Skip to content

Some more information on the Whitcombe & Tombs Rubaiyats

February 2, 2021

In September last year, we posted two items on editions of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, published by the New Zealand publishers Whitcombe & Tombs in the 1940’s – see and

The posts highlighted research done by Bob Forrest on these editions, particularly his attempts to clarify the dating of their publication. Bob has now obtained further information on the subject, notably a new copy of another book in the Courage and Friendship Booklet series, which helps to confirm his chronology for the publication of the series. He has also made some revisions to the analysis of the second set of Rubaiyats published by Whitcombe and Tombs which have illustrations by an unknown artist with initials R.G.T. The covers of two versions of these books are shown below.

The revised analysis is now incorporated in Bob’s full write up on the subject which can be found on We all owe a debt to Bob for his continuing efforts to try to sort out a complicated puzzle in Rubaiyat publication.

Ronald Balfour and his Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

December 20, 2020

The edition of FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, illustrated by Ronald Balfour, is well known and greatly loved by many Rubaiyat enthusiasts. One such is Bob Forrest, who has now produced an article on Balfour and his Rubaiyat. This summarises Bob’s recent research on an artist about whose background and career little was known until now.

Balfour’s illustrations for the Rubaiyat were published in book form by Constable in 1920. According to Bob’s investigations, the Rubaiyat was the first book to be illustrated by Balfour, who was better known as a designer, first for the fashion business and later in films. It appears that Balfour actually began to create his illustrations as early as 1913-14 when he was still in his teens, and there is something of a mystery about how he actually came to be given a contract for publication by a prestigious firm like Constable, when he still very young and with no reputation for book illustration.

In his article Bob discusses this question and tells us much about Balfour’s life as a member of higher British society; he was among other things a cousin of the British Prime Minister Arthur Balfour. Bob also provides many images of Balfour’s design work as well as a detailed interpretation of his illustrations for the Rubaiyat.

There is much more of interest in the article which can be found on the following link: As always, we are grateful to Bob for sharing his research with us all. In this case he has helped to fill what was a large gap in knowledge about an important Rubaiyat artist.

Seasonal Greetings

We take this opportunity to send all our readers and contributors seasonal greetings at the close of a difficult and stressful year for us all. The continuation of Rubaiyat research and the blog items submitted by many people have helped to create some sense of normality for many of us. We are grateful to everyone who has provided material to the blog through the year, and we look forward to continuing to publish the blog in what we hope will be more normal conditions in 2021.

Prints from the Quarantine Quatrains

December 1, 2020

Back in September we highlighted a new set of rubaiyat entitled the Quarantine quatrains – see The people who produced this work have just sent us an update on what they are doing. Malcolm Guite and Roger Wagner write as follows.

This is just to thank everyone who bought a copy of the Quarantine Quatrains. You will be glad to hear that the whole edition raised £5,500 for the Careworkers Charity which we are told will have supported at least 11 care workers who have had to isolate as a result of Covid-19. Sadly as the pandemic still continues the need has not diminished, and to raise some additional funds Roger has made a signed print of four of the images from the book, ten of which have been signed and inscribed by Malcolm with the last verse from the Quatrains. The profits from these ten prints, once the cost of printing and postage has been covered, will be donated to CWC. (These 10 special prints have now been sold)

You can find details of the new prints at The cost of the prints is £150 each (including postage and VAT).

Ceramic Mug(s) Modelled on E. J. Sullivan’s Famous Illustration

November 14, 2020

Joe Howard has sent us the following article about an interesting spin-off from the work of one well-known illustrator of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.

Edmund J. Sullivan’s 1913 illustration (Fig.1.) of the mug (jug?), accompanying quatrain LXIV, is well known by Rubaiyat enthusiasts. In his book1 about Sullivan’s art, James Thorpe comments: “The Omar Khayyam Club commissioned replicas of the mug illustrating verse LXIV. These were made by Arnold Bennet’s brother (Septimus) and used at their meetings.” There is no indication as to how they were used.

Fig.1. E J Sullivan’s illustration / Fig.2 Enoch Arnold Bennett / Fig.3 Septimus Bennett
of quatrain LXIV

Enoch Arnold Bennett (1867-1931) became a member of the OK Club of London in 1912. Bennett (Fig.2.) was an internationally celebrated author who produced 42 works of fiction, 22 of non-fiction and 12 plays. On the 150th anniversary of his birth a bronze statue of him was installed outside the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery in Hanley, Stoke on Trent.

Fig.4. Advertisement for Septimus Bennett’s business

Septimus Bennett (1877-1926), was an artist and designer (Fig.3.) who ran a studio in Hanley, Staffordshire, where he created designs and made models (Fig.4.) of ceramic items3. He also collaborated with his brother, Arthur, by providing designs for magazine covers.

In support of the war effort Septimus relocated, without his family, to Sheffield in 1915. He was employed as a munitions worker at the Vickers’ Holme Lane works, remaining there until the end of WW1. Septimus regularly sent details of Sheffield life and of work in a munitions factory to Arthur, who used them in newspaper and magazines articles. Septimus also kept a detailed diary, which formed the basis of a book4 published in 2001.

I am surprised that I am aware of only one ceramic mug (Fig. 5.) modelled on Sullivan’s drawing. The illustration and this ceramic mug differ in that (a) the band containing the fleur-de-lis pattern near the base of Sullivan’s illustration is replaced by the last line from quatrain LXIV:  “HE’S A GOOD FELLOW AND TWILL ALL BE WELL” and (b) the base of the ceramic mug is circular. Approximate dimensions of this mug are: 20cms tall without the lid and 28cms across the handles. The lid, not including the metal

Fig.5. Mug made in the likeness of E J Sullivan’s illustration

extension at the top, adds a further ca 4cms. There are no identifying marks.

The known provenance of this mug begins with its ownership by John Henderson (1862-1938). Henderson was one of the earlier members of the OK Club, joining in 1894. He served as Honorary Secretary and Treasurer for many years5. Henderson was a regular attendee at the OK Club dinners and is listed as a member on a dinner menu the year before his death.

There is a strong link between this ceramic mug and the OK Club: the time-period is also consistent with it being one of the mugs mentioned by Thorpe. If this is indeed the case, its large size and approximately spherical shape make it unsuitable for use as a drinking vessel, for example.

Information (number produced, date of production, circumstances that led to the mugs being commissioned, how they were used by the Club etc.) about either this mug (or other copies of it) or those referred to in Thorp’s book, would be very much appreciated.

Relevant information may be added below as comments on this blog. Our thanks to Joe for sharing his research with us all.


  1. Thorpe, James. E. J. Sullivan, London; Art and Technics (English masters of black and white), 1948 page 31
  2. The Second Book of the Omar Khayyam Club 1910-1929, London. Printed for the members for private circulation, 1931.
  3. The Pottery Gazette and Glass Trade Review Nov.1 1922, page 1728
  4. Septimus Bennett Artist in Arms, A Sheffield Munitions Worker 1915-18, M Phillips & J Potter, The Pentland Press, 2001
  5. Henderson, John, Papers as Secretary of Omar Khayyam Club: Cambridge University Trinity College Library.

The Rubaiyat of Anne Marie

October 29, 2020

Some time ago, Bob Forrest came across an unfinished manuscript of an unpublished edition of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. The MS consists of an unfinished title–page followed by 88 pages, including 15 fully quoted quatrains from the poem, and 15 illustrations. The title–page names the artist simply as “Anne Marie” and indicates that it was intended for publication by “Ben Abramson, Publisher New York City.”

Quatain XX by Anne Marie

After considerable research, Bob has managed to establish that the artist’s full name was Annemarie (sic) Bonnet, and that the MS must date from between 1944 and 1949, these being the dates between which Abramson operated in New York City. The MS, incidentally, is listed as #251 in Jos Coumans’ The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam: an Updated Bibliography (2010), the entry being based on the catalogue of a London book–dealer who offered it for sale in 2006.

Bob has now published an article on his website about this MS – see link below*. The article has much more to say about both artist and intended publisher. It also features all of Anne Marie’s Rubaiyat illustrations, as well as those done for two other books published by Abramson, an interesting and well documented character in his own right. Once again Bob has managed to fill in some of the gaps in our knowledge of the history of Rubaiyat illustration and publication. Our thanks to him for sharing his findings with us.


Sangorski Rubaiyat MS coming up for auction

October 28, 2020

Charles Mugleston has alerted us to the fact that one of the manuscript versions of FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, calligraphed and illuminated by Alberto Sangorski in 1906, is coming up for auction in London on 19th November 2020. Sangorski produced a number of MSS of the Rubaiyat at this time, one of which, in a heavily jewelled fine binding, was lost with the Titanic. Another such was mentioned in a previous blog item

The MS now being offered was apparently very finely bound by Sangorski and Sutcliffe in 1999. Full details of the item and auction can be found via the link below. The auctioneers’ estimate for the item is £7,000-10,000. Even if such a sum is beyond your purse, as, sadly, it is for us, it is worth having a look at the sale site to revel in images of the wonderful quality of design and craftsmanship that went into the production of this manuscript and its binding. A couple of pages are shown in the image above.

Thanks to Charles for the information.

Further booklets on Rubaiyat artists

October 6, 2020

In earlier posts, we have drawn attention to Bob Forrest’s excellent series of booklets which pull together his research on particular artists who have illustrated the Rubaiyat and the editions of their work.  For more information on the first nine booklets in the series, follow the link at the end of this post.*

Over the past year, Bob has produced another five booklets in this series, bringing the total available to 14.  These have been distributed privately only, but copies have been given to the main legal deposit libraries and some other libraries in the UK and can be consulted through them.  The new booklets available are as follows.

No.10 Eleanor Joyce Francis (1904-1985) 

No.11 Isabel Hawxhurst Hall (1887-1952)  

No.12 Doris M Palmer (1896-1977) and her Publisher Husband

No.13 John Yunge-Bateman (1897-1971)

No.14 Gordon Ross (1872-1946)

The booklets are all very well produced, with many illustrations in colour as well as black and white.  They can be accessed via the following UK libraries.

·         the British Library,

·         the National Library of Scotland,

·         the National Library of Wales,

·         the Bodleian Libraries, Oxford,

·         the University Library, Cambridge,

·         the Library of Trinity College, Dublin,

·         the National Art Library, London,

·         the Library of the Royal Academy of Arts, London.

If you can’t get to see this material at one of these libraries, the content is also available on Bob Forrest’s website .

* For our posts on booklets 1-9, see and links from that post to earlier notes.

A contribution for National Poetry Day

October 5, 2020

Thursday of last week, 1st October 2020, was National Poetry Day in the UK. Charles Mugleston has sent us the following contribution to mark the occasion. Thank you, Charles, for sharing your verse with us.

Rubaiyat artists: A request for information

September 30, 2020

Danton O’Day is working on a catalogue of Rubaiyat artists and he is seeking information on some lesser known artists. He writes as follows: if you can help please comment below.

An earlier book by Danton O’Day

I’m in the final stages of compiling a catalog of the first artists of the Rubaiyat and haven’t been able to track down pictures for the work of the following artists: Edwin Edwards, T.R.R. Ryder, G.A. Pownall and L.E. (initials only). Another artist has been suggested but I can find no evidence they worked on a Rubaiyat. If anyone has any information on the artist F.J. Buttera (1900), I would appreciate it. Anyone who sends me pictures by the aforementioned artists will be sent a free copy of my book when its done—it will be the most complete document to date covering the work of over 180 illustrators and page decorators.

The Whitcombe & Tombs Rubaiyats part 2 – Hardback editions

September 21, 2020

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

The Whitcombe & Tombs editions covered in the previous post (see link below*) were effectively ‘paperbacks’. The present post deals with the three ‘hardback’ editions. Again, all are undated.

Fig. 1a

The front cover of the first is shown in Fig.1a and its frontispiece & title page in Fig.1b. This is conveniently described as R.G.T. version 1, R.G.T. being the initials of the (as yet unidentified) artist, which can be seen in the bottom left hand corner of Fig.1b. Though undated, the evidence suggests that it was first published in 1944 (see my online article for details ** – its imprint certainly dates it to 1944-1949.) This edition is characterised by the three domes & minaret on the front cover, and though Fig.1a is blue, other copies are in green. It would be useful if any readers who have copies of this book could supply details of their copies– colour of the cover and any dated gift inscription, especially.

Fig. 1b
Fig. 2

The front cover of the second ‘hardback’ edition, conveniently dubbed R.G.T. version 2, is shown in Fig.2. Its frontispiece & title page are as in version 1, but its cover is characterised by its two domes & minaret.  Like version 1, its imprint certainly dates it to 1944-1949, and the gift inscription in Gordon Cramer’s copy (as reported here in a comment on the previous post) dates it to 1944 – the same year as version 1 appeared! But two versions appearing in the same year ??? This is a puzzle, and it would be interesting to have readers’ thoughts on it, as well as information on any copies of R.G.T. version 2 that they own. (My online article (see link below **) was written at a time when the only copy known to me was that of Sandra & Bill, with a gift inscription dating it to Christmas 1948, suggesting, reasonably, that version 2 appeared a few years after version 1. This clearly now needs a rewrite – and in addition shows the value of pooling information on the blog!)

Fig. 3a

The front cover of the third ‘hardback’ edition is shown in Fig.3a, this being characterised by its three domes & minaret (cf Fig.1a).  Its frontispiece & title page are shown in Fig.3b. The book is notably smaller than the two RGT versions (approximately 14 cm in height as against some 25 cm) and it is effectively a ‘hardback’ edition of Courage & Friendship edition, version 2, covered in the previous post, though there is no reference to the Courage & Friendship series in it (unless there once was one on a now vanished dust-jacket ?) All that is known for sure is that its imprint dates it to 1944-1949, so if any reader has a copy with a dated gift inscription, please do let us know. Likewise it would be useful to know if there are any variant covers of this edition ‘out there.’

Fig. 3b

Finally, I have not yet come across an RGT edition, version 1 or version 2, which has a dust jacket, so if any reader of this does have one such, please do get in touch.  And if anyone has suggestions about who RGT actually was, I should also be glad to know.