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Celebrate Omar Khayyam’s Birthday

May 18, 2023

Today is the day on which we celebrate the 975th anniversary of the birth of Omar Khayyam, the person to whom the original Persian verses, which Edward FitzGerald used as the inspiration for his Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, are generally attributed. 18th May 1048 is believed to be the birth date of the historical Omar Khayyam, best known as an astronomer, mathematician and philosopher, whose seminal works are still recognised nearly a millennium later. Whether he also wrote the verses attributed to him is disputed, but this day is nonetheless a good occasion on which to mark the creation of a work of literature and philosophy that has brought pleasure and solace to very many people over subsequent centuries.

So please celebrate the birth of the verses that make up the rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, whoever wrote them, and join us in wishing that they will continue to give future generations as much value and stimulus as they have to those of us who treasure them today.

And with them the Seed of Wisdom did I sow,

And with my own hand labour’d it to grow:

And this was all the Harvest that I reap’d –

“I came like Water, and like Wind I go.”


The Rubaiyat as a basis for contemplation

May 5, 2023

Many people who read and study the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam find in it a stimulus to thought about aspects of their own lives, as well as a source of insights into the big issues of life and death, and questions like where have we come from, why are we here, and where are we going? Tony Wolf has formalised such thinking by creating a set of 75 cards based on Edward FitzGerald’s first edition of the Rubaiyat, matching the verses with newly colourised versions of Edmund Sullivan’s 1913 illustrations. The cards can be used in various ways for meditation and contemplation. In the introductory booklet to the set of cards, Tony writes as follows.

Using the Omar’s Rubaiyat Contemplation Cards

The Rubaiyat is a mystical, poetic meditation on the nature of existence, emphasizing the vital importance of living life to the fullest while acknowledging its impermanence.

These contemplation cards offer a tactile way to creatively explore these themes in relation to one’s own circumstances and experience, also – crucially – introducing an element of chance. 

Each card in this deck pairs one of “FitzOmar’s” quatrains with Sullivan’s accompanying image, combining poetic and visual symbolism.  For example,  card 26 features  Sullivan’s image of a rose-crowned skeleton … illustrating quatrain 26, which reads:

Oh, come with old Khayyam, and leave the Wise

to talk; One thing is certain, that Life flies;

One thing is certain, and the Rest is Lies;

The Flower that once has blown forever dies.

The interpretation of this quatrain and its flower/skull symbolism in relation to one’s own experience is determined by the card’s placement in a spread; a pattern in which each position is assigned a particular meaning and represents a different aspect of the question or situation being explored.

Elsewhere, Tony Wolf has written: the purpose here is not to use the cards for “fortune telling”, but rather to employ the methods of tarot card reading, such as the random juxtaposition of symbolism and meaning, towards appreciating FitzOmar’s poetic philosophy in relation to one’s own circumstances – “after all, the book must live”.  

Some examples of possible layouts for randomly chosen cards are shown below. For more information about the cards, and how to obtain them, see

First Women Illustrators of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam: Hope Weston

April 15, 2023

We can now post the third of Bob Forrest’s articles providing some more information on certain of the first women illustrators of Edward FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, who were covered in an earlier post by Danton O’Day – see  In this article, Bob provides more background on the artist Hope Weston, and considers how she tried to see Khayyam from a new angle. Our thanks again to Bob for sharing this research with us. Further information on this artist will be published on Bob’s web site

Fig. 1 Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

Hope Weston is not to be found in any of the standard dictionaries of artists and book illustrators. To discover more about her I began with the assumption that since she was the illustrator of two books and the author of a novel (of which more below), all published in London during the 1920s, she would probably have been born in the UK between 1880 and 1900. A search on for a Hope Weston born in the UK in that time interval found only two. The first was a Hope Weston, born in Coventry in 1898, but who, sadly, died before the end of that year. The second was Doris Hope Weston, born in Birmingham on 25 August 1892. In the 1911 census she was recorded as an Art Student, aged 18, living with her parents, Harry Weston and his wife Eliza Hope Weston, at 20 St Stephen’s Square, Bayswater, London. This, of course, was promising, but just in case I retained the UK birth, but dropped the 1890±10 year of birth and searched for a Hope Weston with exact key-word art / artist/ illustrator. Only Doris Hope Weston showed up, making it highly likely that she was the one I was looking for. Taking that for granted, electoral rolls showed that she was mostly living in London during the period 1921 to 1939 inclusive, though with a spell in Chichester in 1928-9. Also “Doris Weston, Artist” took a trip to Sydney, Australia in October 1923, returning in July 1924.

That trip to Sydney turned out to be interesting, for whilst there she attended an art exhibition at which she happened to be interviewed by an art journalist called William Moore from The Sydney Daily Telegraph. In his “Gallery and Studio” column on 31 May 1924 (p.13) he reported that having asked her about what she thought of Australia, she replied, “Australians remind me of children who have escaped from their mother and are having a fine old time…How you do enjoy yourselves here! Sunday at Coogee is like a holiday at Home – the band plays the latest dance music, a moving mass of people fills the parade, and the whole scene just throbs with life.” Of greatest interest to us here though is the last section of Moore’s account:

“Miss Weston, who received her art instruction from Byam Shaw and Vicat Cole, has illustrated several books for London publishers. She did the illustrations for an edition of Omar Khayyam, issued by Routledge and Sons, and recently completed the drawings for “Princess Joy”, a child’s book issued by Bale and Daniels (sic). Her work has been shown at the exhibitions of the Royal Institute of Painters in water-colour, and the Camden (sic) Hill Art Club.”

Fig. 2 Princess Joy

We shall return to Omar Khayyam and “Princess Joy” below, but meanwhile, given that she was an art student in 1911, her art instruction would seem to have been at the Byam Shaw and Vicat Cole School of Art, founded in Campden Street, London, 1910. Indeed, in The Daily Telegraph on 10 October 1923 (p.5), in an account of an exhibition of the Campden Hill Club, we read that “some of the teaching of the late Byam Shaw seems to have borne fruit in the studies by D. Hope Weston.”

In 1927, Hope Weston’s novel The Restless Team was published by Andrew Melrose of London – it was, alas, unillustrated. As one reviewer in The Aberdeen Press and Journal on 2 June 1927 (p.3, col.3) put it:

“The book throughout is rather overwritten; life is lived, even in trifles, at top speed…Those who like their novels strong and well seasoned will relish this study of art, artists and Bohemia, but they must not ask for too much delicacy in situation or verisimilitude in character and situation. The steady hitting of the highlights of life tends to become wearisome.”

Having read the novel, though it does have some interesting aspects, overall I tend to agree, I’m afraid.

But to return to exhibitions, from The Times on 22 November 1929 (p.12, col.2) we learn that at the Chester Gallery in London “may be seen Miss D. Hope Weston’s portraits in oils” in which “the heads are more than life-size, the colours violent, and the expressions of the sitters approaching towards caricature.”

Little is to be found about Hope Weston in the 1930s, save that she exhibited a “powerful and perceptive” portrait in chalk of Janet Mitchell, author of the novel Tempest in Paradise, in the London Portrait Society’s show at the New Burlington Galleries in April-May 1936. (Mitchell was Australian, but she worked as a journalist in England between 1934 and 1940, and her novel was published in London in 1935.) In The Observer on 6 March 1938 (p.14, col.5) it was reported that “Hope Weston” exhibited a landscape (no details given) in the Women’s International Art Club exhibition held at the R.B.A. (Royal Society of British Artists) Galleries in London.

After the Electoral Register for 1939 she rather disappears from view until her death in Painswick, Stroud, Gloucestershire, on 12 July 1968, where she had lived at 1 Paradise Cottages since at least 1966.

Fig. 3 Princess Joy

To return to the books illustrated by her, The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, with eight illustrations in colour by Hope Weston, using FitzGerald’s first version, was published by Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co. in London (and in parallel by E.P. Dutton & Co. in New York), in 1923. It was undated but the accession date of the Kegan Paul copy in the British Library is 18 June 1923, and the Dutton edition was reviewed in one American newspaper in October 1923. It is Potter #119. The credit for publication to Routledge & Sons in the newspaper quote above, like the reference to Messrs George Routledge in Weston’s “Foreword” as the instigators of her approach to Omar, arise from the fact that in 1912 the firm of George Routledge & Sons had taken over the management of Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co.

According to Weston’s “Foreword”, the request from Messrs George Routledge was that she should “endeavour to see Khayyam from a new angle, to visualize him as he appeared to his contemporaries, to study his mind before FitzGerald gilded his thoughts,” adding, “It was a tremendous task this effort to express in colour the thoughts in the mind of the old mystic.” It would seem, then, that Weston believed that the true Omar was a mystic, presumably a Sufi, whereas many of us would strongly disagree with this, and incline more to the view that actually FitzGerald was right to depict Omar as an agnostic with a disdain for organised religion and, if not a Hedonist, at least an advocate of enjoying this life – glass in hand – for there is probably no after-life. At any rate, it was her unusual approach which led Weston to explain her illustrations in her Foreword. Thus she explains Fig.1 (above), illustrating quatrain 16 (“Think, in this batter’d Caravanserai &c”), thus:

“The Battered Caravanserai is the symbol of the world of actuality from which the Messenger of Death leads his cortège across the snows through the door of Night. Behind he leaves the things of the body to pass out across the unknown region leading to that dream of man, ‘the land of the spirit’.”

I leave readers to decide for themselves whether Weston succeeded in her mission to depict the true Omar. The second – and so far as I can see, the only other – book illustrated by her was Lily Hall’s Princess Joy of Everywhere and the Fairies, subtitled “an Allegory of Life with Fairy Interludes.” Published in London by John Bale, Sons & Danielsson Ltd., it was undated but the accession date of the copy in the British Library is 1 November 1922 and, unlike her Rubaiyat, it was widely advertised and reviewed in the newspapers as a Christmas book for that year. It contained six black and white illustrations. Fig.2 serves to show the Fairy aspect of the story, and Fig.3 its allegorical aspect.

The Rubaiyat anniversary season is with us

March 31, 2023

On this day, 31st March, in the year 1859, Edward FitzGerald published his great poem, the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. For FitzGerald himself, this was even more of a seminal year, as he turned 50 on the same day, and he had very recently lost one of his great friends, W E Browne. as a result of a riding accident.

For us, 164 years later, this is an opportunity to celebrate the life of FitzGerald and the marvellous gift that he gave to the world. That his Rubaiyat has remained something of interest, value and stimulus, so many years after its creation, is a measure of its greatness and of the skills of its author. Let us all celebrate, in our own way, this special occasion, and, in the next few weeks, reflect on what the Rubaiyat has brought us and others in the intervening years. The Rubaiyat anniversary season will end on May 18th, with the celebration of the birth of Omar Khayyam, to whom the original Persian verses are attributed.

More of Austin Torney’s adventures with AI and the Rubaiyat.

March 30, 2023

After his explorations of the use of artificial intelligence (AI) programmes as a way of creating illustrations for the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, Austin Torney is now experimenting with the use of AI Chat programmes to create Rubaiyat style verses. He writes about this as follows.

Recently, the ‘miracle’ of AI ChatGPT4 appeared, and it can write poetic ‘Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam’, sensible quatrains with ten syllables and rhyme of aaba or aabb, both of which I used, on Bing-Edge.

The human, Edward FitzGerald, is still the winner, but the GPT4 poems are an amazing accomplishment.

A day later, the more realistic AI MidJourney version 5 appeared, in an astounding conjunction, which I used to illustrate the quatrains.

Oh while we live, let us be kind and true

To those who share this fleeting journey too,

And let us help them bear their heavy load

Along the rough and rugged Earthly road.

In the video, I used Kaiber AI to add animation to some of the images, and AI AIVA for the music and an AI voice speaking the words.

Here are some more GPT4 quatrains: these are a selection of the ones that Austin sent in.


The concept of time, we try to define,

As we contemplate the grand design,

Is it a river that flows ever on,

Or just a mere illusion, that’s gone?


The dichotomy of good and evil, we ponder,

As we try to make sense of the world’s wonder,

Is there a moral compass that guides us all,

Or are we just lost in a sea of moral sprawl?


The nature of consciousness, we try to explore,

As we seek to understand ourselves more;

Is it just the product of the brain,

Or something more that we can’t explain?


The question of free will, we debate,

As we ponder the choices we create;

Is our destiny predetermined, or can we choose,

These questions, we ask, and we can’t refuse.


The existence of God, we strive to comprehend,

As we seek answers that may never end,

Is there a divine being that rules us all,

Or is it just a myth, a story we recall?


The concept of reality, we try to unfold,

As we struggle to break free from the mold,

Is the world we see just a mere projection,

Or is it the only real thing in our perception?


The nature of existence, we contemplate,

As we seek to understand our mortal fate,

Is life just a fleeting moment in time,

Or something more that’s truly sublime?

Further details of Austin’s new AI sourced works are available via the following links

PDF part 1, PDF part 2, Video part 2

Austin’s earlier AI based work was reviewed in

Addition to First Women Illustrators of the Rubaiyat: S.C. Vincent Jarvis

March 25, 2023

Danton O’Day has sent us information about a video he has uploaded on a further early woman illustrator of FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat. His earlier videos on this subject are discussed in Danton writes:

I just uploaded a short YouTube video about S.C. Vincent Jarvis. I hope you enjoy it. 

S.C. Vincent Jarvis: Newly Revealed. First Women Illustrators of the Rubaiyat (2:23)—Another woman artist who used initials effectively hiding their gender, Sarah Constance Vincent Jarvis produced 28 B&W images to illustrate and decorate a 1911 Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.  YouTube Link:

In his video, Danton pays tribute to the article on Vincent Jarvis by Bob Forrest from which the illustration below is taken. See

First Women Illustrators of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam: Alice Ross

March 15, 2023

Here is the second of Bob Forrest’s articles providing some more information on certain of the first women illustrators of Edward FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, who were covered in an earlier post by Danton O’Day – see In this article, Bob provides more background on the artist Alice Edith Ross, and discusses whether she can be correctly identified as the book illustrator Alice Ross. Our thanks again to Bob for sharing this research with us.

The Scottish artist Alice Edith Ross was born in Glasgow on 27 November 1863, the daughter of William Tait Ross and his wife Barbara Ross (née Whyte.) By 1881 she and her family had moved to Edinburgh where she was to live for the rest of her life. In fact, from 1881 until her death on 10 July 1954 she lived at the same address, 18 Glenorchy Terrace, Newington, Edinburgh. She was an active member of the Scottish Society of Artists (the SSA), exhibiting some 74 paintings with them between 1897 and 1936. (My thanks are due to Kirstie Meehan and Rowan Berry at the National Galleries of Scotland, for supplying this and other information used below.)

Figure 1

But was the artist Alice Edith Ross the same as the book illustrator Alice Ross ? Alice Ross is a very common name, but the first indication that they are indeed the same person is the fact that Alice Ross illustrated at least a dozen books for the Edinburgh publisher W.P. Nimmo, Hay & Mitchell which were also printed in Edinburgh, the city with which artist Alice Edith Ross was so strongly associated. The first edition of her Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, using FitzGerald’s first version, and with four coloured illustrations by her, was published by them in 1910 (Potter #77 – the date is on the title page.) But this was only one poetry book amongst several published by them, for, at various times and with various reprints and revised issues, with different covers and often undated,  she also illustrated works by Tennyson, Robert Browning, Matthew Arnold, Christina Rossetti, J.G. Whittier, Longfellow and Ella Wheeler Wilcox, not to mention the quintessentially Scottish poet Robert Burns. (Equally Scottish was the popular story about a dog, Rab and his Friends, by Edinburgh physician Dr. John Brown, an undated edition of which she also illustrated for Nimmo & Co., probably first published in 1912.)

Figures 2 and 3

To be honest, I don’t find Alice Ross’s coloured illustrations very interesting, for they are rather literal in their approach to the text – stolidly conventional art, in other words. Fig.1 shows her illustration of FitzGerald’s famous quatrain 11 of The Rubaiyat. Fig.2 shows her illustration of Robert Burns’s poem “John Anderson my Jo”, taken from an undated edition of Auld Lang Syne – Songs of Burns, but the copy used here bearing a gift inscription dated Christmas 1919. Fig.3 shows an illustration of Tennyson’s poem “Sir Launcelot and Queen Guinevere” from an edition of Selections from Tennyson whose title-page bears the date 1908.

Figures 4 and 5

Alice Ross’s first illustrated book published by Nimmo & Co., seems to have been Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland which appeared in 1907 –  it was undated but the acquisition date of the copy in the British Library is 18 December 1907, and a contemporary newspaper advert shows it to have been issued as a Christmas book for that year. Her illustrations for this are more inventive than most of her work, perhaps not surprisingly given the nature of the book itself, though it has to said that they owe much to Tenniel’s original illustrations (Fig.4, Alice with the Mock Turtle and the Gryphon, is an example.) A few years later, again for Nimmo & Co., she illustrated Grimm’s fairy tales and those of Hans Christian Andersen – both editions undated but with accession dates of 1910 in the British Library’s copies. Some of these illustrations, again by the nature of the text, almost necessarily invoke more imagination – Fig.5 is “Little Ida’s Flowers” from Hans Andersen, for example.

Figure 6

But amidst the sea of colour illustrations she did for Nimmo & Co., I was much intrigued by Poems of Ella Wheeler Wilcox with “pencil drawings by Alice Ross” published by them in 1912 (the title page bears the date.) The frontispiece, illustrating the poem “To Marry, or not to Marry”, is shown in Fig.6. This, and her other drawings, though still conventional in style, for me at least, hold much more appeal than her colour illustrations. But then she wouldn’t be the first artist who was much better in black and white than colour.

Thus far the Edinburgh connection, but that Alice Ross the illustrator was the same as Alice Edith Ross the artist is further confirmed by the following.

In the magazine The Gentlewoman on 4 March 1916 (p.34), under the heading “Studio Club ‘At-Home’”, we learn that “Miss Alice Ross, S.S.A.” was involved in a sale of paintings to raise funds for the Scottish Women’s First Aid Corps Convalescent Hospital. (Alice Edith Ross S.S.A. never married, so she would indeed have been a Miss Alice Ross S.S.A.)

In The Edinburgh Evening News on 12 November 1925 (p.9), under the heading “Scottish Women Artists – a New Exhibiting Society”, we read that “Miss Alice Ross” (no Edith) exhibited “a spirited study of donkeys and children” at the inaugural exhibition of the Society.

Finally, The Scotsman, on 5 January 1934 (p.7), reported that “Miss Alice Ross” (no Edith) sold “The Sheep Shearer” for £5 at an exhibition of the S.S.A. This is a clincher, because “The Sheep Shearer” is listed, as no.92, as one of the three works by Alice E. Ross of 18 Glenorchy Terrace, Edinburgh, in the S.S.A. Exhibition Catalogue for 1933 (the exhibition ran from 25 November 1933 to 6 January 1934.)

Thus it is well-nigh certain that the artist Alice Edith Ross was also the illustrator Alice Ross.

Austin Torney has continued to explore the possibilities of AI in the context of the Rubaiyat

March 3, 2023

The letters AI, standing for Artificial Intelligence, are becoming more familiar to us all, even in the specialist context of the illustration of Edward FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. We recently published a blog item about the presentation of images of Omar Khayyam generated by AI and Austin Torney has now sent us information about his latest exploration of the possibilities of AI in relation to the Rubaiyat. He writes about the results below. Posts about Austin’s earlier investigations of this field can be accessed via

Artificial Intelligence generative art has come a long way, especially in MidJourney version 4.

Here is ’The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam Oil-Painted by MidJourney’:

PDF or Book at Lulu, A4 size, 488 pages

And its companion, ’Omarian Echoes Oil-Painted by MidJourney With The Theory of Everything’:

PDF or Book at Lulu, A4 size, 800 pages 

A video of the two books interleaved

‘The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam Oil-Painted by MidJourney: With Commentary and Omarian Echoes’ by Austin P. Torney. 

PDF or Book at Lulu, 11×8.5 size, 800 pages

Books also on Amazon and Apple Books.

The beginning of a longer spoken video of the intro and quatrains 1-6

First Women Illustrators of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam: Mabel Eardley-Wilmot

February 21, 2023

We recently posted an article by Danton O’Day, concerning the videos he has produced on 13 of the first women artists who were illustrators of Edward FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. For some of these artists, information on their lives and works has remained very limited. Bob Forrest has been investigating three of the artists, to see what more data he could find. We shall post the results of his research in three separate articles. The first, shown below, deals with Mabel Eardley-Wilmot. Our thanks to Bob for this information.

Mabel Eardley-Wilmot was born Mabel Boisragon Winter in Loughton, Essex, England on 18 January 1867, the daughter of William Henry O’Brien Winter and his wife Fanny Cheney Winter (née Hart.) The name Boisragon appears to have come from the surname of one of the witnesses at her parents’ wedding in 1861.

After the age of 4 in the census of 1871, Mabel seems to disappear from the records until her marriage to Sainthill Eardley-Wilmot in India in 1891. He had worked in the Indian Forest Service since 1873, in which field he achieved such a level of success in prudent management and conservation work that he was promoted to the post of Inspector General of Forests in India in 1903. He was knighted for his services in 1911, his wife then becoming Lady Eardley-Wilmot.

How the two met is not clear – it is not known whether she travelled to India in the 1880s, or whether they met in England when he was on furlough back home – but certainly they married in Lucknow on 12 December 1891 and two years later had a daughter, Mabel Iris Eardley-Wilmot, who seems to have been sent back to England to live with an uncle.

In 1908 Sainthill retired and they returned to England. From at least 1920 they lived in Tollgate Cottage, Remenham, Berkshire, where Sainthill died on 13 November 1929, aged 77. Mabel lived on in the same address until 18 August 1958, when she died in a nursing home in Maidenhead, aged 91.

Mabel’s claim to fame, of course, is as an early woman photographer, her photographs being used in her husband’s book Forest Life and Sport in India, published by Edward Arnold, London in 1910, shortly after their return from India. Of more interest to us here though is the use of 32 of her photographs in Sir Edwin Arnold’s book The Light of Asia, published by Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co., London, in 1908; 40 of her photographs in Laurence Hope’s book Songs from the Garden of Kama, published by William Heinemann, London, in 1909; and, of course, 38 of her photographs in The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, published by Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co., London, in 1912, which used FitzGerald’s first version.

I have to confess that I am not much enthralled by most of her photographs, which are mainly landscapes that relate to various phrases used in the text, without any attempt to elucidate their particular context, and with little or no symbolic message, though they do make clever use of things like sunlight streaming through trees, or reflections in water, She does, however, feature some more adventurous symbolic content in a few – but only a few –  of her photographs for The Rubaiyat – the ghost images associated with quatrains 42 (Fig.1 above left) & 49, for example, and the moving finger image with quatrain 51 (Fig.2 right). In this last the shadowy finger has traced out the word “qesmat”, the Persian form of the English “kismet” meaning fate or destiny. (My thanks to Barney Rickenbacker for translating this.)

Some new ways of looking at the image of Omar Khayyam

February 14, 2023

This post is rather lighter in content than some of our normal posts, and should not be taken too seriously. We hope the images sent to us by Roger Paas may serve to raise a smile, or a wry comment, in the middle of the winter months. Our thanks to Roger. We publish these images with apologies to the original sources of the well known images of Omar Khayyam, which are, of course, themselves idealised views of the great astronomer, mathematician, philosopher, and perhaps poet. Roger sent us the following brief comment.

Someone sent me some AI generated images of Omar Khayyam this morning, and I thought you might enjoy them.  First is the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam as a Leonardo etching… and second is a Saul Bass style poster for Omar Khayyam.

The third set of images we have left unlabelled as a challenge to our readers.

A Leonardo etching?

A Saul Bass style poster ?