Rare books by Blake, Carroll and de Sade emerge from Edinburgh collection for Surrealist display

By Culture24 Reporter | 11 March 2015

The surreal books of Blake, Carrol and de Sade are explored in Edinburgh this spring in a new look at Surrealism

a painting showing three huddled figures surrounded by creatures including a bat and a donkey
William Blake, The Night of Enitharmon's Joy 1795
Rare books by William Blake, Lewis Carroll and the Marquis de Sade will go on show at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art this spring as part of a new display exploring the roots of the Surrealists.

Surreal Roots: From William Blake to André Breton will combine 18th and 19th century publications, rarely shown to the public, with 20th century books by key surrealist figures such as Salvador Dalí.

Some of the Marquis de Sade’s most controversial texts, including 120 Days of Sodom (1785) and Justine (1791) will be on display together with a 1797 first edition of Edward Young’s The Complaint: or, Night-Thoughts on Life, Death, & Immortality, for which William Blake produced a series of bizarre engravings based on his watercolours.

The Surrealist poet André Breton described Young’s Night-Thoughts as ‘surrealist from end to end’ and the influential book will be accompanied by two additional works on paper by Blake loaned from the Scottish National Gallery collection.

Lewis Carroll’s original publications from the 1870s, including Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There will be shown alongside writing and illustrations by André Breton, Salvador Dalí, Hans Bellmer and Max Ernst – all of whom found Carroll’s other-worldly situations, riddles and logic defying language conventions of particular interest.   

The books have been selected from the gallery’s special book collection with many of them drawn from the library of the artist and patron Roland Penrose (1900–1984).

Penrose forged friendships with writers and artists including Max Ernst, Paul Eluard and Joan Miró and inherited a number of antiquarian books from his grandfather, Baron Peckover, including works by William Blake, Milton, Dante and Oscar Wilde. Penrose added to his library of works by these writers and many others who inspired the Surrealists, as well as publications by the Surrealists themselves.

Surreal Roots: From William Blake to André Breton is at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (Modern Two) from March 28 − July 5 2015.
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It is careless that 'Carroll' has been misspelled as 'Carrol' in the title.
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