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Cecil G.Trew’s “Reveries…”: the continuing story.

September 13, 2019

The version of FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, illustrated by Cecil G Trew and published  in 1929, has been the subject of several earlier posts – see  https://omarkhayyamrubaiyat.wordpress.com/2016/03/22/a-valuable-write-up-on-cecil-g-trew-and-her-rubaiyat-illustrations/ and previous.  Joe Howard has sent us some more comments on the different forms in which this work was published.  Our thanks to Joe for sharing this.

I recently came across both a previously unreported version of C. G. Trew’s “Reveries of Omar” and a contemporary (1929) newspaper article1 describing the plans for publication of the “Reveries…”. Taken in conjunction, these documents shine new light on the publishing history of Trew’s work. They also raise additional questions.

The newspaper article1 explains that there are 25 drawings by Trew in the series. This number has previously been the subject of some uncertainty2. As its conclusion the article also states: “The sets, which are published in three editions, under the title “Reveries of Omar,” two of them de luxe and a third popular, will be placed on the market through the regular book-selling channels. The de luxe sets will sell at $250 and $100, the popular edition at $35 and $25. Individual prints will also be placed on the market”. As a comparison point for these high prices, a Chevrolet Roadster cost $525 in 1929.

Bob Forrest’s comprehensive article2 about Trew and her “Reveries…” contains a great deal of information which underpins this report. Specifically, it describes two editions. One is in the form of a loose-leaf portfolio with paper boards (this has many variants) and the second is bound in book form with velvet over paper boards (ref. 2; Fig 46 and note 4b).

Leather Portfolio Edition

JH trew0919 fig1

Fig. 1.  “Reveries of Omar Khayyam” with decorated leather portfolio cover (Artist Proof # 366) 

While researching auction records, I located two copies of an additional version of the “Reveries…” (Artist Proofs #366 and #372) which have identical decorative, debossed and coloured- leather portfolio covers (Fig.1.) These are described as “arts and crafts style”. The covers are flexible (without paper boards) and have leather lacing around their edges. I suggest that these are examples of the expensive deluxe editions and that purchasers had the option of personalizing them, in matching font, on the lower front.

Velvet/Suede Bound Edition

With just one reported copy2 of this bound form (Roger Paas), it was unclear to me whether this is as-issued, or is a loose portfolio copy that has been rebound. I now own a bound copy (Fig.2. left) that is identical to Roger’s, except that mine has been personalized with a small debossed name on the front cover. I describe the board covering as suede, a description supported by details on other bound volumes issued by the same publisher- see below. I suggest that these two bound volumes are examples of the lower-cost deluxe edition.

JH trew0919 fig2

Fig. 2. Suede-covered, bound versions of Trew’s Kaloprint portfolios: left is “Reveries of Omar” (Artist Proof #424) and right is “The Franklin Letter”.

I located two other (non-Rubaiyat) bound books of Kaloprints by Trew. These are bound like Fig. 2. left and are copies of numbered limited editions of 1000. The first (Artist Proof #274), is published by Danby’s and has “The Franklin Letter” stamped on the cover (Fig. 2. right). The owner states that it is actually a copy of “Choosing a Woman” and claims that this later title was used on the cover of the trade edition. A second copy of “The Franklin Letter“ (Artist Proof #117) is bound in red suede and published by The Kaloprint Corporation. It is bound identically to those in Fig. 2.

A third bound book of Kaloprints, titled “The Romance of El Camino Real” (Limited edition #251S of 1000), is of interest.  This is not illustrated by Trew but is bound identically to the suede copies above. A second copy of this book (Copy # XLIV) differs only in having the title “The King’s Highway” on the front cover. This trend of having the cover title different from that on the title page was described by Bob Forrest2 and remains puzzling. I wonder if a translation of the title on the front cover (Fig. 2. left) of the bound “Reveries…”, would reveal the same phenomenon? [Our reading of the Persian script is that it says ‘Rubaiyat of Hakim Omar Khayyam’.  eds.]

From the accumulated evidence, it appears that the suede binding with debossed title and dedicated name on the front, are features of the publisher’s house style, as is the unusually high number, 1000, chosen for Artist Proof sets i.e. these were not choices made by the artist. It is well recognized3 that the term “artist’s proof” is often used (misused?) in several different contexts.

Paper Boards Edition(s)

The “Reveries…” portfolios with paper boards are relatively more common, though still rare. This, and the use of the simpler paper board cover indicate they are a trade edition. I have not identified what differentiates the proposed two variants of the trade editions, however it may be that the publishers never executed their full marketing plan. Copies2 of Trew’s portfolio with a different title, “Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam”, but containing the same prints as the “Reveries…” version, do indicate that the initial plans were modified.

Other Issues

Trew was a prolific author and illustrator2 and advertisements for her many books can be readily found in searches of old newspapers. I’m surprised, therefore, to have not found a newspaper advertisement for her “Reveries…”. Note that the 1929 newspaper article1 explains “…they will be placed on the market through the regular book selling channels.” It is possible that the stock market crash, which occurred just 5 months after the newspaper article was published, influenced the marketing plans.

An obvious question is: What differentiating features of the expensive deluxe editions would justify the proposed prices? The elaborate and customized leather portfolio covers, for example, are very nice, but they alone simply cannot explain such a huge price differential over the trade edition(s). I have not handled the decorated leather versions, but the trade and lower-price deluxe versions have Kaloprints of the same size and quality and are printed and mounted in the same way on the same quality paper.

I had anticipated that one distinguishing feature of the more expensive editions would be their having original signatures accompanying each print. This practice is customary in the art-print market. This expectation is confounded because the decorative leather (deluxe) portfolio #372 is reported as having “stamped signatures”. My bound copy of the “Reveries…” also has printed signatures and yet the loose-leaf portfolio copy (# 274) with paper boards, has original (pencil) signatures. My loose-leaf portfolio version of the “Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam” has paper boards and lacks any Artists Proof designation or number – yet it has original signatures. So, no obvious pattern here!

The Kaloprints that I have seen have another surprising feature. The “framing” of each tipped-in print consists of hand-drawn pencil-lines. Rectangular prints have three lines (top and two sides). Some of these lines are roughly drawn with variations in line thickness and line density. The circular illustrations are surrounded by a pencil circle. On those that I have handled, the point where the circle is closed is obvious. It seems hardly credible that someone took the time to draw all these lines rather than print them-especially as the quatrains themselves are printed on the same page below the tipped-in illustrations.

If anyone has seen different versions or has other additional information, I would be grateful to receive details.  [Please comment below, or send a message via us, on sandrabill@omarkhayyamrubaiyat.com.]

References

  1. Drawings Interpret Quatrains Of Rubaiyat”, Los Angeles Times, May 5th 1929 [see next post]
  2. http://www.bobforrestweb.co.uk/The_Rubaiyat/N_and_Q/Cecil_G_Trew/Cecil_G_Trew.htm
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artist%27s_proof
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