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Illuminated Manuscript of Rubaiyat with William Morris style Embroidered Binding

July 7, 2021

Roger Pass has sent us information about a very special Rubaiyat manuscript which was produced in 1904.  This formed part of a special exhibition and catalogue, arranged by American antiquarian booksellers Phillip J Pirages, to mark the International Kelmscott Press Day on June 26, 2021.  We reproduce here the summary description from the catalogue together with images of the very special embroidered cover and a page of inside text.

Embroidered cover

More details about the volume and those who worked on it are given in the catalogue which can be accessed via the following link https://www.pirages.com/pages/books/ST15043/modern-illuminated-manuscript-on-vellum-bindings-embroidered-morris-company-style/rubaiyat-of-omar-khayyam .  This indicates, inter alia, that the binding may have been designed by May Morris, William Morris’ younger daughter.  The calligrapher, Percy J Smith, studied and worked in the UK, and was later involved with the design of letter forms for Great War monuments.

Our thanks to Roger for sending us this information.  It is a beautiful book, but alas the price quoted, $48,000, is way out of our reach!

Description of the Book

(BINDINGS – EMBROIDERED [MORRIS & COMPANY STYLE]). (MODERN ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM). SMITH, PERCY, Calligrapher. RUBAIYAT OF OMAR KHAYYAM. ([England]: 1904) 305 x 230 mm. (12 x 9”). [12] leaves. Translated by Edward FitzGerald.

BREATHTAKING CONTEMPORARY EMBROIDERED WHITE SILK, covers with leafy blue frame, central panel of upper cover with crewelwork depicting a Pre-Raphaelitestyle maiden playing a lute or rebec, with swirling, thorny roses in the background and tulips blooming at her feet, lower cover with blue banner bearing the name “Omar Khayyam” on a background of rose branches, smooth spine with 12 lozenges outlined in green thread, each enclosing an ivory or gold lily, all edges gilt. Initials in red, green, or burnished gold, title page with small chalice and grape cluster in burnished gold, first word of text, “AWAKE,” in large burnished gold majuscules. A breath of shelfwear to lower edge of boards, otherwise A MAGNIFICENT SPECIMEN IN OUTSTANDING CONDITION, SPARKLING INSIDE AND OUT. $48,000

Example of illuminated text
One Comment leave one →
  1. July 7, 2021 10:41 am

    Very lovely!

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