilgrim's Progress remain shrouded in mystery. They seem to have been produced during his difficult final years, when he was suffering from bouts of 'abominable ague' and often working from his sick-bed. Unpublished and unknown during his lifetime, they appeared at auction long after Blake’s death and have been rarely displayed and even more rarely reproduced in the intervening years. These enigmatic images are now held in the private collection of Sir Alan Parker, who has kindly allowed The Folio Society to photograph them specifically for this limited edition, giving our readers an unrivalled opportunity to view them again and again, alongside the text that they were designed to accompany.
Although some of the individual pictures were unfinished when Blake died, and only Christian’s journey is illustrated, the set of 28 images appears complete. The series includes some of Blake’s most striking and original imaginings – from the terrifying battle with the monster Apollyon to the other-worldly beauty of the Gates of Heaven – revealing both his skill as a draughtsman and watercolourist, and the extraordinary workings of his mind.
This is the only currently available edition of The Pilgrim’s Progress to feature all 28 of Blake’s watercolour illustrations. They are displayed alongside the complete and authoritative text established by respected Bunyan scholar Roger Pooley and complemented by his informative notes. Bunyan included marginal notes and biblical references throughout The Pilgrim’s Progress, these too have been faithfully reproduced in this limited edition.
This limited edition includes a new introduction by Nathalie Collé, a renowned specialist in both 17th-century English literature and the history of book illustration, and a former editor of the newsletter of the International John Bunyan Society. In her essay, Collé reveals the sophisticated way in which William Blake responded to, and went beyond Bunyan’s tale, to create his own idiosyncratic but extremely unified series of images.
What makes this limited edition so special
The slipcase, which has curved edges to facilitate easy removal of the book, is covered in beautiful teal cloth perfectly complementing the soft red leather of the spine. A panel has been blind-blocked on the front, inset with an illustration label and outlined with gold-blocking.
Gold-blocking also features on the spine and the cloth front of the book, on which it is overprinted with black ink with a design by renowned artist and illustrator Anne Yvonne Gilbert based on Blake’s watercolour ‘Christian Reading in His Book’. A panel has been blind-blocked to hold the leather titling label which, again, is blocked in gold foil.
The Arctic Volume Ivory paper is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council which ensures that it has been sourced from environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically well-managed forests. The matt surface is the ideal medium for both the text – the definitive version established by Roger Pooley – and the illustrations. Blake’s 28 watercolours now form part of the collection of Sir Alan Parker who generously allowed Folio to remove them from their frames and mounts and photograph them at high resolution. The reproductions in the book are, therefore, the most authentic available of these astonishingly modern images. The visionary artist, the ideal interpreter of Bunyan’s allegorical dream, employed ink, graphite and chalk along with watercolour and the images, some unfinished, reveal the working practice of this artistic genius.
Blake’s illustrations for The Pilgrim’s Progress were never united with Bunyan’s text during his lifetime and were still unfinished when he died in 1827. In the 1940s an edition appeared in America, but all 28 illustrations have not been published with the text since, and this is the only current edition to unite words and images. Finished with red head- and tail-bands, a red ribbon marker and gilded top page edges, this is a unique publication, an exquisite edition of a timeless classic, limited to just 750 hand-numbered copies and available only from The Folio Society.
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