Thanks to Bob Forrest for this note about another unusual aspect of Rubaiyat publishing. Bob is also in need of further informationon this subject.. If you can help to answer any of his questions, set out below, please post a comment and/or contact Bob via his website http://bobforrestweb.co.uk/
Though it does not say so on the cards themselves, the (undated) “Clarion” series of Omar Khayyam postcards, with artwork by Frank Chesworth, were first published by the socialist newspaper The Clarion “just in time for Christmas” in 1904. The wording of the advert for them at that time isn’t very clear, but it seems that the series consisted of six different designs, each of the six designs being sold in packs containing six copies of the same design. At any rate, only six different designs are known to me via various sources (see illustrations), and I would be grateful if readers would let me know if they know of any others, as these six cards are numbered 21 to 26 inclusive, which is puzzling to say the least!
The Clarion did also issue a Songs of Shakespeare series, again by Chesworth, at the same time as the Omar cards, one of these being No.12, and a few years earlier they had published a series of socialist postcards, several by Walter Crane, though I have never seen any of these. So the numbers on the Omar cards may simply represent their place in the broader series of cards, on various subjects, published by the newspaper in the course of time. Again, if any reader can help with this, please let me know.
The Omar cards were advertised again at Christmas 1905, this time in conjunction with an Omar calendar, also by Chesworth. I have never seen this, and was unaware of it before I saw the advert in The Clarion. Does any reader have a copy, or at least, has any reader ever seen one ?
Finally, many of these cards were used as ordinary postcards, from 1904 onwards, and appear to have been in use for some years. The two cards I have (Nos. 22 & 24) bear a Leeds postmark of 1909, for example. One contact of mine has an example bearing a Leeds postmark of 1911, and another contact has a couple of examples bearing a Glasgow postmark of 1904. I’d be grateful if readers could let me know the postmark, places and dates on any of their cards, as it would be interesting to build up a picture of the extent of their usage.
The cards are not the best illustrations of The Rubaiyat on the market, it is true. This is a shame as Frank Chesworth was a talented book illustrator in black and white, though he seems never to have illustrated The Rubaiyat in book form. His illustrations for Robert Blatchford’s book for children, The Dolly Ballads (the 1907 edition, rather than the less adorned edition of 1911), for example, are wonderful.
Little seems to be known about Chesworth the man, though I do know that he died in Camberwell, London, in 1906, and so he didn’t live to see The Dolly Ballads actually published. Sadly, he was aged only 38 when he died. In due course, I intend to feature a write-up of him, his book illustration, and his Omarian associations with Robert Blatchford (the founder-editor of The Clarion) on my website, as it all makes for an interesting story. Meanwhile, I am still gathering information, so if anyone reading this knows anything about Chesworth’s life – or indeed, is curious to know in advance what I’ve managed to unearth already – please do get in touch.
Here is a note on another unusual Rubaiyat - sent to us by Bob Forrest, to whom many thanks. The content has relevance, inter alia, to 21st century discussions on religion and science. There is more information on Bob’s website – see the link at the end.
Walter E. Holloway’s Rubaiyat of Today, subtitled “For Thinkers and Dreamers”, was published in Los Angeles, in 1938. It looks forward to the establishment of a Utopian society of social equality to be achieved through the pursuit of Science and an adherence to Natural Law, and with the abolition of repressive artificial man-made institutions.
One of the repressive institutions to go, almost needless to say, is the Church, with its Priests. Here are verses 39-41 (there are 155 in all):In looking back across the fear-filled Span Of Time on Earth, since Man arose as Man, We see him moulding Gods Today the same As in old Asia where he first began. And everywhere the Priests have been aligned With Tyrants for the Plunder of Mankind: The King could not have bound the Hands of Man Had not the Priest put shackles on his Mind. Whenever War has ridden East or West, And Slaughter-lust has raged with savage Zest The Priests of some mad God with shuttered Eyes The bestial Carnival of Blood have blessed.
We need Scientists not Priests to build the New World, he tells us. Here is verse 98:The patient Man of Science found the Way, He banished Plagues that cursed the olden Day, Death-dealing Plagues that still would rage unchecked If Man depended on his Priests to pray.
On a less contentious front, here is one of Holloway’s nods to old Omar (verse 142):Dear Omar, could I share a Jug with you, I might not learn which is the False and True, But I should hear your Song, and that methinks, My failing Hope and Strength would soon renew.
For more details of this interesting little book, see the write-up on my website, in Appendix 12m (right at the end), at: http://bobforrestweb.co.uk/The_Rubaiyat/Appendices/app12.htm
Better still, get a copy of the book itself – it doesn’t seem to be particularly rare, just little known.
‘A Jug of Wine, A Loaf of Bread – and Thou; Isis, Iraq and the real Islamic caliphates’ is the title of a provocative piece by Tom Chivers, posted recently on The Telegraph blog. The article compares the ideas and philosophy of Khayyam and the history of the early Caliphate, with the views currently being promulgated by ISIS, the fundamentalist Sunni group fighting in Iraq and Syria. The author refers to an earlier post on this blog ‘The Caliph behind Khayyam’ (see http://omarkhayyamrubaiyat.wordpress.com/2012/11/06/the-caliph-behind-khayyam/).
The Telegraph blog item can be accessed on http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/tomchiversscience/100278157/a-jug-of-wine-a-loaf-of-bread-and-thou-is-this-the-islamic-caliphate-isis-imagine/ It is worth a read.
Bob Forrest has sent us this interesting contribution. Please note his request for information at the end.
One of my favourite – and one of the rarest – illustrated editions of The Rubayat is that published by the Alice Harriman Company of New York in 1911, and illustrated with charcoal-drawings by Isabel Hawxhurst Hall. The layout of the book, and indeed the style of the illustrations, clearly owes much to the more famous Vedder edition, and yet Hall’s illustrations are both skilled and fascinating in their own right. Though information about Harriman is quite readily available, there seems to be little available about Hall. This is a pity, as one of the few references to her that I have come across (an article entitled “Young Brooklyn Girl Wins Fame with Her Omar Illustrations”, published in the Pittsburgh Press, November 12, 1911) makes it clear that she was only 23 years old when she did her remarkable illustrations. I have been unable to find anything else illustrated by her, nor any reference to any subsequent career as an artist (her real passion was apparently oil-painting.)
So, what became of her? There is a diary of hers preserved at the Brooklyn Historical Society, but I regret to say that, living in the UK, I have not yet been able to pop in and see it, so that I am hoping that someone reading this may already have done so, or live near enough to do so now – I would be more than happy to pay for photocopies / scans of it. Also, of course, I would be glad to hear from anyone who has managed to unearth any other information about this remarkable young artist.
For those interested: The cited Pittsburgh Press article can be found online at:
The Hall diary at the Brooklyn Historical Society is referenced with a few details in: http://dlib.nyu.edu/findingaids/html/bhs/arc_112_webb/dscref18.html
The Finnish composer, Einojuhani Rautavaara, has set to music a number of verses from Edward FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Originally for baritone and orchestra, a version of the piece for voice and piano has also been completed. This was performed recently by the famous baritone Gerald Finley with accompanist Julius Drake in a recital at the Wigmore Hall in London. There is an extensive review of the performance on the following link:
and more information on:
If anyone knows of a recording of this piece, please post a comment. Thanks.
BBC Radio 4 has a regular and lively discussion programme called In Our Time which goes out each week at 9.00 am on Thursdays. It is chaired by broadcaster Melvyn Bragg; he leads a panel of three experts, who are usually academics in the field being discussed. This coming Thursday 22nd May, the subject to be discussed will be The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. The experts joining in the programme will be Professor Charles Melville of the University of Cambridge, Professor Daniel Karlin of the University of Bristol, and Professor Kirstie Blair of the University of Stirling.
More information on the programme is available on http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b043xpkd. If you can’t manage to listen at 9.00 am on Thursday, the programme will be available on the BBC I-player. It should make interesting listening.