London: printed for J. Cooke, 1771. First Edition. Engraved print, framed behind glass. Print size: 215 x 133 mm, slightly cropped affecting several letters. Frame size: 342 x 263 mm. Slight foxing, some browning along edges, upper left corner slightly curled in. Very good. Item #2992
A striking 18th century engraving of a great and terrible Wicker Man. It would appear that an image of the iconic Wicker Man first appeared in print in 1610 with the publication of John Selden's "Jani Anglorum." We find it again in Aylett Sammes's "Britannia Antiqua Illustrata" (1676), which clearly influenced the anonymous artist of the present engraving -- and many others who followed.
It is believed that so-called Wicker Man statues were ritually burned by the ancient Druids; that they were at times filled with human sacrifices may be an early modern fabrication. The caption of our print promotes these wild and terrifying claims: "The Wicker Colossus of the Druids, wherein Malefactors, Prisoners of War, and sometimes Innocent Persons (when there was a deficiency of the former) were Burnt as Sacrifices to their Deities."
This particular print appeared opposite page 77 in the 1771 edition of Spencer's "Complete English Traveller."