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In praise of the number four

April 4, 2020

Charles Mugleston has sent us the following reflection on the manifestations of the number four, including, of course, the quatrain.  Many thanks, Charles, for this delightful  contribution with a spring-like feel.

As a young boy growing up in the country, I loved watching the  rather shy wrens hopping about in the hedges and quickly flying off in all directions… this led me to collecting farthings resplendent as they were in their latter years with the very simple but beautiful design of a wren – I mean, forget sovereigns !  This led me on to eventually collecting older and older farthings and discovering that the name derived from the word fourthing – a fourth part of a silver penny being cut in four.

Roll on the clock, many quarter, half and full moons… and serendipity  – Edward FitzGerald and Quatrains.

In 1850 Alfred Tennyson published anonymously his Masterpiece  In Memoriam “Ring out wild bells…”  can’t you just hear them, and in 1859 his life long friend E.F.G published anonymously his Masterpiece The Ruba’iya’t of Omar Khayya’m – what do they have in common ? what  helped them become known and loved the world over ? part of the heart of the matter is…the Quatrain.

Reading quatrains – again and again, they get under your skin, penetrate your pores, resonate with the fourfold chambers of the heart – the four quarters of the world for a quatrain is indeed a universal phenomemon. Just look at the poetic forms from all quarters… quatrains are common to all, there is if of interest a helpful entry on Wikipedia to view – much better than the basic info in Websters Dictionary.

As the old Persian saying completes the circle… “The eloquence of Quatrain is the completion of Sublimity” …  this is pregnant with Mystical as well as practical meaning,  ie the fourfold Platonic Insights of Unity, Truth, Goodness and Beauty.

So, In Memoriam to E.F.G and in Homage to Hakuin – the Japanese Zen Master may  I  offer the following Easter Gift – quatrain to everyone with all good wishes and thanks.


Edward FitzGerald and the Rubaiyat -Let’s mark the anniversaries today

March 31, 2020

f01-1iefgd28scfIt is 211 years since the birth of Edward FitzGerald on 31st March 1809, and 161 years since the first publication of his Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam on the same day in 1859.  We hope that all our readers will be able to join us in marking these anniversaries in some way.  FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat continues to give us much pleasure and support in today’s difficult times, and celebrating its birth provides a positive distraction from the present worries and the restrictions on our day to day living.  It is interesting to reflect that Edward FitzGerald led much of his life, especially the later years, in a form of self isolation.  In his case, there was no alternative of digital communications, but the vast corpus of letters that he left us is evidence of how important outside contacts remained to him, as they do to us today.

On this special day, we also send our own greetings to all our readers and their families .  Keep safe and well.  The OKR blog continues to be published, so if you have some interesting thoughts or findings about the Rubaiyat that you can share, please send them to us on the address you have, or on, and we shall post them for all to enjoy.  All positive contributions to our thinking are a blessing at this time.

Doris M. Palmer (Rubaiyat Illustrator) and her Publisher Husband

March 18, 2020

At this time of social and economic upheaval, it is nice to find some areas of life where things are continuing in reasonably normal fashion.  One of them is research on aspects of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.  Bob Forrest has sent us information about a new piece of research he has carried out on Doris M Palmer, the artist behind a well known edition of the Rubaiyat which appeared in the inter-war period.

palmer1921 q16Doris Palmer’s Rubaiyat  of Omar Khayyam was first published by Leopold B Hill in London in 1921.  Until now very little was known either about this artist, or her work.  Thanks to Bob’s efforts we now know her dates (1896-1977), and much about the earlier stages of her life.  Bob has also identified various other works by this artist, though the details of her later life and work are still something of a mystery.  He has also highlighted the importance of her husband the publisher Cecil Palmer to her early production of illustrated works.

In parallel with his work on Doris Palmer, Bob has also investigated the life and works of Cecil Palmer about whom much more is actually known.  The results of Bob’s work on both the Palmers is set out in full on his web site at  .  Apart from Doris Palmer’s  later life, another mystery that remains is why her Rubaiyat was published not by her husband but by the firm of Leopold B Hill?  In 1921 Cecil Palmer appears to have had quite a substantial publishing business, and he would probably have been well capable of producing a major illustrated work such as The Rubaiyat?

Readers interested in this period of Rubaiyat illustration and publication are recommended to explore Bob’s article which is full of much more valuable detail and many illustrations.  We are grateful to Bob for sharing this work with us.  If any readers have information to add to what we have so far learnt about Doris Palmer, Bob would be very glad to know.  Please comment below.

The 1423 Lucknow manuscript – a description from the 1930s

February 24, 2020

Fred Diba has sent us an interesting cutting from The Illustrated London News of 17th December 1932 (p. 968) which announces the discovery of the 1423 Lucknow manuscript which contains 201 verses from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.  The text of the article is shown below, together with an illustrative page from the MS.

FD Lucknow Scan3

FD Lucknow Scan2

In the original article, the image is shown above the text.

This manuscript is also mentioned in Francois de Blois’ listing of Rubaiyat manuscripts (1).  The MS published by Rosen in 1925 shows an even earlier date than the Lucknow one discussed here, but this date is disputed (2).  We should be interested to hear more from anyone who is familiar with these manuscripts, particularly any reader who has actually seen the original Lucknow MS.  As far as we know, it is still contained in the Gouri Prasad Saksena collection in Lucknow.

(1) de Blois, F, Poetry of the pre-Mongol Period, Vol V of Persian Literature, A Bio-Bibliographical Survey, London,  RoutledgeCurzon, Sec Rev Ed, 2004.

(2) see Rodwell, E H , ‘Omar Khayyam, London, Kegan Paul et al, 1931, (p. xi)

Cecil G Trew’s Reveries of Omar – who might be interested in a fine copy?

February 22, 2020

CDimage1We were recently contacted by a reader who has a fine copy of The Reveries of Omar, illustrated by Cecil G Trew and published in 1929.  The history of this rare book has been the subject of a number of earlier posts, most recently in  Our contact, who we think is in California, writes as follows.  

Do you know where I can sell a copy of the The Reveries of Omar illustrated by Cecil G Trew and what the value is?  We have the deluxe copy with 25 plates. The condition is very good.

If you have advice to give the owner of the book, please comment below.  If you are interested in acquiring the book, please contact us via  and we’ll pass your message on.

More work on the Rubaiyat by Austin Torney

February 11, 2020

In previous posts, we have commented on various versions of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam that have been produced by artist and poet Austin Torney.  The latest of these posts can be found on .

Austin has now produced an improved version of his Golden Rubaiyat Video Book.  He writes about this as follows.

“Here we have the remastered iclone character actions of ‘Austin’s Golden Rubaiyat’ quatrains, with printed words matching the spoken words, color-keyed to the person speaking, which is my notion of a complete video book. Much more exciting than having dull looking regular subtitles in black and white.

The quatrains have been rearranged into a better flowing sequence. It came out really well. Enjoy. This is one of my best videos.”

The new video can be found on YouTube.  It can be accessed via the following link:  .


John Millar Watt (1895-1975) – Another interesting Rubaiyat artist

February 5, 2020

It is fascinating to us how many new artists who contributed illustrations for the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam are still being identified.  Joe Howard has sent us information about another such illustrator.  Our thanks to Joe for sharing the results of his research with us.

John Watt was an accomplished, Scottish-born artist who was raised in London. His early artistic education and his apprenticeship in an advertising agency, were interrupted by active service as an officer during WW1: appropriately in the Artist’s Rifles. He was gassed at Vimy Ridge.

On his return, Watt enrolled as a student at the Slade School of Art. While still a student, he drew sports cartoons for the Daily Chronicle and cover illustrations for The Sphere. The latter was founded by Clement Shorter, one of the founders of the OK Club of London. In 1921, Watt introduced1 his new comic strip Reggie Breaks it Gently, soon to be renamed as Pop, in the Daily Sketch. This was not only one of the first daily comic strips to appear in the UK but is also a rare example of a British comic strip to be syndicated by newspapers in the USA. Watt drew the Pop cartoons until 1949, when his work was continued by Gordon Hogg until 1960.

Watts was a landscape and still-life painter (oils and watercolour) and a member of the St. Ives Society of Artists and the Ipswich Arts Club. In the 1930’s he exhibited oil paintings at the Royal Academy

During the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s Watt contributed illustrations to many magazines, adventure stories, annuals, books and comics. In later life, he concentrated primarily on producing beautiful illustrations for Look and Learn, Princess and Once upon a Time. These sumptuously-coloured and very detailed illustrations, have been favourably compared with those of Rackham, Dulac and Heath Robinson. Examples of this work are readily available on the internet2,3.

JH Watt post

Of specific interest to Rubaiyat enthusiasts is Watt’s watercolour painting on board (280mm x 360mm) illustrating quatrains from Fitzgerald’s first edition (Fig.1). This was his contribution to The Arts section of the 1st June 1963 edition of the weekly educational magazine Look and Learn. In the magazine, the painting occupies a full page and four quatrains (1, 11, 14, 51) overlay it (Fig. 2). A short account of the history of Fitgerald’s first version, titled “POEM in the PENNY BOX”, is printed on the facing page.

Watt has produced a quite literal interpretation of these quatrains; the “moving finger” can be seen at the lower right, the moon and sun are shown together, the sun includes an archer on a horse aiming his arrow at the stars and so on. The colour differences between Figs.1 & 2, are likely due to a combination of the unstable inks used for the printed version and the paper now being over 56 years old.

This watercolour painting is currently for sale4 at a price of £1,850.



Louis C. Alexander and The Testament of Omar Khayyam

January 28, 2020

RF AlexanderTestament Fig.02bSeveral years ago, we found in a bookshop a little volume entitled The Testament of Omar Khayyam which was attributed on the title page to Louis C AlexanderOn the cover was an inscription in Persian reading Wasiyyat-e Omar Khayyam.  When we looked inside, there were quatrains in English, clearly not FitzGerald, but with some similarities.  We bought the book but did not, at the time, look at it at all closely.  It was filed under Rubaiyat, other translations, and there it stayed until recently.

Now, Bob Forrest has turned his research skills onto this volume, and he reveals to us all what a very odd book it is.  Indeed he describes it as ‘one of the most peculiar books in the Omarian canon’.  He comments further ‘This little book, published by John Long in London in 1907, is one of numerous attempts to rescue Omar from accusations of wine–bibbing and disrespect for the Almighty, and to paint him in a more respectable light.’  This attempt at the ‘rehabilitation’ of the Persian poet is not of itself odd, since there have been many such.  What is indeed peculiar is the apparent source of the published verses.

The only attribution in the book is to Louis Alexander, but Bob has established, certainly to these readers’ satisfaction, that Alexander probably believed that the poems he published were the words of Omar Khayyam himself, transmitted as a ‘last testament’ through the medium of ‘automatic writing’.  This is a form of spiritualist communication, of which Alexander clearly had experience, and Bob sets out in his full article (see link below) to show Alexander’s involvement with the spiritualist world and his ‘work’ on other authors as well as Omar Khayyam.  The article also gives much detail on Alexander’s other writings and his complicated life.

Bob’s illustrated article is available in full on his website – see  It is a story full of interest.  As always we are grateful to Bob for sharing with us the results of another of his excursions into the by-ways of Omarian spin-offs.


The article has now been published as one of Bob’s series of booklets on people connected with the Rubaiyat.  For more information on the limited circulation of these booklets, see

Greetings for the Winter Sostice

December 21, 2019

Yalda_Night_Table_Amsterdam_2011_Photo_by_Pejman_Akbarzadeh_Persian_Dutch_NetworkTonight is the occasion of the Winter Solstice, which marks the longest and darkest night of the year.  In Iran, this point in the year has long been celebrated as the Shab-e Yalda and our picture* shows a table decorated in traditional manner for the occasion.  It is a time for people to get together to eat and drink, and the poetry of Hafez is often read.  The choice of items with red colour is said to symbolise dawn and the renewal of life.  More generally the Winter Solstice is seen as marking the rebirth of the sun and the promise of the return of longer days and the revival of natural growth.

With this in mind, we send Seasonal Greetings to all our readers and contributors.  We hope that the new year will be more peaceful and positive than the one that is passing, and that it will bring all countries into a place of greater harmony.  And we look forward to many more interesting exchanges of research, views and information between members of the Rubaiyat community.

*Yalda Night table in the celebration of Persians (Iranians) in Holland, Amsterdam, December, 2011. Photo by Pejman Akbarzadeh (Persian Dutch Network). This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license


More about Bert Dodson’s Rubaiyat

December 4, 2019

Jos Coumans has sent us some further comments relating to the Rubaiyat illustrations done by Bert Dodson, which were highlighted in the previous post.

When visiting Douglas Taylor in 2013, he showed me an edition of the rubáiyát, consisting of a number of large format plates: nineteen white leaves with a quatrain from FitzGerald and accompanying brown plates showing a drawing corresponding with the text.


JC dodson39

Image for quatrain 39

JC Dodson17

Image for quatrain 17









I remember Douglas mentioning the name of the artist, and that he obtained this set of prints by contacting the artist himself. I don’t remember how Douglas became aware of this work and its artist, but not much later (June 2014) he sent me an email in which he gave more details of his purchase.  Douglas wrote as follows:

“On Monday, April 9, 2001, I received a large set of nineteen illustrations in a paper folder embossed “Rubáiyát” with an R three inches high. The 19 sheets of paper are about 12 1/2 “ high by 17 7/8” wide. A single quatrain is printed on each sheet of white paper, and a line drawing done with a turkey quill is lithographed on each tan sheet of paper. The folded cover is the same paper as the lithographed sheets. The title sheet (tan) is styled as follows [there is an image of this in the previous post].

Selections from
Omar Khayyám’s
translated by Edward FitzGerald
(chain device)
designed & illustrated
for Publishers Graphics

On the inner side of the folder is printed as follows.

Drawings: Bert Dodson
Design: Creative Partners Inc.
Typography: Norwalk Typographers inc.
Lithography: Fairfield Graphics Inc.
Production: James Coviello

There is no date.

The quatrains illustrated are as follows:

7          Come, fill the Cup, and in the Fire of Spring
11        Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
13        Look to the Rose that blows about us – “Lo,
16        Think, in this batter’d Caravanserai
17        They say the Lion and the Lizard keep
23        Ah, make the most of what we yet may spend
26        Oh, come with old Khayyám, and leave the Wise
27        Myself when young did eagerly frequent
28        With them the Seed of Wisdom did I sow,
31        Up from Earth’s Centre through the Seventh Gate
37        Ah, fill the Cup: – what boots it to repeat
39        How long, how long, in infinite Pursuit
46        For in and out, above, about, below
49        ‘Tis all a Chequer-board of Nights and Days
51        The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ
52        And that inverted Bowl we call the Sky,
60        And, strange to tell, among the Earthen Lot
63        None answer’d this; but after Silence spake
69        Indeed the Idols I have loved so long

On Thursday, April 12, 2001, I called Dodson in Bradford, Vermont. He is from El Paso, Texas, and had relatives in Grand Prairie … and lived in Spain for a year.  …. He returned to Westport, Connecticut and founded Creative Partners (1972-1975). The drawings were issued as Christmas presents for clients in 1972 or 1973. There were about 200 complete sets of nineteen drawings and perhaps fifty more with fewer plates due to the randomness of printing. His 1985 book “Keys to Drawing” has a reference to these illustrations”.

Jos Coumans continues:

Recently I was lucky to buy a copy of Bert Dodson’s edition myself, from which I have taken the two pictures above, as an addition to the images supplied by Joe Howard in the previous post. A number of the illustrations show a more or less erotic scenery: nude men and women, sometimes in a somewhat provocative position as in image # 39. As Joe Howard indicated, often there seems to be no immediate relation between text and image, but a closer look may reveal imagery that pertains to the text as for instance in image # 17, where one might recognize a lion’s head, a lizard, a wild ass and a hunter asleep.

A copy of Dodson’s “Selections from Omar Khayyám’s Rubáiyát” was on auction in November 2017.

His book “Keys to Drawing with Imagination” with some Rubáiyát illustrations is available online on:, pp. 164-165.

Thank you, Jos, for these further insights into an interesting special edition of the Rubaiyat.