Herbert Cole
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Herbert Cole

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, published in London by Gay & Bird, 1900. 48 pages, plus 6 illustrations by Herbert Cole, engraved by Walter L. Holls. 22 × 18 cm.

Herbert Cole (1867–1930) illustrated a number of books, including Gulliver’s Travels (1899), The Rubaiyat (1901), The Poems and Songs of Shakespeare (1904), Songs and Lyrics from the Dramatists, 1500–1797 (1905), and this 1900 edition of the Ancient Mariner. He was also a draughtsman, engraver, bookplate designer and heraldic expert. ‘There is little biographical material on this important artist’, writes Simon Houfe. ‘He appears to have worked for many magazines in the 1890s, either in a flamboyant art nouveau style or in comic illustrations in the manner of Charles Keene. By the 1900s Cole was combining a fluid pen with the most sensuous colouring, his designs are always inventive if they lack the dramatic force of a Rackham or a Harry Clarke, returning more perhaps to the book design of Crane’ (Houfe 1981, p. 264).

For this edition of the Ancient Mariner (100 copies of which were printed on handmade paper) Cole drew a number of headpieces such as the one shown opposite, and six full page sepia illustrations engraved by Walter Colls, who twenty-nine years later printed the copper engravings by David Jones (see p. 90). ‘Ah, well-a-day! what evil looks’ (illustrated on p. 76) shows a kneeling mariner surrounded by the accusing sailors, while ‘And the twain were casting dice’ (illustrated on p. 77) unusually has a ghostly albatross hovering over Death and Life-in-Death.