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The Whitcombe & Tombs Rubaiyats

September 11, 2020

Bob Forrest has sent us the following contribution, which tells about editions of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam published ‘down-under’ in the 1940’s. He is seeking additional information from any readers who possess copies of these books. If you can help with Bob’s enquiry, please comment below and/or send us information via Bob writes:

In the 1940s the New Zealand firm of Whitcombe and Tombs published a series of Courage and Friendship booklets, #2 of which was The Rubaiyat (FitzGerald’s first edition.) There were two versions of it. Version 1 was certainly first published in 1941, with version 2 probably being first published in 1945. Neither version was actually dated, and nor were their various reprints, which is what makes their chronology difficult to establish. Both versions share a common front cover, the colour scheme varying with reprinting, and both have, or should have, a front inner flap bearing a listing of the Courage and Friendship booklets in print at the time of publication.

Fig. 1

Fig.1 gives the general idea, this one being known to date from 1944 by its imprint and a gift inscription. In version 1, the quatrains are unnumbered, and the final quatrain is as shown in Fig.2. In version 2 the quatrains are numbered, and the final quatrain is as shown in Fig.3. (Note the decorative surround in the latter, not present in the former.)

Fig 2

In an article on my website, I have tried to establish a chronology for the Courage and Friendship series (which seems to have run to 11 titles by 1949), and to use it in dating the Rubaiyats. But this is tentative, and I would be very grateful if readers of this blog who own copies of either version 1 or version 2 (or both) could supply details and images of their copy / copies. Particularly key are the colour scheme of the front cover and the series listing on the front inner flap (as in Fig.1), plus any dated gift inscriptions (or, in the case of ex-library copies, any accession date.)

Fig. 3

The link to my website article is:

The article also deals with other W&T editions of the Rubaiyat, but, to avoid any possible confusion, it seems best to deal with the Courage & Friendship versions first on this blog item, and to tackle the other editions in a future post.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. Barry Traish permalink
    September 11, 2020 11:51 pm

    I scanned my copy at 300dpi in 2013 and placed it here:

    There are other scanned copies on the net, due to the Somerton Man connection, such as Jason Wells’ copy which is here:

    Fascinating reading, especially the linked article. Great work.

  2. September 12, 2020 8:10 am

    Thanks, Barry. That is helpful.

  3. gordon1552 permalink
    September 17, 2020 8:18 am

    Hello, I chatted with Barry earlier regarding a scanned copy I have. It is a W&T but not a Courage and Friendship version but it has a dated inscription as you will see. It has the name of Williamson written in and he date 1943. It may be the well known Williamson theatrical family in Sydney from those days.

    I very much appreciate the work that you have put into this article and hope this may be of some help. There is another copy I am aware of and I have contacted the owner:

  4. September 17, 2020 10:13 am

    Thanks, Gordon, for your comment and your scans. It looks like you have a copy of the RGT edition which is also covered in Bob’s article, and will be the subject of a further post her in the near future.

  5. September 17, 2020 3:55 pm

    Thanks, Gordon – Barry said he thought you’d be in touch. Your copy is an RGT edition, of which there are two versions, these to be the subject of another post in the next day or two. Meanwhile, could you please supply a scan of the front cover of your copy ? It’s the quickest way to see which it is. By the way, I read the year of the gift inscription in your copy as 1944, not 1943 (???)

    • gordon1552 permalink
      September 18, 2020 6:59 am

      I stand corrected, 1944 it is.. 🙂

  6. September 18, 2020 12:35 pm

    Many thanks, Gordon – this is an RGT edition version 2, and its gift inscription means it was published earlier than I thought (1948, on the basis of Sandra & Bill’s copy.) This is puzzling, because version 1 can’t be earlier than 1944. Thinking cap back on, I think!

    • gordon1552 permalink
      September 18, 2020 10:42 pm

      Good, I am glad it has contributed, the lady who gave it to me to scan was a dealer in antiques and collectibles, it was a couple of years ago but I still have her email if needed.

      What’s life without a little mystery and intrigue!

  7. September 19, 2020 3:00 pm

    Yes, it might be useful to have the lady’s email address, if she doesn’t mind. Thanks. You never know – sometimes research takes a big leap forward from the smallest of leads.

  8. Mark permalink
    December 12, 2020 12:49 pm

    There are two Rubaiyats for sale here;

  9. Anna permalink
    December 14, 2020 11:47 am

    And here

    • December 27, 2020 3:59 pm

      Thanks, Anna – I bought this one and the others flagged up by Mark, all from the grandson of a former Whitcombe & Tombs employee, as it happens.


  1. The Whitcombe & Tombs Rubaiyats part 2 – Hardback editions | Omar Khayyam Rubaiyat
  2. Some more information on the Whitcombe & Tombs Rubaiyats | Omar Khayyam Rubaiyat

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