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Unger 1906—A One of a Kind Illustrated Copy of FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat?

January 11, 2015

We have received the following interesting information and request from Danton H O’Day.  Please post a comment if you can add to what is known about this special copy of the Rubaiyat.

I have a fairly large collection of Rubaiyats (~500 books plus some Omariana). One of the books in my collection appears to be a unique, one-of-a-kind illustrated volume. I’d like to learn more about it if possible. Here is the basic information about this book.

The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, Tr. by Edward FitzGerald, 1st Ed., 1906. 1 pg. Quote by John Hay, 1 pg. “Omar Khayyam”; “Illuminated by [signed] Frank Unger, 1906” with 86 calligraphed/decorated pages edged in gold; Brown leather cover with title and embossed design in gold on front and spine, gold design on back cover corners, elaborate gold/green embossed design on inside front and back cover, floral endpapers (8” x 11”); No publisher; VG++-fine; professionally bound original watercolours; one-of-a-kind volume, signed by Unger (minor stains on cover due to handling; pages slightly age-browned).

dod1   dod2dod3





Front cover                                         Inside Front Cover                           Back cover

The following are some sample illustrations from the 86 calligraphed/decorated pages in the book. While the majority of illustrations are for a single quatrain a several pages cover two, three or more quatrains.

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dod6 dod7















The last illustration is of the opening bars of “Moon of My Delight” a song written by Lisa Lehmann who has written other songs based on FitzGerald’s Rubáiyát.

While there seems to be a dearth of information on Frank Unger online, Bill Martin and Sandra Mason were more successful than I in gaining some additional web-based information on the artist. It turns out that Unger also “Lettered and Illuminated” a limited edition book of poetry “Vital Moments” by Charles Marshall Darrach that was published in 1910 ( I don’t know if there are any other works by him.

Since this appears to be a unique volume, I’m also interested in knowing if anyone has any suggestions about publishers who might publish such a book.

Danton H. O’Day

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Farhad Diba permalink
    January 11, 2015 11:29 am

    Yes, it does seem to be rare.
    I have over 1000 editions of the Rubaiyat (in western languages only) but not this one.

  2. January 11, 2015 3:59 pm

    How wonderful! Might it have been privately commissioned and published? The pages are in such a variety of styles. And the ‘calligraphy’ at times seems less than professional. How wonderful also, to read messages from two Omarphiles who between them have some 1500 editions of EFG’s work! Would he have been amazed!

    Thanks again to Bill and Sandra for providing this venue.

  3. January 11, 2015 5:36 pm

    Thanks for the reminder about the BBC programmes and for the up to date links. It’s thoroughly worth watching if you haven’t seen it.

    And thanks to David for kind comments. Always appreciated!

  4. dantonoday permalink
    January 12, 2015 2:41 pm

    Thanks for the comments and the link to the BBC series. I also see that I have some work to do as a collector but I’m working on it!

  5. Thomas Goldwasser permalink
    May 7, 2015 12:10 am

    Unger seems to have been rather a specialist in this form. I have a similar album and have seen another, though the texts of those are not from Omar.

  6. dantonoday permalink
    May 8, 2015 1:53 pm

    Thomas, could you email me a picture or two from your album?
    BTW, an early reply by Deal2401 said the calligraphy of Unger was unprofessional. Clearly they didn’t realize that that “calligraphy” was done in watercolour not with a pen. I think it was my misuse of the word calligraphy that might have led to this mistake.

  7. November 7, 2015 7:27 am

    I have a similar book dated 1909. It is very unique, with the first page saying “lettered and illuminated by Frank Unger.” My book contains many pages of beautifully lettered quote.

  8. November 7, 2015 4:03 pm

    Hi KG, Are any of the pages the same as those I posted on this site? If not can you submit some to the site or send me a few jpgs of the pages ( Thanks, Danton


  1. Frank E. Unger illustrates the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, 1906 | Omar Khayyam Rubaiyat

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