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A coloured version of the Rubaiyat illustrated by Edmund Sullivan, and more – from Austin Torney

October 17, 2017


Austin Torney has been busy with the Rubaiyat again, this time working on a famous version illustrated by Edmund Sullivan which was first published by Methuen in 1913.  The original illustrations, one for each of the 75 quatrains in FitzGerald’s first edition, were in black and white.  Austin has produced a ‘colorized’ version which is published on his website;  there is also a video version on YouTube.  These can be accessed via the following links:

Interestingly, this is not the first time that colour has been added to Sullivan’s illustrations.  We own a copy of an  edition by The World Publishing Company, Cleveland, Ohio, probably from 1938, in which most of the black and white printed illustrations have been coloured by hand.  It is not known who did the colouring – perhaps an earlier owner of the copy – but the result is quite effective, as it that done by Austin Torney.  The image alongside shows the 1938 version of the image for quatrain 64  “… Folks of a surly Tapster tell …”, which can be compared with Austin’s new work.

Austin has also produced YouTube videos of two of his other interpretations of unusual editions of the Rubaiyat.  The first is of the edition illustrated and illuminated by Edward Taylor Jewett which was discussed by Bob Forrest in an earlier post – see  Austin’s second video deals with the famous Great Omar, the first version of which went down in the Titanic.  These two interesting videos can be seen via the following links.

Private Rubaiyat – the Jewett edition

From the Bottom of the Ocean – the Great Omar


Austin Torney has updated his video interpretation of the Rubaiyat

October 9, 2017

The poet and artist Austin Torney has sent us information about the latest update of his video interpretation of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.  There is now a YouTube playlist containing a five minute video for each quatrain:  see

For details of Austin’s other work on the Rubaiyat, see an earlier post

Why George Marshall’s Rubaiyat is not a False Imprint

September 29, 2017

Barry Traish has sent us a very unusual story with a Rubaiyat connection.  

On 3rd June 1945, in Ashton Park in Sydney, Australia, police found the decomposing body of Singapore-born Joseph Saul Haim Marshall, more commonly known as George and sometimes as Lorenzo. Near his left hand was barbituric acid powder and on his chest was an open copy of the seventh Methuen edition of Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. He had marked the following quatrain:

Ah, make the most of what we yet may spend,
Before we, too, into the dust descend.
Dust into dust, and under dust to lie
Sans wine, sans song, sans singer and sans end.

His death was ruled a suicide by poisoning – after all he had attempted suicide twice before and had spent time in an insane asylum, all caused by a head injury aged seven. He was a philosopher, a failed poet and a disciple of Omar Khayyam. His brother said, “I have no doubt that this was the form of death that would appeal to my brother, as being the finest and noblest way of terminating his life.”

But many believe there’s a conspiracy here. There’s a strong political connection: his brother, David Marshall, went on to become Singapore’s chief minister. Two months later, his former girlfriend unexpectedly committed suicide by cutting her wrists, despite being in a relationship with another man, Hellmut Hendon. Ashton Park was very close to the Clifton Gardens Hotel, where, some years later,  Jessica Thomson would give Alf Boxall a copy of the Rubaiyat in the infamous Somerton Man (Tamam Shud) mystery. That mystery itself revolves around a discovered body, Jessica Thomson (now 700 miles away in Adelaide) and another Rubaiyat with an indecipherable code. Marshall and Hendon were both Jewish, and Thomson converted to Judaism, despite Judaism being rare in Australia. They all attended or had links to the Bohemian club, Pakies, as did Alf Boxall, who received the other Rubaiyat.

Finally, and the point of this blog post, is that there is no record of a seventh Methuen edition of the Rubaiyat ever being published. Many believe that it is a “false imprint” or even a one-time pad for a secret code, not printed by Methuen at all. “Internet experts” by the dozen (and even the New York Public Library) all state there are only five editions. Unfortunately, Methuen themselves no longer have archival records after a century of mergers and takeovers. So let’s set the record straight.

In 1900, Methuen issued their first edition, using Fitzgerald’s fifth translation, with additional commentary by Batson and Ross. They reissued it in 1901 as a limited edition of 60. In March 1904 they issued a small edition of Fitzgerald’s first translation, as part of their “Methuen’s Miniature Library” series. In 1913 they produced a new edition of Fitzgerald’s first translation with illustrations by Sullivan. In 1923 they reprinted this, labelling it the second edition. Finally, there was a 1930 edition, with an introduction by Rosen. These are the five Methuen editions (counting one as a reprint) enumerated by the New York Public Library and others. No great surprises so far.

What is less commonly known is that Methuen reissued the March 1904 “miniature” edition repeatedly (see image), but didn’t bother depositing these with copyright libraries. It was only when a seventh edition came into my possession and I saw how small it was (12cm) that I made the link to the 1904 edition. Until now, most people believed this publishing history was fictional, to add credibility to a false imprint.

However, there is evidence: Messrs Methuen & Co regularly published advertisements in the back of their books. It is relatively easy to find adverts at for the miniature library, including all of the Rubaiyat reprints up to the 5th edition, matching the publication history. Unfortunately, Methuen stopped marketing the whole of the miniature library midway through 1920, so no adverts for the 6th or 7th editions exist. I’ve examined 60 books of the period for adverts which confirm this.

Two seventh editions have been found, but given their tiny size and flimsy nature, it’s no surprise many haven’t survived. There is no conspiracy – George Marshall was simply an Omar-obsessed, suicidal young man, and Methuen never deposited all their books because they were never really new editions, only reprints.

7th Methuen Rubaiyat, as found on George Marshall; a Whitcombe & Tombs Rubaiyat, as linked to the Somerton Man; an Australasian Rubaiyat, as given to Alf Boxall by Jessica Thomson.

Books on Rubaiyat illustrators now available online as trade books

September 26, 2017

Danton O’Day has sent us the following information about a new publication format for his valuable books on the earlier illustrators of FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (see also links below).

The books may now be found in online bookstores, like,, using the ISBNs below:

Artists of the Omar Khayyám Club of London 1892 to 1929 by Danton H. O’Day
Softcover ISBN: 9781389860898
Hardcover, ImageWrap ISBN: 9781389860904
Size: 8×10 in, 21×26 cm; 92 Pages



The Golden Age of Rubáiyát Art I. The Illustrators 1884 to 1913 by Danton H. O’Day
Hardcover, ImageWrap ISBN: 9781389861093
Softcover ISBN: 9781389861109
Size: 8×10 in, 21×26 cm; 168 Pages



The Golden Age of Rubaiyat Art II. Popular Themes, 1884-1913 by Danton H. O’Day
Hardcover, ImageWrap ISBN: 9781389860997
Softcover ISBN: 9781389861000
Size: 8×10 in, 21×26 cm; 66 Pages



The Golden Age of Rubaiyat Art III. The Decorators 1884-1913 by Danton H. O’Day
Hardcover, ImageWrap ISBN: 9781389860935
Softcover ISBN: 9781389860942
Size: 8×10 in, 21×26 cm; 90 Pages



More details of the books can be found in the following earlier posts.

A Rubaiyat illustrated by Edward Taylor Jewett

August 29, 2017

Bob Forrest has located another unique copy of the Rubaiyat in the San Diego Public Library.  He writes as follows.

In San Diego Public Library is what appears to be a little-known and unique copy of The Rubaiyat. The full text of FitzGerald’s fourth edition has been written out, illuminated and illustrated, all by hand, on vellum, by the American artist Edward Taylor Jewett. One page is illustrated here. The book can be viewed, in full, online at:

The book is undated and relatively little seems to be known about its origins and history, though some information has come to light.

Jewett was born in New York in 1868, moved to Santa Barbara in 1914, and lived there until his death in 1955. Trained in Paris and New York, in the 1920s he seems to have found a lucrative niche in designing wall hangings and tapestries for private homes and hotels, the designs for many of which were exhibited at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art in June 1947. It is from a yellowed newspaper report on this exhibition that we glean some useful information. (Unfortunately, the clip is from an un-named newspaper, though someone has written the date June 22nd 1947 on it.)

The newspaper report opens thus:

“’There are more Spanish tapestries in the United States than there are castles in Spain,’ said Gordon Kauffmann, architect, one day in 1925, ’but I can’t find one that will fit the space over the mantel in a house I am doing.’

‘Do you suppose,’ he proposed to Edward Taylor Jewett, a New Yorg (sic) artist who had been doing illuminations on vellum of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, ‘that you could make me one on silk ?’”

Thus we know that Jewett’s Rubaiyat was done by, or at least was in progress in, 1925.

According to the same newspaper report, Jewett had a special fondness for Persian Art, and he had illuminated one of Rumi’s poems as well as Omar’s Rubaiyat:

“The exhibition also includes a case filled with the artist’s illuminations on vellum of a Persian poem, ‘The Song of the Reed’. These are Mr Jewett’s pets. He began them four or five years ago and has just completed and sold them – almost reluctantly.”

Unlike Jewett’s Rubaiyat, though, no-one seems to know where the Rumi illuminations are now.

As for Jewett’s Rubaiyat, the shelf list record at San Diego Public Library tells us simply that it was purchased by the library from a Mrs Dorothy Taylor Mills in 1968 for $1300. Who she was or how she acquired it, I do not know. (Was she, perhaps, the married sister of the artist, whose mother’s maiden name was Taylor ?)

My thanks are due to Richard W. Crawford, Special Collections Manager at San Diego Public Library, and to Mackenzie Kelly, Archives Manager and Curatorial Exhibition Assistant at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, for their help in compiling the above account.

Our thanks to Bob for this information.  Does any reader have answers to his questions about the provenance of this copy?  And has anyone seen the original manuscript?

A holiday puzzle – can you guess the artist?

August 27, 2017

Garry Garrard has posed us all the following puzzle.

The  picture below is an illustration from a translation of a classic text (published 1951- not the Rubaiyat and not even Persian).

Can you identify the artist or even make a guess?  The clue is that the same artist was responsible for illustrating an earlier edition of the Rubaiyat.

Please post your suggestions as comments below.  We have to admit that we failed the challenge and we surprise by Garry’s answer.  We’ll post the answer in due course.

Artists of the Omar Khayyam Club of London

July 25, 2017

Danton O’Day has continued his useful exploration and documentation of the artists who illustrated the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam with a new book covering those artists who illustrated the menus of the Omar Khayyam Club of London from 1892 to 1929.  More details about the book and how to obtain it are shown below.  We are waiting with interest to receive the copy we have ordered.  Danton O’Day writes as follows.

My new book documents the menu artists of the Omar Khayyam Club of London from 1892-1929.

While 26 artists were credited in the two books of the Club, there actually were 28 different menu artists. Of these several were not properly credited for their contributions. For example, one artist was credited for three pictures that belonged to two other artists. Another incorrectly attributed picture was done by an unidentified artist. This book details these issues as well as providing many other insights, firsts, and facts:

-First complete documentation of the artists of the Omar Khayyam Club of London Menus, 1892-1929
-First time most of the pictures have been seen since their initial publication
-Discovery of numerous incorrect artist credits
-Discovery of another “Unidentified Artist”
-Recognition of artists who were not credited for their contributions
-Corrected lists and timelines of artists and their contributions
-Learn about the artists: a cartoonist, a spy, the man who developed camouflage and more…

The books, photo-quality hardcover and softcover (92pp)  are available at:

Hardcover, ImageWrap ISBN: 9781389917240
Softcover, ISBN: 9781389917257