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Let’s celebrate Edward FitzGerald’s birthday

March 31, 2021

Edward FitzGerald was born on 31st March 1809 and his Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam was published on the same day in 1859. So today in 2021 marks the 212th anniversary of his birth and 162nd anniversary of the first appearance of his famous poem. It is an appropriate time to pause and think about the self effacing author who brought so much of value to the world in terms of literature and philosophy and who has given so many of us much stimulus and joy.

We have already celebrated FitzGerald over a lunch of toasted cheese which was one of his favourite dishes. He described himself as a ‘philocaseotostus’ and we are certainly members of that exotic club. This evening we shall raise a glass of a suitable beverage in FitzGerald’s honour and we hope that others will join us in this way. We have no doubt that FitzGerald’s work will continue to bring much pleasure to old and new readers over the years ahead.

Some publications relating to the Omar Khayyam Club of London

March 30, 2021

Joe Howard has sent us interesting images and comments on some of the less well known publications of the Omar Khayyam Club of London which he has been investigating. Joe writes as follows.

The dinner menus of the Omar Khayyam Club of London (the Club) are well known for their illustrations: images can be readily found in books and on the internet. My purpose here is to provide examples of some of the Club’s rather less familiar documents/publications.

Membership Booklets
Below is an example of an annual booklet entitled “OMAR KHAYYAM CLUB” (10 by 12.8 cm.). It contains details of past presidents and, for the booklet period, lists of (a) club officials (b) the full membership, with addresses and years of election and (c) names of deceased members. I know of several such booklets published between 1899 and 1914-all having the same format. During the dinner at Pagani’s on 13 October 1892, at which the Club was formed1 , a decision was made to limit club membership to just fifty-nine: these booklets show that this number was routinely exceeded.

Dinner Invitation
This is an elaborate invitation to the 8th December 1895 dinner, complete with illustration. Although it is not easy to see, the words OMAR, KHAYYAM and CLUB are written in the left, top and right borders, respectively, of the illustration. On the inside, members are reminded to “…wear a red rose, the badge of the Club, while guests may wear roses of any other colour”. I enjoyed the explicit reminder, “Red wine is the wine of the Club…any member desiring to order white wine must first obtain the permission of the President.”

Ladies Night
The regular OKC dinners are well known to be men-only affairs. However, here is a large format menu (22.8 by 30.5 cm.) for a “Ladies Night” held in 1972. The cartoon, by DIZ, is appropriately multi-gender. The attendees list shows that ladies were very well represented. I am unaware of how often such events have been held. In an earlier post2 I presented a cartoon of an OK Club dinner which shows ladies present-I wonder if the cartoonist had heard of such an event, or the possibly of it? Perhaps he was simply prescient?

This menu for a Club dinner to be held at the Bull Hotel, Woodbridge on June 18th 1983 deviates significantly from the usual format in that it does not include any of; a Rubaiyat-related illustration (I acknowledge that this has occurred elsewhere); a poem; the usual quotation beginning “Oh, my friends, when I am sped, appoint a meeting…“ or a printed list of members and their guests. Instead, attendees simply signed the menu card. Many of the signatures are clearly of ladies (e.g Anne Briscoe, Helga Young, Sarah Curtis etc). The June timing is also unusual for a regular Club dinner.

Summer Outing
Here we have a trifold card that refers simply to the “OMAR KHAYYAM CLUB, SUMMER OUTING-WOODBRIDGE_JUNE 18th 1983”: I find it unappealing. It is printed on only one side and this event is for the same date and location (Woodbridge) as the dinner mentioned above.

Seating Plans
In his1 “Some notes on the history…” Bennet Maxwell notes “… a fascinating table plan for the dinner in March 1939, exists in the library of McMaster University in Canada.” I have come across references to several other table plans. One is for the November 23rd, 1905 dinner at Frascati’s restaurant3,4. This plan (image available on-line) is amongst a volume of papers containing draft biographical notes on Persian statesmen and notables compiled by George Percy Churchill. He was a guest at the dinner and was seated almost opposite the Club President.
Three other table plans, for 29 Nov. 1900, 24 Nov. 1938 and 16 Nov. 1949, are listed under the “Edward Fitzgerald Miscellany” section of the “Alfred Terhune Collection Relating to Edward Fitzgerald”, held at Syracuse University5.

Although not a publication of the Club, I include pictures of “A Keepsake for the Omar Khayyam Club”. It is one of 99 copies printed and generously presented to the Club by Het Nederlands Omar Khayyam Genootschap. The occasion being the centennial anniversary of the OKC of London in October 1992. The illustration is by Frans de Jong.



Our thanks to Joe for sharing his research and information with us all.

‘All is Number’ – Pythagoras

March 21, 2021

Charles Mugleston has sent us the following piece which looks at FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat from an unusual perspective. He writes:

1 2 7 72… 1000 – A Genius aiming for Perfection ?

Hardly a page of the noetic – poetic Ruba’iya’t of Omar Khayya’m is turned without the reader / listener being introduced to some form of implicit or explicit number symbolism.

The number Seven for instance with all Its Divine, Cosmic and Human Mysteries wins hands down as The Key to IT All, and yet…

Back in 2008  while doing some research for  a stage presentation of the poem at the New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich in 2009, I visited Claude Cox Books in Silent Street, Ipswich and happened to meet a man who was looking after the shop for the owner. He told me he owned E.F.G’s copy of the Book of Common Prayer & Psalms with E.F.G’s bookplate designed by W.M.Thackeray which apparently E.F.G used to carry around in his pocket and I certainly now regret not asking him if I could see it.

E J Sullivan Quatrain 38

However, reflecting on that recently and that a quote from Psalm 100 is inscribed on his gravestone” “It is He that has made us and not we ourselves” and remembering that there are 150 Psalms, it moved me to wonder why E.F.G possibly used not one numerical ‘blue print’ or ‘ground plan’ for the poem’s expansion & contraction in all its five editions, but three !!! ?

Do the numbers of the quatrains used… firstly 75, then 110 and then 101 follow certain patterns of thought, of awareness ?  have a certain reason for being there or did they just pour out of the ‘Cornucopia’ as they did… happen spontaneously ? “Light has Its reasons of course”

Well, trying to tune into his mind, reasoning, inspiration, intuition… perhaps we can discern a plausible reason as to why we are offered / given 75 quatrains in the first edition.

Could it be he wanted to share it based on 75 being exactly half the number of the Psalms “And David’s Lips are lock’t”?

Or, was he influenced by the number 72 in the poem “The Two-and-Seventy jarring Sects confute” ? adding his own touches – extra quatrains making it 75 – “a live sparrow”… ?

Did he then throw numerical symbolism to the winds in his efforts to draw more metaphorical water from the well of wisdom of quatrains  that became available to him when he chose to have 110 in the second edition ?

Then, how do we account for his using 101 quatrains for the fifth edition ? His love of pruning maybe ? for he liked to reduce the superfluous be it cutting paintings, poems, prose – which he was quite skilful at – rather more skilful indeed in those particular departments than pruning roses so local reports have it !

Or, could it actually be this… In the Islamic Religion there are the 99 Names of Allah, but in the Zoroastrian Religion of Ancient Persia as recorded in the Zend Avesta – a religion which influenced Buddhism, Christianity and Islam there are 101 Names of Ahura Mazda…AH !

Perhaps, in his reading of what was available to him and maybe through his purchases from Bernard Quaritch maybe such a Sacred number shaped his thought – crowned his Masterpiece helping to provide the underlying rich & resonant roots that give it such a universal appeal. So, I offer this numerical food for thought – a Persian Sweetmeat so to speak both for today being Nowruz and an early Easter Gift, likewise to share as we draw near to the 31st March – Edward Purcell’s /FitzGerald’s birthday remembering also his good friend Alfred Lord Tennyson who mentioned Pythagoras in the Prologue to Tiresias his poetic tribute to E.F.G.

Our thanks to Charles for sharing his thoughts. At this season of Nowruz, we also send greetings to all our readers. Let us hope that 2021/2 proves to be a better year for all of us.

Orlando Greenwood Illustrates the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

March 1, 2021

A couple of years ago, Danton O’Day drew our attention to some newly located illustrations for the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam by the British artist Orlando Greenwood – see links at the end of this post. He also made some of the illustrations available in the form of a video. Now Danton has been able to publish the Greenwood illustrations in book form, as he describes below.

Orlando Greenwood (1892-1989) was a brilliant and talented artist.  A full member of the Royal Society of British Artists he is recognized for his architectural studies, landscapes and still life pictures. His paintings and prints are on sale/display at art galleries across the UK (e.g., Manchester City Galleries, Towneley Hall Art Gallery & Museum, Harris Museum & Art Gallery and Grundy Art Gallery) and are also available online.

The collection of pictures presented in this book were discovered by Jo Briony. The black and white images illustrating Edward FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam were done when Greenwood was a 21- to 22-year-old student at Goldsmiths’ College of Art. Greenwood appears to have felt a close relationship with the poetry. Now, for the first time, his Rubaiyat work is published in book form featuring nine of his illustrations plus a frontispiece image. The 6”x 9”, softcover book also explains the serendipitous discovery of these pictures and sheds some insight into Greenwood’s life and the selection of quatrains he illustrated.

The book reference is ISBN: 9781034492504. It is available online at Ingram and other online retailers, price US $19.99 (on Amazon UK, it is available at £17.49).

Earlier posts on this topic are: and

Some more information on the Whitcombe & Tombs Rubaiyats

February 2, 2021

In September last year, we posted two items on editions of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, published by the New Zealand publishers Whitcombe & Tombs in the 1940’s – see and

The posts highlighted research done by Bob Forrest on these editions, particularly his attempts to clarify the dating of their publication. Bob has now obtained further information on the subject, notably a new copy of another book in the Courage and Friendship Booklet series, which helps to confirm his chronology for the publication of the series. He has also made some revisions to the analysis of the second set of Rubaiyats published by Whitcombe and Tombs which have illustrations by an unknown artist with initials R.G.T. The covers of two versions of these books are shown below.

The revised analysis is now incorporated in Bob’s full write up on the subject which can be found on We all owe a debt to Bob for his continuing efforts to try to sort out a complicated puzzle in Rubaiyat publication.

Ronald Balfour and his Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

December 20, 2020

The edition of FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, illustrated by Ronald Balfour, is well known and greatly loved by many Rubaiyat enthusiasts. One such is Bob Forrest, who has now produced an article on Balfour and his Rubaiyat. This summarises Bob’s recent research on an artist about whose background and career little was known until now.

Balfour’s illustrations for the Rubaiyat were published in book form by Constable in 1920. According to Bob’s investigations, the Rubaiyat was the first book to be illustrated by Balfour, who was better known as a designer, first for the fashion business and later in films. It appears that Balfour actually began to create his illustrations as early as 1913-14 when he was still in his teens, and there is something of a mystery about how he actually came to be given a contract for publication by a prestigious firm like Constable, when he still very young and with no reputation for book illustration.

In his article Bob discusses this question and tells us much about Balfour’s life as a member of higher British society; he was among other things a cousin of the British Prime Minister Arthur Balfour. Bob also provides many images of Balfour’s design work as well as a detailed interpretation of his illustrations for the Rubaiyat.

There is much more of interest in the article which can be found on the following link: As always, we are grateful to Bob for sharing his research with us all. In this case he has helped to fill what was a large gap in knowledge about an important Rubaiyat artist.

Seasonal Greetings

We take this opportunity to send all our readers and contributors seasonal greetings at the close of a difficult and stressful year for us all. The continuation of Rubaiyat research and the blog items submitted by many people have helped to create some sense of normality for many of us. We are grateful to everyone who has provided material to the blog through the year, and we look forward to continuing to publish the blog in what we hope will be more normal conditions in 2021.

Prints from the Quarantine Quatrains

December 1, 2020

Back in September we highlighted a new set of rubaiyat entitled the Quarantine quatrains – see The people who produced this work have just sent us an update on what they are doing. Malcolm Guite and Roger Wagner write as follows.

This is just to thank everyone who bought a copy of the Quarantine Quatrains. You will be glad to hear that the whole edition raised £5,500 for the Careworkers Charity which we are told will have supported at least 11 care workers who have had to isolate as a result of Covid-19. Sadly as the pandemic still continues the need has not diminished, and to raise some additional funds Roger has made a signed print of four of the images from the book, ten of which have been signed and inscribed by Malcolm with the last verse from the Quatrains. The profits from these ten prints, once the cost of printing and postage has been covered, will be donated to CWC. (These 10 special prints have now been sold)

You can find details of the new prints at The cost of the prints is £150 each (including postage and VAT).

Ceramic Mug(s) Modelled on E. J. Sullivan’s Famous Illustration

November 14, 2020

Joe Howard has sent us the following article about an interesting spin-off from the work of one well-known illustrator of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.

Edmund J. Sullivan’s 1913 illustration (Fig.1.) of the mug (jug?), accompanying quatrain LXIV, is well known by Rubaiyat enthusiasts. In his book1 about Sullivan’s art, James Thorpe comments: “The Omar Khayyam Club commissioned replicas of the mug illustrating verse LXIV. These were made by Arnold Bennet’s brother (Septimus) and used at their meetings.” There is no indication as to how they were used.

Fig.1. E J Sullivan’s illustration / Fig.2 Enoch Arnold Bennett / Fig.3 Septimus Bennett
of quatrain LXIV

Enoch Arnold Bennett (1867-1931) became a member of the OK Club of London in 1912. Bennett (Fig.2.) was an internationally celebrated author who produced 42 works of fiction, 22 of non-fiction and 12 plays. On the 150th anniversary of his birth a bronze statue of him was installed outside the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery in Hanley, Stoke on Trent.

Fig.4. Advertisement for Septimus Bennett’s business

Septimus Bennett (1877-1926), was an artist and designer (Fig.3.) who ran a studio in Hanley, Staffordshire, where he created designs and made models (Fig.4.) of ceramic items3. He also collaborated with his brother, Arthur, by providing designs for magazine covers.

In support of the war effort Septimus relocated, without his family, to Sheffield in 1915. He was employed as a munitions worker at the Vickers’ Holme Lane works, remaining there until the end of WW1. Septimus regularly sent details of Sheffield life and of work in a munitions factory to Arthur, who used them in newspaper and magazines articles. Septimus also kept a detailed diary, which formed the basis of a book4 published in 2001.

I am surprised that I am aware of only one ceramic mug (Fig. 5.) modelled on Sullivan’s drawing. The illustration and this ceramic mug differ in that (a) the band containing the fleur-de-lis pattern near the base of Sullivan’s illustration is replaced by the last line from quatrain LXIV:  “HE’S A GOOD FELLOW AND TWILL ALL BE WELL” and (b) the base of the ceramic mug is circular. Approximate dimensions of this mug are: 20cms tall without the lid and 28cms across the handles. The lid, not including the metal

Fig.5. Mug made in the likeness of E J Sullivan’s illustration

extension at the top, adds a further ca 4cms. There are no identifying marks.

The known provenance of this mug begins with its ownership by John Henderson (1862-1938). Henderson was one of the earlier members of the OK Club, joining in 1894. He served as Honorary Secretary and Treasurer for many years5. Henderson was a regular attendee at the OK Club dinners and is listed as a member on a dinner menu the year before his death.

There is a strong link between this ceramic mug and the OK Club: the time-period is also consistent with it being one of the mugs mentioned by Thorpe. If this is indeed the case, its large size and approximately spherical shape make it unsuitable for use as a drinking vessel, for example.

Information (number produced, date of production, circumstances that led to the mugs being commissioned, how they were used by the Club etc.) about either this mug (or other copies of it) or those referred to in Thorp’s book, would be very much appreciated.

Relevant information may be added below as comments on this blog. Our thanks to Joe for sharing his research with us all.


  1. Thorpe, James. E. J. Sullivan, London; Art and Technics (English masters of black and white), 1948 page 31
  2. The Second Book of the Omar Khayyam Club 1910-1929, London. Printed for the members for private circulation, 1931.
  3. The Pottery Gazette and Glass Trade Review Nov.1 1922, page 1728
  4. Septimus Bennett Artist in Arms, A Sheffield Munitions Worker 1915-18, M Phillips & J Potter, The Pentland Press, 2001
  5. Henderson, John, Papers as Secretary of Omar Khayyam Club: Cambridge University Trinity College Library.

The Rubaiyat of Anne Marie

October 29, 2020

Some time ago, Bob Forrest came across an unfinished manuscript of an unpublished edition of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. The MS consists of an unfinished title–page followed by 88 pages, including 15 fully quoted quatrains from the poem, and 15 illustrations. The title–page names the artist simply as “Anne Marie” and indicates that it was intended for publication by “Ben Abramson, Publisher New York City.”

Quatain XX by Anne Marie

After considerable research, Bob has managed to establish that the artist’s full name was Annemarie (sic) Bonnet, and that the MS must date from between 1944 and 1949, these being the dates between which Abramson operated in New York City. The MS, incidentally, is listed as #251 in Jos Coumans’ The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam: an Updated Bibliography (2010), the entry being based on the catalogue of a London book–dealer who offered it for sale in 2006.

Bob has now published an article on his website about this MS – see link below*. The article has much more to say about both artist and intended publisher. It also features all of Anne Marie’s Rubaiyat illustrations, as well as those done for two other books published by Abramson, an interesting and well documented character in his own right. Once again Bob has managed to fill in some of the gaps in our knowledge of the history of Rubaiyat illustration and publication. Our thanks to him for sharing his findings with us.


Sangorski Rubaiyat MS coming up for auction

October 28, 2020

Charles Mugleston has alerted us to the fact that one of the manuscript versions of FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, calligraphed and illuminated by Alberto Sangorski in 1906, is coming up for auction in London on 19th November 2020. Sangorski produced a number of MSS of the Rubaiyat at this time, one of which, in a heavily jewelled fine binding, was lost with the Titanic. Another such was mentioned in a previous blog item

The MS now being offered was apparently very finely bound by Sangorski and Sutcliffe in 1999. Full details of the item and auction can be found via the link below. The auctioneers’ estimate for the item is £7,000-10,000. Even if such a sum is beyond your purse, as, sadly, it is for us, it is worth having a look at the sale site to revel in images of the wonderful quality of design and craftsmanship that went into the production of this manuscript and its binding. A couple of pages are shown in the image above.

Thanks to Charles for the information.