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Lotus edition 1918 – an unknown artist and strange symbolism

April 26, 2018

We recently received a message from a fellow Rubaiyat enthusiast, Alan Birch, reminding us about a strange limited edition of the Rubaiyat, published by Lotus Library Publications in Singapore probably in 1918.  This version is no 174 in Potter’s Bibliography and it contains 17 full page illustrations in black and white plus other decorations.  Two illustrations are reproduced here, with thanks to Alan Birch.

There is no obvious indication of who was the artist who contributed to the volume.  As can be seen, the illustrations have a strong oriental theme, many seeming to be set in an opium den, and they contain much symbolism.  They have always represented something of a mystery to the researcher.  Now coincidentally Danton O’Day, in his new book on Rubaiyat Artists from 1914-1929 (see previous post), has looked at the Lotus edition, and made a suggestion about the identity of the unknown artist.  He presents evidence that Mera K. Sett, illustrator of another Rubaiyat edition published by Galloway and Porter in 1914, could be the Lotus artist. This conclusion is based on some hidden messages in the front matter of the book and on aspects of the illustrations that are common to both artists. He also explains the different artistic styles.

Danton’s analysis is persuasive and is certainly worth serious consideration.  We wonder whether any other readers have looked at the question of the identity of this unknown artist and/or analysed the meanings of the strange illustrations in the Lotus edition.  If you have, please share your findings and thoughts by commenting below.  And our thanks to Alan Birch for bringing our attention back to yet another unusual edition of the Rubaiyat.

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