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A late start to the New Year, and the Sad Passing of Professor J T P de Bruijn

February 2, 2023

First, we send all blog readers very belated greetings for the arrival of the New Year 2023. For us, the new year arrived late due to illness, and it is only now that we are able gradually to pick up our blogging pens again. Plenty of new contributions await posting, so please watch this space.

Secondly, Barney Rickenbacker has alerted us to the news of the sad passing of the great scholar Professor J T P de Bruijn. Professor de Bruijn was known world wide for his work on, and promotion of, Persian literature and Persian poetry, and his many publications on these and other topics. He will be much missed. There is a very beautiful and moving tribute to the Professor, by his friend and student Asghar Seyed-Gohrab, circulated in Adabiat. We quote below from the beginning of the tribute. It ends with a quotation from Omar Khayyam. The full text is available via and on

Asghar writes as follows.

It is with great sadness that I report the passing of Professor Hans (J.T.P.) de Bruijn, the renowned author of Of Piety and Poetry, and my beloved, generous and learned mentor and friend, a man of outstanding integrity and erudition. He was first my teacher, then my PhD supervisor and remained my support and refuge after his retirement. I sparred over new ideas with him, and he was a source of inspiration. Over the years, he had become like a father to me.

Professor de Bruijn was born on 12 July 1931 in Leiden and died on 23 January 2023 in Voorhout, the Netherlands. He studied Semitic languages, and as minors Persian and Turkish at Leiden University. From 1954 to 1960 he collaborated in the Concordance et Indices de la Tradition Musulmane project, which was published under the auspices of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) in Amsterdam. He also contributed to the editing of the English version of Jan Rypka’s History of Iranian Literature, which was published in Dordrecht in 1968. From 1960 to 1963, he was Curator of the Middle Eastern Department at the Dutch National Museum of Ethnology. In 1964 he joined the staff of Leiden University, where he took the chair of Persian in 1988. He built up a Persian department that included expertise on Shiism, Sufism, and modern Persian literature.

From our first meeting in 1989 at the Witte Singel Complex in Leiden until a few years ago before he fell ill, he kept making plans to advance Persian and Iranian Studies. He was without doubt a pillar in our field in Europe and his passing creates a deep scholarly gap in the field. He was an inspiring authority on Persian literature, Islamic mysticism, Iranian languages and linguistics, and Iranian history.

Professor de Bruijn collaborated with major projects advancing the field of Persian and Iranian Studies. He collaborated with the late Dr Ehsan Yarshater, first as an advisor and contributor to Encylopeadia Iranicaand later as a vice-chair and editor of the 20-volume History of Persian Literature. His entries for the Encyclopaedia Iranica cover Persian literature, the history of Oriental Studies, and Persian manuscripts.Another collaboration which certainly deserves to be mentioned here is his contribution to theEncyclopaedia of Islam, New Edition (1970-2005). He was involved with this Encyclopaedia project for a long time, as an executive member, but also as a regular contributor. He published articles on Persian culture, literature, religions and history. In the last ten years of his active career, he was entirely devoted to editing the first volume of the History of Persian Literature and writing chapters for other volumes. Several of these chapters have the scope of books. His outstanding chapter on the Persian ghazal offers an indispensable survey of the genre in Persian literature, a model of how to analyse Persian ghazals, of how these poems can be approached as texts for religious and secular rituals, and why they became a central poetic form in Persian and, under Persian influence, in other Islamic literatures. (Tribute continued elsewhere – see references above).


Mera K. Sett – an Appeal for Information

December 23, 2022

Bob Forrest has sent us the following request for information on the Rubaiyat artist Mera K Sett. If you can help, please comment below.

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Nearly a decade ago now (I am somewhat alarmed to find!) I put an article onto my website (*) about Rubaiyat illustrator Mera K. Sett. Since then some new information has come to light, though not as much as I would like. Mainly I have still been unable to discover where and when Sett died – I presume in Mumbai (or Bombay as it would have been then), but when ? I have written to and emailed various people and organisations in Mumbai – in some instances twice – but have never received any reply at all. So, does any reader of this blog have any contacts in Mumbai who might be able to help ? There is an online system for ordering death certificates for the Mumbai region, but you have to know the precise date of death to use it – so far as I am aware there is nothing akin to searching for a date of death via the online ancestry sites available in the UK.

It may interest readers of this blog to see a passport photo of Sett which has turned up, dated 1934, when he would have been 45 years old (Fig.1 above right). Also newly emerged is the fact that though the title-page of his illustrated Rubaiyat, published for him by Galloway and Porter of Cambridge, bears the date 1914 (Fig.2 below left), it was not actually published until December 1915. Since this is some months after the death of Rupert Brooke, on 23 April 1915, Brooke cannot have seen a published version of it, which of course has implications for the two-column review of Sett’s book which he is supposed to have written, and which has still not been found. This is not to say it wasn’t written. Sett and Brooke could certainly have met in either Cambridge or London in 1913, so Brooke could have seen Sett’s MS “in progress” and made favourable comments about it, but no evidence for this has yet come to light, and the review, if it was ever actually published, in view of Brooke’s untimely death, remains elusive.

One avenue of approach to finding further information about Sett is to try to contact descendants of the dedicatees of the stories in the only other book illustrated by (and written by) him, “Sculptured Melodies”, but so far this hasn’t paid dividends.(*) Some dedicatees have simply disappeared into the mists of time, others died childless, or, in the one case where contact with a descendant was made, she had quite simply never heard of Sett. But the quest continues.

(*) . This article contains information about the Rupert Brooke review, and also about Sett’s “Sculptured Melodies,” which some readers may find useful to be going on with. However, some parts of it do need to be revised and updated, which I will do in due course in a more detailed look at Sett’s life and art-work.

Adelaide Hanscom’s Illustrated Rubaiyat: – Colourized Photographs

December 1, 2022

A few weeks ago, we published an article by Joe Howard about Adelaide Hanscom who was the first artist to illustrate Edward FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat with photographs. In what follows, Joe continues the story of Hanscom’s work on the Rubaiyat, discussing the period when she was working in co-operation with fellow photographer Blanche Cumming. The original post can be found on Our thanks to Joe for sharing this further work with us all.

In 1912 Dodge Publishing Co. of New York published a new edition (10¼ x7¾ ins) of Adelaide Hanscom’s 1905 Rubaiyat1 in which the original illustrations were hand-colourized (Potter 274). It was offered for sale with a choice of three bindings, cloth, ooze leather, and leathercraft, and referred to as “The Rubaiyat, Royal Edition”. A publication date is not given, but copyright dates, both 1905 and 1912, are printed on the rear of the title page. While the individual photographs of the earlier version have captions beneath them stating “COPYRIGHT 1905 BY DODGE PUBLISHING COMPANY”, the colourized version has just “© D.P.Co.” printed on each photograph.

A notable change in the colourized version (CV) is that the title page shares credit for the photographs: “… with illustrations from life studies by Adelaide Hanscom and Blanche Cumming.” Blanche shared a studio with Adelaide until it was destroyed by fire, a consequence of the infamous (April 1906) San Francisco earthquake. She also persuaded George Stirling, a prominent poet and playwright, to pose for Adelaide’s Rubaiyat.

 Blanche, like Adelaide, was both a photographer and artist and it has been suggested that she did the colourizing. This appears unlikely since the 1917 Dodge Catalogue states “The photographs, hand-colored by the Pancoast Studios, are reproduced in full color photogravure printing”. Although hand colourization of photographs is nearly as old as photography itself, the heyday of the technique is generally regarded to be 1900-1940. An example of the colourized edition (leather, boxed) and two colourized photographs are shown in Fig.1. Full scans of this, and some later editions, can be found online2. In this article, I have selected photographs primarily to exemplify points I make below. 

The CV proved justifiably popular and was reprinted many times. The colours chosen are attractive: in many instances, they are vibrant and/or saturated, which contrasts with the more muted, translucent colours commonly used for colourization in the early 20th century. It does seem to be overdone on occasion though. For example, in Fig.1b. the man looks to be wearing lipstick. Much more significantly, the extent to which the colourization has been carried out sometimes negates the very careful, creative, and time-consuming work done by Adelaide on the original glass negatives. In the monotone print (Fig.2a.), only the man and jug are in sharp focus and this area is slightly darker than the rest of the print. This was most likely done to emphasize that it is the man who is speaking in the quatrain illustrated (XII: “… A jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread-and Thou…).  

To overcome the challenge inherent in the proximity of the heads, and the limitations of the equipment available, Adelaide placed a fine veil over the face of the woman to further blur it. Neutral tones were selected for the remainder of the image which do not distract attention from the man and jug. The CV, (Fig.2b.) in comparison, has extremely strong contrast. The woman has been brought into sharp focus, and the background has considerable structure and presence. These comments are not intended to be critical, my point being that the coloured photograph represent a very deliberate and different artistic approach from the original.

Other modifications have been made, seemingly with modesty in mind. The final image in the book, a profile of a naked woman on all-fours, has been colourized (edited?) to reduce the explicit content via the introduction of very deep shadows to areas where none existed before.

The cover of the 1905 Rubaiyat was designed by Adelaide, as were all the page decorations. She also designed a rather unusual page (Fig.3a.). It depicts colours and symbols along with statements of their significance. This page, where colour plays a crucial role, is not included in the CV. The puzzling symbol, “A bird can fly without wings” is included on two photographs in the 1905 edition but has been removed from one of the corresponding colourized photographs: compare the top left of centre of Figs.3b. and 3c. It is unclear why this was done. These images also differ in their composition, a very important consideration in photography and in art generally. Cropping before printing is routinely used to improve the composition of original photographs. Fig.3b. has an awkward empty space to the left while Fig, 3c. has been cropped to eliminate it, yielding a more balanced composition. Stylistically, there is no good reason to reverse the earlier decision.  Other images exhibit comparable composition differences (e.g., Figs.2a. & b.).

The photograph retaining the “A bird can fly without wings” symbol on colourization, has it coloured red (“colour of the physical”), not blue (“colour of the spiritual”) as in the original design. Given that Adelaide created the symbol, I think it highly unlikely she would have initiated or approved such an error/change in meaning.

Thus, there are significant differences between the monotone and the colourized versions which are not intrinsic to the process of colourization (reduction of the pictorialist content, composition/cropping, the introduction of deep editorial shadows, content deletion, change of symbolism). The monochrome photographs are Adelaide’s signature artistic photographic work, the result of two years of effort. Yet, much of what led to their acclaim has been undone in the CV.  It seems unlikely to me that Adelaide would have made or indeed, willingly accepted, such modifications. As I indicated above, colourization could have been completed without making these stylistic and content modifications.  Likewise, I doubt that Blanche would have suggested or approved the composition changes. Since the photographs are copyrighted by the publisher, I suggest that it was the publisher who took final decisions and responsibility for the nature and extent of the colourization.

The CV clearly has its own appeal and apparently proved very popular since many variants were published, included covers with different colours, textures and embellishments. The front cover (Fig.4.) of one interesting version includes a gilded partial outline of the photograph in Fig.2a. There are other variants of this specific cover.

                A smaller format (6×4¾ ins) “Popular Edition”, containing just eight colourized photographs, was also published by Dodge Publishing Co. in 1914 (copyrighted for both 1905 and 1914). It excludes all photographs in which the models’ posed nude. Over several years many different bindings were introduced (Fig.5.). There is also considerable variation as to which copyright dates were included, if any. Fig.5a. is marked with copyright only for 1916-the latest date that I am aware of. Some CV’s have both photographers credited, some credit only Adelaide and others do not credit an illustrator. I’m aware of two versions with dust jackets (e.g., Fig.5b.). The “Popular Edition” was also issued with 8 black and white images (Fig.5d) with credit given only to Adelaide: the individual photographs contain a simple copyright mark, (©).

UK Editions

                The CV was published in the UK by George G. Harrap &Co. The large-format copies I have seen were printed in the USA by Dodge Publishing Co. and do not contain either publishing or copyright dates. Potter 274 lists these as [1914].

                The “Popular Edition” was also published by Harrap. There are many variants, as in the USA.


  1. More information about Adelaide Hanscom’s 1905 edition can be found at:
  2. Scans of complete copies of some of the books referred to above, can be found by searching The HathiTrust Digital Library ( The scans of the colourized photographs are generally of lesser quality than the paper copies.

Omar Khayyam’s Birthday Revisited.

November 24, 2022

In 2021, as usual, we celebrated the anniversary of the birth of Omar Khayyam on 18th May 1048. But, in a post on this blog, we drew attention to the fact that the accuracy of this birth date for Khayyam had recently been queried, by the Iranian American academic Mohammad H Tamdgidi. Both the original dating, and the queries raised by Dr Tamdgidi, are based on the interpretation of horoscopes, a field of which we are lamentably ignorant. But Bob Forrest, who has more expertise in the area, has recently spent some time assessing the original basis of the calculation of Khayyam’s birth date, and the reasons behind the queries that are now being raised.

Bob has summarised the results of his analysis as follows.

<< In 1941, in his Nectar of Grace, Govinda Tirtha calculated, on the basis of a known horoscope, that Omar Khayyam was born on 18 May 1048. In 2021 Mohammad H. Tamdgidi claimed that Tirtha’s calculations did not actually fit the horoscope, and that Omar was actually born on 10 June 1021. This article seeks to show that in fact Tirtha’s calculations were perfectly consistent with the horoscope; that Tamdgidi’s rejection of them was totally misguided; and that his 10 June 1021 – which involves invoking a double scribal error to make it work! – is effectively a false trail of his own devising. >>

The full workings behind Bob’s argument are set out in an article on his website Bob concludes that 18th May 1048 is still the best available estimate for Khayyam’s birth, with a date of death sometime between 1126 and 1131. We shall be interested to hear from readers with some expertise in this field whether they agree with the general thrust of Bob’s analysis. Please comment below.

1883 – 2023 A Celebration of Edward FitzGerald

October 29, 2022

Edward FitzGerald, the man, and the great poem the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam that he gave to the world, have stimulated writings and reflections of many kinds over the past one hundred and fifty years.  Charles Mugleston has sent us a new reflection on these subjects, designed as a tribute to the 140th anniversary of FitzGerald’s death which falls next year.  His reflection draws attention to the many links that he sees with other spiritual and philosophical thinking, as well as some of the cross currents in FitzGerald’s own life.

Charles’ free flowing and thoughtful essay is too long to be presented in full here, and we show only the first few paragraphs.  If any reader is interested in seeing the full text, please contact Charles Mugleston on  Our thanks to Charles for sharing his reflection.

The Key to ‘Conundrum Castle…

Conundrum : A riddle ending with a pun offering bread from the field – food for thought

“Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,

A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse – and Thou

Beside me singing in the Wilderness –

And Wilderness IS Paradise e’NOW”

Quatrain 11

“The Ball no Question makes of Ayes and Noes,

But Right or Left, as strikes the Player goes;

And He that tossed Thee down into the Field,

He knows about it all – He knows – HE Knows! ”

Quatrain 50

“Truth is ever expressed in paradox” the Chinese MysticLao Tsze observed, likewise – Lightwise [sic] the Dutch artist M.C Escher wrote about his work “I speak a language few can understand…you have to retain a sense of wonder… that’s what it’s all about”. The Self-same paradox or ‘Wonder of Oneness’ rings true of Edward FitzGerald’s world famous multi-million selling poem the Ruba’iya’t of Omar Khayya’m speaking as it does in metaphor, at-once objectively as well as subjectively, of the extraordinary within the ordinary, hence difficulties are encountered by those who try to appreciate its insights with a logical, literal, fundamentalist outlook, miss the point and remain grounded – ground dead as the poem rather more than subtly implies. Yet, upon reflection its open secret generating its universal appeal invites, delights and unites those of faith and atheists / agnostics alike proving its inner worth, because Its “One Equal Light” [John Donne] speaks directly to Itself in and through us and that is what Noetic Poetic is all about… Remembrance / Resonance / Recognition / Regeneration.  The Mystic Mother Julian of Norwich saw “This Light is Love” and such influences can be seen in the creation of a deep and abiding friendship between our free thinking Suffolk Bard, and idea, image, sound & word smith of Woodbridge, Edward FitzGerald 31st March 1809 – 14th June 1883, and the family of yet another man of Genius, our Suffolk Bard George Crabbe born at Aldeburgh in 1754–1832 “nature’s sternest painter, yet the best” [Byron].

Yes, Like attracts Like because Light attracts Light… Genius Awakens Genius and so it happened that Edward (from the Old English Ead meaning Riches and Weard meaning Guard, hence Guardian of Riches…) Purcell was born at Bredfield Hall, now demolished, just north of Woodbridge, the family adopting his mother Mary’s maiden name of FitzGerald in 1818. He was baptised on the 7th May by, it is believed, the curate Revd Issac Clarke at Bredfield Church just along the road from The Castle village pub now a home.  Bredfield was where the poet Crabbe’s son, also George Crabbe, was installed as Rector in 1834 becoming one of the four ‘Woodbridge Wits’. His son, also Revd George Crabbe eventually came to be the Rector of Merton in Norfolk where Edward FitzGerald passed from this life into what the German poet Goethe observed on his deathbed as “Light, Light more Light”. Lightwise… Goethe’s Brother Freemason was Sir Walter Scott who, sharing several extracts of Crabbe’s poetry throughout his novels and having built a delightful letter writing relationship with him, though meeting him but twice, paid Crabbe the ultimate accolade of requesting his poetry be read to him during his final illness.

FitzGerald, not a Freemason, likewise admired Sir Walter Scott, his novels and poetry all his life, travelling up the coast in July 1874 by steamer to visit Abbottsford or ‘Conundrum Castle’ as Scott winkingly called his beloved home in Scotland. FitzGerald, who called Scott’s home his ‘Mecca’, likewise paid Crabbe and his descendents one of many soulful gestures by producing at his own expense ‘Readings in Crabbe : Tales of the Hall’ in 1879.

Another factor that may have drawn E.F.G to Scotland was that the four arm, two lined, one purpose Saltire Cross of St Andrew, Scotland’s ‘Essential Freedom’, forms the central symbol of the FitzGerald Family Coat of Arms, as seen on the family memorials in Boulge Church, ditto of the bookplate designed for E.F.G by his friend William Makepeace Thackeray, speaking of which…

For the continuation of this article, please contact Charles Mugleston (see above)

The Doughty Rubaiyat

October 14, 2022

An edition of FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat, published by the Mitre Press of London, with illustrations signed DOUGHTY, has long been something of a mystery. The exact publication date was unknown and the copy had been attributed to some time in the 1920’s. In addition, virtually nothing was known about the artist who contributed six distinctive illustrations for the poem.

Doughty: facing verses 44, 45 & 46

Recent research by Bob Forrest has helped to clarify the situation. Using information from the copy of the book in the British Library, he suggests that the publication date was more likely to be 1946, rather later than the earlier surmise. Also, after an extensive search of genealogical sources, and an investigation of the work of several artists with the surname Doughty, he concludes that the artist who illustrated this edition of the Rubaiyat was most probably Cecil Langley Doughty (1913–1985), who later became a well known illustrator for comics and magazines.

The full write up of Bob’s investigations can be found on his web site via the following link As well as setting out the story of his research, Bob shows images of Doughty’s work on the Rubaiyat and other publications, and he provides an interesting interpretation of the six Rubaiyat illustrations. Doughty’s work for FitzGerald’s poem was rather dark and obscure in composition, a fact which, it is suggested, could reflect the creation of the work at a time immediately after the World War II.

This is yet another example of how modern research can add greatly to our understanding of the rich heritage of Rubaiyat illustration. Our thanks to Bob for his valuable work.

Adelaide Marquand Hanscom: Pictorialist Photographer

October 4, 2022

Photography has been very seldom used as a basis for illustrating the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Joe Howard has sent us the following article about the first, and most important, illustrator who worked in this medium.

The first Rubaiyat edition illustrated using photographs was published in 19051. This, “Oriental Edition”, featured Fitzgerald’s IVth version and 28 photographs by Adelaide Hanscom.  It was very enthusiastically received, with newspaper articles and reviews describing it in terms such as, “A sensation”. This was Adelaide’s major professional photographic success and resulted in her reputation spreading rapidly from Berkely CA throughout the USA and overseas, especially to the UK.

Until the late 19th/early 20th century, photography was directed at accurately recording reality. This changed with the development of Pictorialism: the leader in this field was Arthur Stieglitz, who was based in New York. His Photo-Secession movement was founded to promote photography as a medium as expressive as painting. Following the publication of her Rubaiyat, Adelaide was invited to become an associate member.

Aged just 19, Adelaide (1876-1932) listed herself as an artist in the Berkley directory. Her art education continued as she studied design at the University of California and then attended the Mary Hopkins Institute of Art in San Francisco.  She was regarded as having considerable promise.  Adelaide became a well-respected and very successful society photographer (portraits, mainly of children) who took exquisite care over every aspect of her photography. A quotation from a newspaper interview2 about her Rubaiyat makes this plain:

In making my composition I first become absorbed in the thought and feeling of the quatrain; I feel it as intensely as I can, that is all the woes and joys, then I plan the general tone schemes. I think of people I know and do not know to fill the part. After I had selected the models came the task of costuming them. I studied my tone values very closely to get certain effects that would otherwise have been impossible. I studied the lines and composition before I made a direct photograph, and in many instances worked my plate to ‘the limit of the law’. I get my effects by any hook or crook that I can devise. I searched up and down the whole creation to find the face, figure, and temperament to fill the part. In many cases it was difficult to find the right model.

Contrary to the established style of sharply focused photographs, she would sometimes adjust the camera lens to selectively defocus part of a scene, therefore emphasizing the area left in focus. This effect could be enhanced by draping fine netting over some subjects to further soften their outlines and/or using contrasting tones. Choices of studio and scene lighting were crucial. Once the photograph was taken, her “post processing” included retouching the glass negatives by drawing or painting (India ink, chalk, crayons, charcoal, paint etc.) on them and/or drawing (scratching) patterns/texture with a variety of tools such as pallet knife, needle, wooden stylus, or sharpened pencil.  Air brushing was used to create larger areas of continuous shading, and a range of chemical treatments employed to adjust tones. She also combined and blended multiple negatives to generate a single composite image. This work was very delicate and took considerable skill, vision, and imagination. Note that while working on negatives, light and dark are inverted when compared with the final print. The work on an individual photographic plate frequently took many hours and was not always successful.

Printing presented more options, with the many different black and white technologies producing different “looks”. Prints could then be further processed, e.g., to produce sepia tints. Adelaide used both paper(s) and tissue as substrates: the latter, in my view, adds to the ethereal atmosphere of some of her Rubaiyat photographs. Examples exist of the same scene printed using different technologies3: all in search of fulfilling her vision. Preparation of her Rubaiyat took two years.

Using digital technology, such as available in Photoshop, the effects she helped pioneer are now routinely used by both professionals and amateurs.

I have chosen examples of four of her more extensively post-processed Rubaiyat photographs to illustrate the various techniques and their effects: note that the images reproduced here do not fully reflect the qualities of those in the original publication. Fig.2. & Fig.3. were inspired by the first quatrain. The Shaft of Light” (Fig.2.) is represented by the woman: her diaphanous garment and the contrasting backgrounds were created on the negative. Note how gracefully the figure appears to emerge from the “Field of Night”. In Fig.3. we see a man (Sun) scattering the stars into flight from the “Field of Night”. The swirling darkness was created with a pallet knife and the sword is hand drawn. Note the almost invisible image of a woman (Night?) on the lower right.

Although Adelaide often photographed her male and female models nude, a radical thing to do in the early 1900’s, their modesty is generally preserved by modifying the negatives, as in Fig.2, & Fig.3.

For quatrain XLVI, (The Eternal Saki from that Bowl has pour’d, Millions of Bubbles like us, and will pour), the studio set-up involved the model holding an empty bowl while perching on the edge of a circular table placed on its side. (Fig.4.)   The effect of a sphere (Earth) was created by manipulation of the negative and the bubbles were painstakingly drawn on the negative by hand. The same applies to the background and the “S-shaped” dark swirl (wings?) along the model’s back and to the right of the sphere.

One of her photographs from this 1905 edition, ‘the angel of the darker drink” was also used as the frontispiece for a separate small edition (3 by 6 ins) of the Rubaiyat4.

An excellent example of combining several different images into a single photograph is found on the frontispiece of the metrical translation of the Rubaiyat by George Roe5 (Fig.5.). It interprets his quatrain 85 (“When in the market-place I stopped one day/To watch the potter pounding his fresh clay…”) and comprises at least four separate photographs. They include three photos of Adelaide’s family: two of her baby, and one of her husband (naked man: the potter thumping his clay) plus one of Omar. The background was created by etching the glass plate and the images were blended by hand. A more detailed explanation of the image is given on a tissue facing the frontispiece of the book.

Adelaide was married in 1907 and her baby was born in 1909. Fig.5. also has her married name, Leeson, etched to the lower left, and so this photograph is likely to have been created specifically for the 1910 edition of Roe’s publication (see Note 1).

A 1905 publisher’s advertisement lists four versions of Adelaide’s Rubaiyat for sale:

                      1.  Cloth edition at $3.50                         2.  Cloth photogravure at $6.00                          

                      3.  Leather photogravure at $10.00         4.  Leather Artists edition at $50.00

Item 1 seems to be quite rare, while 2 & 3 are readily available. I have never seen a copy of option 4 mentioned anywhere other than on the advertisement. Given its extremely high price, I suggest it probably contained signed artists prints. I have seen these for sale but unbound. Information about this edition would be welcomed – please reply in the comments section below this article.

Adelaide won a prestigious national design competition ($500 prize) in 1907. She also, in 1912 with Blanche Cumming, published a version of her Rubaiyat in which the photographs were colourized6. Her last major work, “Sonnets from The Portuguese” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, illustrated with 19 of her photographs, was published in 1916. Although very well received, this was not judged to be comparable with her Rubaiyat. A combination of personal circumstances and tragedies led to Adelaide doing little photographic work from ca. 1918 onwards and over the years her work disappeared from public awareness. This began to change ca. 1980. Since then, her work has featured regularly in books, reviews, auctions, and exhibitions. She is now recognized as a leading female innovator of the Pictorialist movement and her 1905 Rubaiyat is regarded to be one of the most important, early twentieth century, photopoetic books.

Note 1

Potter 366 lists the “Roe Edition”, published by A.C. McClurg & Co. in 1906, and refers to a frontispiece by Adelaide Hanscom. The three copies I have seen do not have a frontispiece. Potter 366 also lists the 1910 edition published by the Dodge Publishing Company. Fig.5. is taken from my copy of the 1910 edition. I conclude that Potter’s reference to a frontispiece in the 1906 edition, is an error.


1. The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, Illustrations by Adelaide Hanscom, Dodge Publishing Co., New York 1905

2. Oakland Tribune March 19, 1906

3. Pictorialism in California, Photographs 1900-1940, M. Wilson & D. Reed, The Paul J. Getty Museum 1994.

4. Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, Dodge Publishing Co., no date given, but often quotes as 1905-the date of the copyright on the photograph.

5. Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, George Roe, Dodge Publishing Co., New York, 1910

6. Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, Adelaide Hanscom and Blanche Cumming, Dodge Publishing Co., New York, 1912

Ella Hallward, Edward Heron–Allen & H.S. Nichols

August 30, 2022

Ella Hallward (1866-1948) is a little known female artist who was active for a short period between around 1890 to 1902. Bob Forrest has been researching her life and work, including her links with the polymath and Persian scholar Edward Heron-Allen, and with the publisher H S Nichols.

Rubaiyat enthusiasts will know Hallward’s work through her frontispieces and decorations for two of Heron-Allen’s seminal books, These are his classic study from 1898 The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, Being a Facsimile of the Manuscript in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, with a Transcript into modern Persian Characters, and the equally important title Edward FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam with their Original Persian Sources produced in 1899. H S Nichols was involved with both books, though the second was actually published by Bernard Quaritch, the publisher of Fitzgerald’s Rubaiyat editions. Our illustration shows Hallward’s frontispiece for the 1898 book.

Bob has established that, as well as being a professional collaborator of Heron-Allen, Hallward was a personal friend of the scholar and his wife from some time in the 1890’s and travelled with them on holidays on the continent. She also helped to design the intricate book plate produced by Heron-Allen around 1900 (also illustrated here), and Bob explores the puzzle of who actually produced the original Persian calligraphy for the book plate and the decorations of the earlier Heron-Allen book.

The full article detailing Bob Forrest’s research on this artist and her colleagues is available via This contains further information about her life before and after her marriage in 1902, and of the one other book that Hallward is known to have illustrated (The Raven by Samuel Taylor Coleridge), together with many images. He also gives his findings about the career of H S Nichols, who had a somewhat dubious reputation. Altogether this makes a valuable addition to our knowledge of the work on the Rubaiyat, and the publishing world, at the turn of the twentieth century. Our thanks to Bob for sharing his research with us.

The Rubaiyat of S.C. Vincent Jarvis

August 17, 2022

<< In 1911 the London based firm of H. R. Allenson Ltd published a pocket edition of The Rubaiyat illustrated by S.C. Vincent Jarvis. It used FitzGerald’s second edition and contained a frontispiece and 27 in–text illustrations in black and white. It is Potter #132. >>

The above is a quotation from the start of Bob Forrest’s latest investigation into little known artists who illustrated copies or verses from Edward FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. In selecting S C Vincent Jarvis, Bob has identified someone about whom most of us knew almost nothing. In his usual manner, Bob has managed to dig out much useful information. In particular, he has established the dates of the artist as 1883-1967 and the fact that, despite the misleading public name of Vincent Jarvis, this artist was actually a woman, whose full name was Sarah Constance Vincent Jarvis.

The full write up on Vincent Jarvis is on Bob’s web site, and is accessible via the following link . In it, Bob tells us much more about the artist’s childhood and family life, her eventual marriage to a Frenchman and move with him to France. There is a full set of the images that Vincent Jarvis created for the Rubaiyat, together with Bob’s helpful commentary on them. And Bob has added further information both on the artistic career and other artwork of the artist and the background of the publisher H R Allenson, who turns out to have been very much a specialist in religious and spiritual books.

Altogether Bob’s work reveals an interesting picture of an artist’s life in the early 20th century, as well as bringing to our attention an attractive but little known copy of the Rubaiyat. Our thanks to Bob for sharing his findings.

Finding the Holy Grail of Omaresque Oil Painting

August 2, 2022

Artist and poet Austin Torney has said several times that he has produced his final version of work on the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam – see for example our post However he has now turned to a new avenue of work on the subject, stimulated it seems by the availability of AI enhanced software which is becoming increasingly available. Here is some of Austin’s comment on his new venture.

I imagined that I could just think of some words and conjure up an original and matching oil painting out of nowhere. The illustrations would have swirls and flowing clothes, somewhat like those employed by Mahmoud Farshchian, but with a new and distinctive style without everything flowing into everything, yet still with good continuity.

I would thus magically illustrate both couplets of FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat quatrains since the two couplets often describe a different scene.

The excellent oil paintings would have to freely flow to me in a few seconds, with no strings attached, as original, they never having belonged to anyone else, as never before existing.

Just a wish? Just a story?

No, I have the oil paintings, although I can’t paint at all! 

How is this possible? How did it happen?

To cut short a longer story, Austin has been exploring the AI art services to produce a new style of Rubaiyat illustrations which he is combining with some of FitzGerald’s verse and some of his own Rubaiyat inspired verses and text. The services he mentions are Night Cafe, Wombo Dreams and Topaz Labs, and the results are being produced as a book and videos. Currently they can be accessed through the links below. Our illustration shows the unusual nature of the art work, some of which is quite disturbing and disorienting. See what you think.

PDF -The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam Oil-Painted: With Commentary and Omarian Echoes: Intro and quatrains 1-41:

Video: Intro and Quatrains 1-20:

Video: Intro and Quatrains 21-41: