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The Whitcombe & Tombs Rubaiyats part 2 – Hardback editions

September 21, 2020

Bob Forrest has now sent us as second  contribution about editions of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam published ‘down-under’ in the 1940’s.  He is again seeking additional information from any readers who possess copies of the books discussed. If you can help with Bob’s enquiry, please comment below and/or send us information via sandrabill@omarkhayyamrubaiyat.com. Bob writes:

The Whitcombe & Tombs editions covered in the previous post (see link below*) were effectively ‘paperbacks’. The present post deals with the three ‘hardback’ editions. Again, all are undated.

Fig. 1a

The front cover of the first is shown in Fig.1a and its frontispiece & title page in Fig.1b. This is conveniently described as R.G.T. version 1, R.G.T. being the initials of the (as yet unidentified) artist, which can be seen in the bottom left hand corner of Fig.1b. Though undated, the evidence suggests that it was first published in 1944 (see my online article for details ** – its imprint certainly dates it to 1944-1949.) This edition is characterised by the three domes & minaret on the front cover, and though Fig.1a is blue, other copies are in green. It would be useful if any readers who have copies of this book could supply details of their copies– colour of the cover and any dated gift inscription, especially.

Fig. 1b
Fig. 2

The front cover of the second ‘hardback’ edition, conveniently dubbed R.G.T. version 2, is shown in Fig.2. Its frontispiece & title page are as in version 1, but its cover is characterised by its two domes & minaret.  Like version 1, its imprint certainly dates it to 1944-1949, and the gift inscription in Gordon Cramer’s copy (as reported here in a comment on the previous post) dates it to 1944 – the same year as version 1 appeared! But two versions appearing in the same year ??? This is a puzzle, and it would be interesting to have readers’ thoughts on it, as well as information on any copies of R.G.T. version 2 that they own. (My online article (see link below **) was written at a time when the only copy known to me was that of Sandra & Bill, with a gift inscription dating it to Christmas 1948, suggesting, reasonably, that version 2 appeared a few years after version 1. This clearly now needs a rewrite – and in addition shows the value of pooling information on the blog!)

Fig. 3a

The front cover of the third ‘hardback’ edition is shown in Fig.3a, this being characterised by its three domes & minaret (cf Fig.1a).  Its frontispiece & title page are shown in Fig.3b. The book is notably smaller than the two RGT versions (approximately 14 cm in height as against some 25 cm) and it is effectively a ‘hardback’ edition of Courage & Friendship edition, version 2, covered in the previous post, though there is no reference to the Courage & Friendship series in it (unless there once was one on a now vanished dust-jacket ?) All that is known for sure is that its imprint dates it to 1944-1949, so if any reader has a copy with a dated gift inscription, please do let us know. Likewise it would be useful to know if there are any variant covers of this edition ‘out there.’

Fig. 3b

Finally, I have not yet come across an RGT edition, version 1 or version 2, which has a dust jacket, so if any reader of this does have one such, please do get in touch.  And if anyone has suggestions about who RGT actually was, I should also be glad to know.

*https://omarkhayyamrubaiyat.wordpress.com/2020/09/11/the-whitcombe-tombs-rubaiyats/

**http://www.bobforrestweb.co.uk/The_Rubaiyat/N_and_Q/Whitcombe_and_Tombs/Whitcombe_and_Tombs.htm

The Whitcombe & Tombs Rubaiyats

September 11, 2020

Bob Forrest has sent us the following contribution, which tells about editions of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam published ‘down-under’ in the 1940’s. He is seeking additional information from any readers who possess copies of these books. If you can help with Bob’s enquiry, please comment below and/or send us information via sandrabill@omarkhayyamrubaiyat.com. Bob writes:

In the 1940s the New Zealand firm of Whitcombe and Tombs published a series of Courage and Friendship booklets, #2 of which was The Rubaiyat (FitzGerald’s first edition.) There were two versions of it. Version 1 was certainly first published in 1941, with version 2 probably being first published in 1945. Neither version was actually dated, and nor were their various reprints, which is what makes their chronology difficult to establish. Both versions share a common front cover, the colour scheme varying with reprinting, and both have, or should have, a front inner flap bearing a listing of the Courage and Friendship booklets in print at the time of publication.

Fig. 1

Fig.1 gives the general idea, this one being known to date from 1944 by its imprint and a gift inscription. In version 1, the quatrains are unnumbered, and the final quatrain is as shown in Fig.2. In version 2 the quatrains are numbered, and the final quatrain is as shown in Fig.3. (Note the decorative surround in the latter, not present in the former.)

Fig 2

In an article on my website, I have tried to establish a chronology for the Courage and Friendship series (which seems to have run to 11 titles by 1949), and to use it in dating the Rubaiyats. But this is tentative, and I would be very grateful if readers of this blog who own copies of either version 1 or version 2 (or both) could supply details and images of their copy / copies. Particularly key are the colour scheme of the front cover and the series listing on the front inner flap (as in Fig.1), plus any dated gift inscriptions (or, in the case of ex-library copies, any accession date.)

Fig. 3

The link to my website article is: http://www.bobforrestweb.co.uk/The_Rubaiyat/N_and_Q/Whitcombe_and_Tombs/Whitcombe_and_Tombs.htm

The article also deals with other W&T editions of the Rubaiyat, but, to avoid any possible confusion, it seems best to deal with the Courage & Friendship versions first on this blog item, and to tackle the other editions in a future post.

The Quarantine Quatrains: A new Rubaiyat

September 10, 2020

Charles Mugleston has alerted us to the publication of a reworking of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam which has been created by the Revd Dr Malcolm Guite, together with the artist Roger Wagner. The book has been the subject of a recent article in the Church Times – see https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2020/4-september/features/features/pandemic-inspired-poetry-the-moving-finger-writes-again.

The new Rubaiyat is called The Quarantine Quatrains and it has been inspired by Dr Guite’s reaction to the Covid 19 pandemic. He writes: “Somehow this Mediaeval Persian reflection on life’s joys and sorrows, on how our mortal frailty intensifies our brief pleasures and deepens our love and intimacy, all seemed to speak immediately into our time, …”

ROGER WAGNER Artwork for the first section of The Quarantine Quatrains: A new Rubaiyat

“At first, there was a sense of time opening up, …” “But then there was a sense, of course, of frailty: a renewed awareness of my own and other people’s mortality, and a deepening empathy for all those for whom this crisis was bringing real suffering, and, in some cases, death.”

The Quarantine Quatrains: A new Rubaiyat is being produced with a limited print run and all profits are going to the Care Workers Charity. It is available for £15 including p&p from rogerwagner.co.uk .

The first two verses of this new Rubaiyat run as follows.

1

Awake to what was once a busy day
When you would rush and hurry on your way
Snatch at your breakfast, start the grim commute
But time and tide have turned another way.

2

For now, like you, the day is yawning wide
And all its old events are set aside
It opens gently for you, takes its time
And holds for you — whatever you decide.

Summer 2020 edition of Omariana

August 10, 2020

The Summer 2020 edition of Omariana arrived in our inbox late last week. It is always a pleasure to receive new editions of this newsletter which is compiled and produced by Jos Coumans of the Netherlands Omar Khayyam Society. Omariana provides information about new editions of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, and books, articles and other new material relating to the Rubaiyat, Khayyam, FitzGerald and more. We are always amazed at how Jos manages to locate interesting and unusual developments in Rubaiyat related publications and activities, which greatly enrich our knowledge of this wide ranging world.

This issue of Omariana contains, among other things, notes on Turkish and Spanish translations and on several articles dealing with more philosophical aspects of the quatrains. There is also mention of a provocative and topical blog post by Juan Cole, author of a new English translation of the Rubaiyat. The post is entitled ‘Fundamentalist Pandemics. What Evangelicals Could Learn From The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam‘.

Congratulations to Jos Coumans on a further valuable contribution to our knowledge.

A new quatrain in Temenos Academy Review

August 10, 2020

Charles Mugleston has sent us the news that a new quatrain of his has been published in the Temenos Academy Review no 23. His contribution is entitled Homage to Hakuin, and is on page 260 of the Journal; for more information see www.temenosacademy.org. The Temenos Academy is an educational charity which offers education in philosophy and the arts in the light of the sacred traditions of East and West. The word temenos means ‘a sacred precinct’.

Thanks to Charles for this information.

The Exhaustive Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

July 22, 2020

Austin Torney has continue his efforts to enhance, interpret and illustrate the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam and Edward FitzGerald.  His latest work, entitled The Exhaustive Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam—With Roots/Relateds, Lore, and Metaphysics is the subject of several recent posts by him on the blog of the Omar Khayyam Club of America https://theomarkhayyamclubofamerica.wordpress.com/.

Austin describes his latest production as follows.

austintorneyROK

This illustrated and illuminated hardcover presentation of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam is meant to be the final and exhaustive rendering of Edward FitzGerald’s 115 quatrains that he transmogrified from Omar’s Persian Farsi Arabic.

The breadth and depth of FitzOmar has been greatly expanded upon herein by the collection and improvement of the FitzGerald-based root quatrains, plus variants, and related Omar quatrains from the public domain, along with my own inspired quatrains, and some of Positor’s, and putting their illustrated quatrains right after the best FitzOmar rendition selected from his four versions—which overall pictorial presentation beats just reading though some very long texts, such as the Bodleian and Calcutta manuscripts.”

As we understand it, there is to be a hard cover printed edition, but Austin has also posted links to various pdf versions that can be accessed for free, together with accompanying videos with illustrations and music.

Our image shows the cover of one of the earlier versions of the Rubaiyat produced by Austin Torney.   Information on his previous work is given in a number of posts on this blog.  The most recent of these posts is on https://omarkhayyamrubaiyat.wordpress.com/2020/02/11/more-work-on-the-rubaiyat-by-austin-torney/.

An Omarian Alphabet

July 14, 2020

Joe Howard has sent us a very interesting article on an unusual presentation of Rubaiyat verses.  This is shown below.  Our thanks to Joe for sharing his research with us all.

Fig 1

Fig.1. Clarke W Walton

An Omarian Alphabet (Coumans 969) was arranged and published, in a limited edition of 75 copies, by Clarke Willis Walton, at The Sunnyside Press, in 1935. I am unaware of either a readily available detailed description or pictures of the book: both are provided here, together with additional context.

CWW (1885-1938, Fig. 1.) spent his professional career associated with the manufacturing of cotton goods in the Carolinas, USA. He installed a small, hand-operated printing press in a wooden outbuilding on his property in Monroe NC and went on to establish a national reputation as a respected amateur printer and publisher. Walton produced a range of books under the auspices of his two presses: Sunnyside (founded 1931) and Lilliputian (founded with W. Hoyte Maness). These included at least 15 small edition/numbered limited editions, of the Rubaiyat1. This is a truly remarkable contribution from an amateur.

Fig 2

Fig.2. Title page

For An Omarian Alphabet (Fig.2.), CWW selected 26 quatrains by 24 translators (2 each from Fitzgerald and Thompson) and associated each quatrain with a different letter of the alphabet. To each quatrain he added a caption of the form, A IS for Allah, the Lord of Omar or M IS for Morning, time for youth to rise (see Table 1. at end). With the single exception of the letter “X”, the alliterative words in the captions (eg Allah and Morning above) were chosen from the matching quatrains.   Walton then assigned the quatrains amongst four different typographers, including himself, for typesetting by hand. The typographers are identified only by their initials (CWW II, WHH, RLP and PHJ) on the pages they typeset. Each quatrain is printed on a separate page with the initial letter of each of the captions illuminated in black and overlaid with yellow (see Fig.3a &b.). The left and right pages are decorated with grapes and a rose, respectively.

Fig 3a

Fig.3a. Pages from An Omarian Alphabet

Fig 3b

Fig.3b. More pages from An Omarian Alphabet

The booklet (17.5 by 12 cm) is bound with blue paper that has been folded along the top edge. This serves to conceal the stapling at the spine. The title is printed on the front in gold (Fig 4.) and the free endpapers are yellow/gold.

Fig 4

Fig.4. Front cover of An Omarian Alphabet

My copy has two interesting additions. These imply that it was (one of) Walton’s personal copies. The inside rear cover contains a list of 31 handwritten names. The handwriting is similar to that found on official documents filled out by Walton. Some of these names (e.g. Potter, Saklatwalla) will be familiar to Rubaiyat enthusiasts.  I suggest that this is a (partial) record of those who were either presented with or purchased copies of the Alphabet. A, G Potter’s name has a 2 (presumably 2 copies) beside it. A large portion of Potter’s Rubaiyat collection is in The Collection of Material about Omar Khayyam (Collection 378). UCLA Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library2. His copy of The Omarian Alphabet is listed as item 47 in the Related Material subsection of the Finding Aid. This listing includes the intriguing comment “Initials coloured by A G Potter”. With the library currently closed (Covid 19 related), I have not been able to check with them, but I’m wondering if this is a misunderstanding about the printed yellow overlay-which is not always well-registered-see illuminated “G” in Fig.3b.and the “A” in Fig.2.

Fig 5

Fig.5. Part of letter from Ted Freter

The second addition was a pleasant surprise. The bottom edge of the rear cover has been taped internally to form a pocket. Inside I found a typed letter (dated 4-19-35) sent from Washington DC. and addressed to Dear Clarke, from a Ted Freter. Freter’s name is on the list of names mentioned above. Both the letter contents and my internet searches imply that Freter was an actor. In this letter, Freter expresses his delight at receiving an Easter gift of copy number 2 of the Alphabet which would “…occupy a preferred place amongst my Khayyamiana.” and refers to it as “…a little gem.” However, he quickly progresses to express “…my only regret is that I didn’t proof read it.” Freter then lists several typographical errors and asks some questions (Fig. 5.). He does, however, go on to provide encouragement with “It could have twice its imperfections, and still be priceless.”

There are other typesetting errors/inconsistencies. For example;, on all the captions, both letters of “IS” are capitalized;  on the page for the letter “G”, the alliterative word, “garden”, is not capitalized; a comma is not always present between the translator’s name and the verse numbers; the Michael Kerney verse (letter “Y”) has no number  (it should be  XXXVI), and an invalid Roman numeral (CCCCXVI) is used for the Corvo-Nicolas verse (letter “Z”). It should read CDXVI.

I have a great deal of information about CWW (life, publications, printing press, published Rubaiyats, other publications, personal Rubaiyat collection etc.) which I am intending to write-up.

For three of the typesetters of the Alphabet, only their initials are known. Does any reader know their names or have any other information about them? [Please comment below].

My sincere thanks to Sandra and Bill Martin for recommending that I compile and insert Table 1.

References and comments

  1. Fourteen of these are listed in the Indices of J Coumans The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam an updated bibliography under the headings Walton, Sunnyside Press and Lilliputian Press. Item 413 is also from the Sunnyside Press, but is not in listed in that section of the Indices.

2. http://content.cdlib.org/view?docId=tf1489n72d&doc.view=entire_text&brand=default

 

Table 1.  Listing of translators whose verses are included in An Omarian Alphabet

Author Quatrain Year Caption Comment
A Whinfield CLXX ? A IS for Allah, the Lord of Omar. 168 in 1893 edition. 305 in other editions
B Cadell XXI 1899 B IS for Bahram, a great old sport.
C Shrubsole CLIII 1920 C IS for Contentment, hard to find.
D Dooman CLXLVIII 1911 D IS for Dowry, love to the bride.
E Pasha LXXXVIII 1913 E IS for Enemy, a friend to make. See Potter 335
F Noxon VI ? F IS for Fate, in another’s hand. I cannot trace Noxon
G Lister IX 1920/ 1929 G IS for Garden, that lovely place I was not able to confirm
H Guiterman XIIa 1909 H IS for Heaven, not a cash item. Actually is XIIIa
I Fitzgerald XCIII 1872 I IS for Idols, loved so long.
J Heron-Allen IX 1898 J IS for Jug, once a man.
K Talbot XXII 1908 K IS for Khayyam, sold for a song.
L Garner I XXI 1888 L IS for Life, fleeting fast.
M Marvin I 1902 M IS for Morning, time for youth to rise. Flowers of Song from many lands, Pafraets Book Company, Troy New York page 94 “SUNRISE”
N Thompson CXCI 1906 N IS for naught, all that is known.
O Cutter XVI 1900 O IS for Oblivion, cheat it if you can.
P Roe CXV 1910 P IS for Pots, seen at the potter’s.
Q McCarthy LII 1889 Q IS for Question, all conclusions vain. Quatrains not numbered. see page XVII
R Powell IX 1897 R IS for Rose, like a Ruby rare. The Pageant page 107, Potter 364
S Le Gallienne CLI 1902 *S IS for Soul, the senses catching on fire. Actually CLII: Page 67
T Whinfield XLV 1893 T IS for Tent, brief dwelling of the soul. Actually XLIV
U Fitzgerald XXIX 1859 U IS for Universe, and why not knowing.
V Payne XX 1898 V IS for Verse, written on a cup.
W Whitney LVI 1903 W IS for Wine, Omar well knows.
X Thompson XXX 1906 X IS for things unknown, as Omar’s Algebra may tell.
Y Michael Kerney None 1887 Y IS for Youth, the bird of joy. XXXVI
Z Corvo-Nicolas CCCCXVI 1903 Z IS for Zal, mighty Rustan’s sire. CDXVI
 

* The typesetter has inserted the word “on” which does not occur in the original: The soul is but the senses catching fire,

 

The Art of Persia on BBC TV

June 25, 2020

BBC Art of Persia

Many UK readers of this blog will already know that BBC television is currently broadcasting a four part [correction – only three parts] series entitled the Art of Persia.  This series, presented by Samira Ahmed on BBC Four, is as much concerned with the long history and cultural heritage of present day Iran as with its art narrowly defined, and the BBC team was given wide access to historical sites in Iran.  There is much to be learned from the programme about how the Persian nation and culture have survived over the two and a half millennia of their existence, and we have been delighted to find that the programme is devoting time to Persian literature as well as the more decorative arts.  So far, in the second episode, there have been sections relating to Ferdousi and to Omar Khayyam.  The latter is centred visually on Khayyam’s tomb in Nishapur, and includes the recital of verses in Farsi and English.  We were amused to see that the presenter refers to a copy of FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat from 1947, illustrated by R S Sherriffs, rather than one of the more famous editions illustrated by, for example, Dulac or Pogany, or one with Persian miniatures.

The episodes of the programme are available for the next year on BBC i-player https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000k48j.  Maybe they will turn up on YouTube in due course, as has happened with other BBC programmes on Persia.  The section dealing specifically with Omar Khayyam starts around 45 minutes into the second episode.

Gordon Ross – a talented and versatile artist

June 22, 2020

RF Ross3Bob Forrest has been investigating the life and works of Gordon Ross (1872-1946).  Ross is one of the few Rubaiyat artists who illustrated all 75 quatrains in FitzGerald’s first edition of the poem.  The illustrations appeared in a mass market paperback edition of the poem, published by Pocket Books Inc., New York, in 1941.  This edition went through several reprints up to 1948, but Ross’ work has been relatively neglected,  perhaps because of its small paperback format, and black and white illustrations, neither of which do full justice to their technical quality and imaginative content.

The full article on Ross, published by Bob, is available on his web site at http://www.bobforrestweb.co.uk/The_Rubaiyat/N_and_Q/Gordon_Ross/Gordon_Ross.htm. In it, Bob provides an analysis and interpretation of some of the more interesting of Ross’ illustrations for the Rubaiyat, as well as giving the results of his research on the artist’s life, and his many other works.  Gordon Ross was a Scot who emigrated to the United States in his early 20’s and remained there for the rest of his life.  He worked almost entirely as a professional illustrator and the books he illustrated range from a volume of Impertinent Poems to classics by Dickens, Shakespeare and others.  He also worked extensively for magazines.  In his paper, Bob provides a large number of images of  Ross’ work on different types of book, illustrating the artist’s versatility and skill.

The article is well worth a further look.  Our thanks to Bob for drawing our attention to another interesting Rubaiyat artist, and for sharing his work with us.

A special binding of the Rubaiyat rediscovered

June 17, 2020

Roger Paas has sent us a link to an article about a specially bound copy of the Rubaiyat recently acquired for the Bishop Collection, which is linked to Mosher Books.  The book in question is a 1900 edition published by Mosher, which was finely bound by a London bindery W J Morrell.  The article is available on https://thomasbirdmosher.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Omar-2020.pdf.  It tell the story of how Philip Bishop first missed the opportunity to acquire this unique copy and then, 27 years later, had a second chance to add it to the Bishop collection.

Paas Morrell binding 0620

The image above shows the qualities of this binding.  One of the interesting features of the work, which will be evident to many who know the early editions of the Rubaiyat, is how it reflects elements in the design of the Vedder Rubaiyat which appeared 16 years earlier.   Both are great examples of the art work inspired by the verses of Khayyam and FitzGerald.  Philip Bishop’s article tells something of the history of this book but we would love to know more about Morrell’s thinking behind this particular work, and their history general.  We have seen a few examples of other bindings from the firm, but we understand that they closed sometime in the 1990’s, having operated since the 1860’s.  If any readers know more about the firm and its work, please comment below.  And our thanks for Roger for this alert.

It is worth adding that The Mosher Press website, https://thomasbirdmosher.net/, contains valuable information on other special copies of the Rubaiyat, and relevant bibliographical material.  It is worth looking at.