Victorian Wiltshire thatcher revealed as figure on cover of ‘Led Zeppelin IV’

For over fifty years, Led Zeppelin fans have been speculating about the mysterious figure on the cover of the iconic rock album, Led Zeppelin IV. At long last, it has been revealed to be a late-Victorian black-and-white photo of a Wiltshire thatcher.

Rian Edwards, a visiting research fellow affiliated with the regional history centre at the University of the West of England, encountered the image within a photographic album while conducting ongoing research stemming from an exhibition he organised in collaboration with Wiltshire Museum in 2021.

Edwards’ research centred on tracking common sources that spark public interest in Wiltshire’s history, ranging from paintings and photographs to artefacts and personal recollections. It was during his investigation into early photographs of Stonehenge that he stumbled upon the one that gained notoriety thanks to the English rock band.

“Led Zeppelin created the soundtrack that has accompanied me since my teenage years, so I really hope the discovery of this Victorian photograph pleases and entertains Robert, Jimmy and John Paul,” Edwards said.

Unveiled 52 years ago, on November 8th, 1971, Led Zeppelin IV has amassed over 37million copies in global sales and boasts one of the band’s most iconic tracks, ‘Stairway to Heaven’.

Frontman Robert Plant reportedly stumbled upon a framed, colour photograph of the original Wiltshire thatcher image at an antique store located near guitarist Jimmy Page’s residence in Pangbourne, Berkshire.

The album’s lack of a title and the band’s decision to decorate the record with just four symbols, each representing the persona of a different band member, have helped shroud the album in such mystery that remains unparalleled in both Led Zeppelin’s extensive discography and the music industry at large.

The iconic rock band have also previously explained that the cover was meant to encapsulate the dichotomy between the city and the country, a theme the band first explored on Led Zeppelin III. The message was intended as a reminder to look after the planet, a theme that is more pertinent than ever today.

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