French illustrator Gustave Doré was one of the most successful book artists of the nineteenth century, known for his illustrated editions of popular works like Cervantes’s Don Quixote (1863), the English Bible (1865), and Milton’s Paradise Lost (1866). One of his most striking works, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1876), was so popular that it went through thirty editions in twenty-five years.
Special Collections owns an 1878 copy of Doré’s Mariner. Its thirty-eight full-page engravings embody the Romantic spirit of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem about a cursed sailor’s supernatural voyage. Doré’s focus on the poem’s extreme atmospheres — the vast open sea, violent storms, and icy caverns — enriches the ominous tone that permeates the work. His masterful use of texture and light heightens the drama and sublime nature of the Mariner’s journey. Selections from the book along with their corresponding texts can be seen below.