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“Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam” Illustrated by Amos Stack

May 22, 2022

A couple of years ago, we posted an article by Joe Howard on an unuusal presentation of Rubaiyat verses in the form of An Omarian Alphabet – see https://omarkhayyamrubaiyat.wordpress.com/2020/07/14/an-omarian-alphabet/. This book was created in 1935 by an American Clarke W Walton, and, in his earlier article, Joe promised us more information about other Rubaiyat works by this publisher. Joe has now tracked down a Walton edition of the verses illustrated by Amos Stack, and he tell us more about this copy below. Our thanks to Joe for giving us a further instalment of the Clarke Walton story.

The fifteen editions of the Rubaiyat1 published by the amateur printer and publisher Clarke W Walton were issued in very limited numbers and are not readily available either for purchase or, as far as I am aware, as on-line digital copies.

One of them, the “Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam” (Coumans 74), published in 1934, includes five illustrations by Amos Stack. The text is Fitzgerald’s fifth version with all 101 quatrains. This book is quarter bound, with brown boards (5.25 by 7.5 ins.) and the title on the front in black: there are 44 numbered pages.  The five illustrations are shown below (Fig. 1.).

It appears to me that Amos has taken his inspiration for the male costumes from Edmund J Sullivan. The illustration for quatrain 1 (the frontispiece), includes a silhouette, which is quite different from the other four. These illustrations are straightforward interpretations of parts of the relevant quatrains. For example, the image for quatrain 1 combines the themes of awakening and sunrise, while that for quatrain 7, charming though it is, and while representing the quoted half line, brings to my mind a rather convivial “afternoon tea”, with no indications of the interpretations often associated with the remaining three and a half lines.

Internet searches did not yield information on an artist or illustrator with a name including both “Amos” and “Stack”. In many ways this is unsurprising. Clarke had extremely close ties with his community at Monroe, North Carolina. These included involving them in his publication and printing work. For example, Clark published (Coumans 255) “Illustrations for an Omar” containing photographs taken by Walter C Sprouse. Walter was well-known professional photographer and a resident of Monroe NC. Also, in my previous article1 I noted that the 24 quatrains of his “Omarian Alphabet” were imperfectly typeset by three individuals identified only by their initials. A magazine2, “The Bookmark” edited and published by Clarke, includes an article describing the “Omarian Alphabet”, Here it states, “The book is set and printed by schoolboys, each boy having printed his initials inconspicuously in small type on his pages.” One of these schoolboys was his son (Clarence Wilson Walton: CWW II). Clarke’s children and their friends regularly used his press to publish their own newspapers and notices.

Searches of the 1930 and 1940 census records yield two people in Monroe NC with names including “Amos” and “Stack”: one was an elderly judge, the other, much younger, a “cotton buyer”. In the local newspaper the cotton buyer is routinely referred to simply as “Amos Stack”, while the judge is referred to more formally. Since Clarke occupied a senior position in the local cotton mill, I suggest that this cotton buyer is the amateur Rubaiyat artist. Amos Milton Stack (1894-1981) moved to Monroe in 1922 and remained there until he died.

“About it and About”

The contents page of the Rubaiyat includes sections titled “About it and About” (p. 32-36) and “Index” (p. 37-44). Clarke was the author of both. In the first (dated September 22, 1934), he explains that he wanted to produce a Rubaiyat on his own press but that he was slow at setting type and was usually disappointed with his efforts to produce a creditable piece of printing. He therefore decided to have the work published under “another imprint”: the printer was “The Monroe Enquirer”, the town newspaper. Clarke then discusses the backgrounds and contents of the five Fitzgerald editions and provides useful information about how to identify each. While discussing the Fifth Version, Clarke states his opinion that Fitzgerald’s revisions are “…so few and minor, one may be led to believe that Fitzgerald considered it about as he wished to leave it. I am therefore using the Fifth Version in this present edition.”

Referring to the 8-page, double-column “Index” Clarke explains “I have endeavored to list some of the outstanding lines and passages, and all the capitalized words that appear in the body of sentences. The figures given in the index refer to quatrains.”

Clark completes this contribution with a list of 19 prior editions of the Rubaiyat.

A second publication

 In the November 1934 edition2 of“The Bookmark”, Clarke gave notice, without explanation, of a one-off price increase, from the usual 5¢ to 40¢, for the December issue and explained that it would be available only to regular subscribers-not distributed through the Mailing Bureaus of the Amateur Press Association.

For this December3 issue, in addition to four pages of the regular contents, he inserted without changes the entire Rubaiyat containing Amos Stack’s illustrations. The lower part of Amos Stack’s illustration of quatrain 7 is on the front cover of the magazine (Fig. 1.). It appears that the book and magazine editions of this Rubaiyat were published within, at most, 2-3 months of one another.

References

  1. https://omarkhayyamrubaiyat.wordpress.com/2020/07/14/an-omarian-alphabet/
  2. The Bookmark, Pack III. No.7 April 1935, Edited and Published by Clarke W Walton.
  3. The Bookmark, Pack III. No.3 December 1934, Edited and Published by Clarke W Walton.
2 Comments leave one →
  1. Joseph Howard permalink
    May 22, 2022 1:35 pm

    Thanks S&B, Very nice introduction! The article looks good. Thank you. I’m currently in the spectacular red-rocks country of Sedona (Arizona). The high temperature for yesterday was ca 33C. The air is dry though, so it was quite pleasant. With cloudless skies, the temperature dropped very rapidly after sunset. Wonderful evening!

    Best wishes.

    Joe

    • May 22, 2022 8:01 pm

      Glad you are happy with the post Joe. Thank you for another interesting contribution. Enjoy the rest of your travels. Rather hotter in Arizona than it is here in the UK.

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