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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:

http://cdm16736.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/ref/collection/p16736coll8/id/451

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?

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Fred Diba permalink
    August 29, 2017 3:12 pm

    I wonder if it is a coïncidence, or whether there is any connection.
    I have a book by the author Iran B.Jewett: “Edward Fitzgerald”, Boston: Twayne, 1977.
    (A chapter of it is also published in Harold Bloom’s edited: “Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam”, Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2004.)
    A graduate of Maryland and Georgetown, she worked as a professor of literature in Iran and in the US.
    It just seems curious that she had the same interest as Edward Taylor Jewett.
    She could possibly be the daughter of Edward & Mary Elizabeth Jewett, because Mary spent time in Persia as a missionary and wrote her book: “Reminiscences of My Life in Persia”. Cedar Rapids, Iowa: Torch Press, 1909.

    • August 30, 2017 10:40 am

      That is a very interesting possible connection, Fred. Maybe Bob Forrest, or someone else, will know more. Let’s see?

    • Bob Forrest permalink
      September 2, 2017 1:13 pm

      The only other information I have is from an obituary notice, clipped from an un-named newspaper, which says, “the only known surviving relative is a nephew, Freeborn Jewett of Southport Conn.”

  2. August 30, 2017 3:01 am

    It’s one of the best illustrated Rubaiyats I’ve seen! Perhaps I’ll restore it and enlarge it and put it in my blog eventually.

  3. October 3, 2017 12:52 am

    See my blog for the restored book: https://wordpress.com/view/austintorney.wordpress.com

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