Edward Wehnert
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E.H. Wehnert, Edward Duncan and Birket Foster

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, published in London by Sampson, Low, Son & Co., 1857. 56 pages, with twenty-six illustrations by E.H. Wehnert (18) Edward Duncan (6) and Birket Foster (2), engraved by Horace Harral and Edmund Evans. 19 × 13 cm.

If David Scott’s edition of 1837 represents the first attempt by an artist to depict the weirder, more disturbing aspects of the Ancient Mariner, then this edition of 1857 is the earliest example of a very different kind of treatment, whereby the poem becomes a somewhat anodyne tale of nautical adventure and Christian redemption. The three contributing artists, E.H. Wehnert (1813–1868), Edward Duncan (1803–1882) and Birket Foster (1825–1899), all worked for the Illustrated London News. Foster, the best-known of the three, illustrated many popular poets during the 1840s and 1850s, including Robert Burns, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Thomas Moore, Edgar Allen Poe, James Thomson, and Robert Bloomfield. Here he contributed just two designs. Duncan specialised in coastal and harbour scenes, both as an illustrator and a painter, and for this edition supplied six accomplished seascapes. The rather sentimental and moralistic figure illustrations, among them the title page (illustrated opposite) are by Wehnert, an historical painter of German descent who also illustrated Grimm’s Fairy Tales (1853), Keats’s The Eve of St. Agnes (1856) , Pilgrim’s Progress (1858) and Robinson Crusoe (1862).

Although hardly the most inspired edition of the Ancient Mariner, this attractive book proved popular, and the illustrations reappeared in a number of later editions of the poem, on one occasion with the later illustrations by Gustave Doré.