Some of the Earliest Maps of Stonehenge, Made by a Druid-Obsessed English Vicar

Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights
Jan. 3 2014 2:15 PM

Some of the Earliest Maps of Stonehenge, Made by a Druid-Obsessed English Vicar

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These maps and illustrations appeared in British antiquarian and vicar William Stukeley’s 1740 book, Stonehenge, A Temple Restor’d to the British Druids. Harvard’s Widener Library has recently digitized its copy of the book. You can see the whole text here.

In more than 30 illustrations, Stukeley’s book documents the way Stonehenge appeared when he visited it in the early 18th century. The historian was only the second scholarly investigator (after the 17th-century antiquarian John Aubrey) to take an interest in the site, and the first to publish a comprehensive account of what he found on his visits, including images of the way that the monument looked in context of the surrounding farmland.

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In maps and vistas, Stukeley tried to capture the layout of the monument’s stones. Much of his sense of urgency in the task came from his belief that the stones’ arrangement needed preservation, as the monument was under constant threat of vandalism and interference. For example, Aubrey found and documented 20 stones in one area of the monument; a century later, Stukeley found only five remaining.

The third image below catalogs a set of “Celtic” objects that Stukeley dug up in a site near the ruins. Stukeley, along with many of his contemporaries, believed that the Druids, Celtic priests active in Britain and France during the Iron Age, built Stonehenge as part of their rituals. The careful representation of this set of artifacts, “drawn as big as the Life,” shows something of Stukeley’s fascination with Celtic culture.

Although archaeologists still don’t know exactly who built the structure, the connection to the Druids that so intrigued scholars of Stukeley’s era has long been disproven; the Stonehenge stones are older, by far, than other Celtic artifacts.

Click on the images below to arrive at zoomable versions.

StonehengeMapFinal
From William Stukeley, Stonehenge: A Temple Restor'd to the British Druids, 1740.

Courtesy of Widener Library, Harvard University

StonehengeProspectFinal
From William Stukeley, Stonehenge: A Temple Restor'd to the British Druids, 1740.

Courtesy of Widener Library, Harvard University

SmallStonehengeObjects
From William Stukeley, Stonehenge: A Temple Restor'd to the British Druids, 1740.

Courtesy of Widener Library, Harvard University

StonehengeAreaSmaller
From William Stukeley, Stonehenge: A Temple Restor'd to the British Druids, 1740.

Courtesy of Widener Library, Harvard University