Historical information

This book includes the classic poem ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the lines of which are set out in twelve pages of double columns. Each section of the poem is titled, such as 'Part the Sixth'. The twenty lithographed line drawings by J. Noel Paton RSA illustrate major events of the story and repeat the applicable verse below them. Most of the drawings have the initials of the artist and the lithographer on the bottom corners, below which are printed their names. The margins of the poem contain printed author's notes. Interestingly, the printer's name is added as a footnote on page 12, at the end of the poem.

The book is included in the Rare Books collection of Flagstaff Hill. Its description closely matches one of two copies of the book held by the British Museum. There have been other publications of Coleridge’s poem over the years, based on various editions of his poem and illustrated by other artists.
When this book was first published, Paton’s illustrations were available individually for the public to purchase.

The author, Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), was a notable late 18th to early 19th century English poet. He was the youngest of fourteen children. His father was a vicar as well as the master of a grammar school, with Samuel attended. Coleridge's longest poem, 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner', was written about 1797-1798 and tells of the experiences and adventures of a sailor. It was included in a collection of poetry titled 'Lyrical Ballads', jointly written with his friend William Wordsworth. The volume is considered the beginning of the Romantic era of British poetry. Coleridge acknowledges William Wordsworth in this poem, in ‘Part the Forth’ with the footnote “For the two left lines of this stanza, I am indebted to Mr Wordsworth. It was on a delightful walk from Nether Stowey to Dulverton, with him and his sister, in the autumn of 1797, that this poem was planned, and in part composed”.

Sir Joseph Noel Paton RSA (1821-1901) is a well-known Scottish-born artist and painter of historical artwork, created the line illustrations in 1863, highlighting the main points of the poem. In the same year he also illustrated Charles Kingsley's 'Water Babies'. He was appointed Queen’s Limner for Scotland from 1866.

The book was published in 1863 by the Art Union of London, an organisation whose members paid an annual subscription, and who received an annual prize of a work of art. The organisation was established in 1837 and membership quickly grew until the 1870's. Membership then slowly dropped off until the organisation was would up in 1912.

Lithographer William Husband McFarlane, of Edinburgh, Scotland, created the black and white lithograph outlines from Paton’s drawings, illustrating many of the lines of the poem.

The book of poetry and Illustrations was then printed by Neill & Company, Edinburgh, in 1763. The company was formed by Patrick Neill in 176. The company was known for inventing one of the early mechanical typesetting machines, which was used for the Company's publications as well as sold to other companies even into the early 1900s. The firm continued in business until 1973.

This copy of the book was presented to Emily Taylor Smith by her father on September 16, 1867, four years after it was published. There is no further information available about Emily at this point in time.


This Victorian era book of poetry with illustrated prints, the 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner' by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, is considered to be a rare book. The British Museum holds two copies, one of which is very similar in description.

The book is significant for containing a poem written by the renowned British poet Samuel Coleridge, who acknowledges the contribution of a couple of the lines to his friend William Wordsworth. The book's significance is increased for being included in a collection of poetical works jointly written by Coleridge and his friend William Wordsworth, entitled 'Lyrical Ballads' and published in 1797. The printer of the book, Neill & Company, was known for pioneering an early mechanical typesetting machine.

It’s significance also includes the collection of Victorian artwork within.

Coleridge's poem is significant for being included in 'Lyrical Ballads', which is considered to signify the beginning of the Romantic era of British poetry.

Physical description

Book: large, burgundy linen covered, hard cover, with gold embossed title and images, landscape orientation.
Title: Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
Author: Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Illustrator: J. Noel Paton, R.S.A.
Publisher: Art-Union of London in 1863.
Lithographer: W.H. McFarlane in Edinburgh, Scotland, 1863.
Printer: Neill & Company, Edinburgh, Scotland
Contents include the lines of a poem, with lithograph illustrations above applicable short verse. The cover and fly page have the same emblems.
A personal inscription is hand written in nib pen inside the book.

Inscriptions & markings

Emblems embossed on cover, and a repeat printed on fly page, include stars encircling a crucifix and a snake entwined around a cross bow with a branch in its mouth.