The Ancient Mariner illustrations by David Jones


Samuel Taylor Coleridge often linked poetry to dreams, and maintained that the imagination was equally active in both. His dreams were at times fuelled by his use of opium. After initially using the drug as a medical treatment, he spent much of his life trying to manage his addiction while continuing to use it to control his ill-health. He was much given to disturbing dreams, and connected them to his physical state, thus establishing a physical/dream/poetry relationship. Thoughts in dreams could easily be ‘translated into sights and sensible impressions’.[1] 

Given Coleridge’s interest in the imagined image it is no wonder The Rime of the Ancient Mariner has such a strong visual aspect, and that it has inspired some of the greatest book illustrators. David Jones (1895–1974) produced a set of copperplate engravings for the 1929 edition. They usually contain notable elements of Christian symbolism – the priest with his censer, for example, in this illustration for the wedding scene – but a strong Celtic influence is also apparent in the beautiful, simple elegance of his figures. 

During the late 1920s, Jones stayed with the family of the artist Eric Gill and became engaged to one of Gill’s daughters, Petra. Her long neck and high forehead became standard features in his illustrations of women.

[1] J Ford, Coleridge on dreaming : romanticism, dreams and the medical imagination, pp. 183–84.

Full title:
The rime of the ancient mariner / Samuel Taylor Coleridge ; with ten engravings on copper by David Jones
1929, Bristol
Book / Illustration / Image
David Jones [illustrator], Samuel Taylor Coleridge
© Trustees of the Estate of David Jones
Held by
British Library

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