Gift ideas -- arts, literature, books for children; Blake -- prophet or mystic?; William Blake, His Art and Times, by David Bindman. New York: Thames & Hudson. 192 pp. $22.50.

Was William Blake a prophet, or just a mystic? History seems to have decided on ''mystic'' as the best description for the engraver-artist. But to really understand his work, it is necessary to plumb his aspirations to prophecy, his sense of history and destiny, and the jigsaw puzzle of art, politics, and personalities that surrounded him. Hence Bindman's scholarly narrative provides a compelling backdrop to the dozens of Blake reproductions here. Documenting the current, exhaustive Blake exhibition at the Yale Center for British Art and the Art Gallery of Ontario, the book provides endlessly fascinating glimpses into the visionary painting of this seminal artist.

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