Saturday 20 May 2023

Faking and Mistaking Stonehenge pictures

Frank Stevens’ guidebook to Stonehenge was first published in 1916 and continued in print until 1938. It is still admired especially for the woodcut illustrations by Heywood Sumner. The first one is this.

But there is a problem with this illustration which Stonehenge geeks may notice immediately but seems not to have been noticed when the book was in print.

There is a second mistake which is with the caption, the view is towards the north east, not the south east; a mistake I have only just noticed despite studying this picture many times over the last year.

 As a clue here is a contemporary postcard from Frith’s showing the same scene, which also has a similar captioning mistake saying it is “from the N.W” when it is from the South West:

Here is an earlier version of the picture:

The problem, if you didn’t notice it is that the tall stone, stone 56, was straightened on the 19th September 1901.

It seems that the postcard printers altered the picture rather than have a new photo taken.

Which was a shame as on the evening of the 31st December 1900, the trilithon on the left, Stones 21,22 and 122, was blown down in the course of a severe storm. So you can have stone 56 upright with 22 fallen or 56 leaning with 22 standing or for eighteen months 56 leaning and 22 fallen, but at no time in the early twentieth century were 56 and 22 both upright.

So the illustration in the official guidebook was taken from a faked photograph and not from reality. 

( This post is based on a letter that I had published in British Archaeology some time ago made relevant by a copy of the fake photo being auctioned next month.)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments welcome on fresh posts - you just need a Google account to do so.