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Meyrick and Smith, The costume of the original inhabitants of the British Islands, a book

A Briton of the Interior

  • An Arch Druid

    An Arch Druid

  • A Maxata and Caledonian

    A Maxata and Caledonian

  • Thames sword and torc

    Thames sword and torc


Height: 36.500 cm (book)
Width: 29.000 cm

PD 170*.a.9;P&EE various

Enlightenment: Archaeology

    Meyrick and Smith, The costume of the original inhabitants of the British Islands, a book

    Published by Howlett and Brimmer, London, 1815

    This was one of a number of books that had been inspired by William Stukeley's work on Stonehenge, which had brought Druids and ancient Britons to the forefront of the romantic imagination. The Costume of the Original Inhabitants of the British Islands and other works developed Stukeley's ideas within a strongly patriotic framework.

    The pictures of ancient Britons in these publications show a mixture of influences. In part they resemble the images of native Americans that appeared in early travel literature, but the figures are in poses like those of the classical gods that travellers saw in Greek and Roman sculptures while on the Grand Tour. In addition, they are shown wearing the ornaments and weapons that antiquaries were discovering and publishing in the Society of Antiquaries' journal Archaeologia and elsewhere. Bronze swords and rapiers, as well as torcs, socketed axes, and gold lunulae and brooches all appear in these imagined recreations of life in ancient Britain.

    The speculation about the clothing of the early Britons and how they used the various objects is typical of these works. Smith's fanciful images include 'A Briton of the Interior' standing before an earthwork fort, tattooed Maaeatae and Caledonians from North Briton in front of a cromlech, and various Druid priests and bards. His speculations were based on earlier research by Meyrick.


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