Byam Shaw’s Garden of Kama


The post title sounds like a psychedelic album but the illustrations are from The Garden of Kama (1901), allegedly a collection of Indian love poems “translated by Laurence Hope”. The translator’s real name was Adela Florence Nicolson who no doubt wished to do for India what Edward Fitzgerald had done for Persia but rather than presenting new translations of unknown verse the poems were all her own work. The book survived this mild scandal to be republished several times, the illustrations here by Byam Shaw (1872–1919) being from a 1914 edition. I linked to a selection of these plates last year when they were posted at Golden Age Comic Book Stories but anyone wanting to see the complete book, poems and all, may do so at the Internet Archive.

The content may be Orientalist pastiche but Shaw paid great attention to the decorative details. This is also an adult work, with violence, death and some sexy females. So many illustrated books of this period are children’s stories it can be a surprise to find something where the characters don’t live happily ever after.




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