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The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam and a Science Fantasy Magazine

December 22, 2017

Joe Howard recently sent us the following information about another largely unknown illustrator of a number of quatrains from FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat.  Our thanks to Joe for sharing his findings.

In 1947, Donald Bryne Day (1919-1978) started the quarterly magazine Fanscient under the auspices of the Portland Science Fantasy Society, Portland Oregon. He continued as its editor until it was discontinued in 1951. In the introduction to the first issue he wrote, “Does the RUBAIYAT illustration fit the zine? Frankly that went in because we didn’t have anything else ready. There’s more if you want them but let us know about that…”.

His Rubaiyat illustrations proved popular and were featured in each of the first six issues of this respected, idiosyncratic publication. Every issue of the magazine featured drawings of naked women, as do five of the six Rubaiyat illustrations. Objectification of women, including drawings of scantily clad or naked women, were a common feature of pulp and other publications of the period,

Day’s drawings illustrate eight quatrains, all quoted in full. With one apparent exception, these are contained within the frames of the drawings. The apparent exception is the illustration of quatrain 29, published in the first issue, where the quatrain is contained in a separate large box. As the accompanying picture (on left) shows, space had in fact been left to insert the quatrain within the frame of the drawing. Day has included the initial letter “I” of the first word, “Into”, formed in his characteristic style by an unshaded area within an enlarged and shaded rectangle. The other seven quatrains all have this feature. This suggests to me that, in this first example, he was simply using-up blank space in his new magazine. Except for the initial letters, the quatrains are typed. This may simply have been expedient for the magazine publication-one hopes he had more elegant plans for the completed artwork.

Day’s illustration for quatrain 29 shows a nude woman “reclining” in a river with a rock close by. The nicely drawn flow-lines of the water clearly relate to “…willy nilly flowing”. Closer observation reveals that Day has included multiple other nude figures on the body of the woman.

His illustration for quatrain 38 is shown below. Full texts of the magazines and each of Day’s six illustrations can be found at:

A 2014 PhD thesis states that Day had produced these drawings for a book publication. I’m attempting to obtain additional information from the author of the thesis.


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