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Evidence that the unknown artist of the Lotus edition could be W G Stirling

May 2, 2018

The possibility that the unknown artist of the Lotus Library edition of 1918 could be W G Stirling was raised by Jos Coumans in the previous post.  Bob Forrest has been doing some further digging and has come up with some strong evidence to support this thesis.  Here are his findings in summary.

Following the appearance on the blog of my article claiming that the artist behind the Lotus edition of The Rubaiyat was someone with the initials W.G.S., both Douglas Taylor and Jos Coumans suggested W. G. Stirling. This at first seems unlikely since Stirling’s illustrations for A.W. Hamilton’s Malay translation of The Rubaiyat are totally different in style to those in the Lotus edition, and, where the illustrations in the Malay edition are signed, it is with W. Stirling or with the simple initial S, not with the monogram at the beginning of the Lotus edition. Nevertheless, it looks as though the illustrator of the Lotus edition was indeed W.G. Stirling.

Fig 1

Fig 2



Confirmation of this comes from Stirling’s article “Chinese Exorcists”, published in the Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society (June 1924), p.41-7. I here reproduce a scan of the title page (Fig.1) and a scan of the illustration on p.43 (Fig.2) – the latter shows various instruments of self-torture used by Chinese exorcists! To the lower right of Fig.2 is the tell-tale monogram of the Lotus edition, here conclusively linked, via Fig.1 to the name of W.G. Stirling.

Researches are continuing into this fascinating if little known artist – he was actually a Civil Servant in Malaya by profession – but he could clearly turn his hand to a variety of styles, and under a variety of signatures. Fig.3 shows the title page of his book John Chinaman and Fig,4 is one of its twenty-nine illustrations – note WGS’s Chinese signature in both.

Fig 3

Fig 4

As regards the man himself, he was born in England in 1887, and returned to England after retiring from the Civil Service, sometime in the 1930s. He died in London in 1951.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 2, 2018 3:10 pm

    A comment from Danton O’Day
    Strong Evidence Stirling is the Lotus Artist

    In my book “Early Artists of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, 1914-1929” I provide significant evidence that Mera K. Sett was the Lotus artist. That said, Bob Forrest’s interesting and compelling blog content provides strong evidence implicating W.G. Stirling as the unknown Lotus artist. I think his discovery of the WGS initials/monogram is most telling. Also, the Lotus artist’s images all centered around an opium theme which fits with Forrest’s discoveries of Stirling’s earlier interest in this topic.

    A question that remains to be answered is, why didn’t Stirling “sign” each of his pictures with his monogram as he did for the 1924 Asiatic Society article? Also, why would Stirling copy images from Sett’s earlier work? Finally, what is the significance of the enigmatic “New Lamps for Old” page which is the only place the WGS monogram appears in the book? These questions deserve answers.

    That said, I think Bob has revealed details about the Lotus artist that are strongly suggestive that W.G. Stirling illustrated the book throwing my evidence supporting Mera K. Sett as the artist into question. In the meantime, it’s great to see exciting new discoveries about the Rubaiyat come to light.

    Danton H. O’Day
    Oakville, Ontario, CANADA


  1. William George Stirling – a full write-up | Omar Khayyam Rubaiyat

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