A slight return to Omar Khayyam. The Edmund J. Sullivan post prompted comments about other editions so I thought I’d see what else was at the Internet Archive. The problem there is that the Rubáiyát was a very popular book in the latter part of the 19th century which means there are not only multiple editions of the Edward Fitzgerald translation but many translations by other hands, as well as numerous parodies. Anne S mentioned the Edmund Dulac edition which I suppose I ought to at least acknowledge since Dulac’s passion for Persian and Arabian art made him an ideal illustrator. But I do enjoy finding illustrated books that are less familiar, hence Elihu Vedder’s edition of 1894.
Elihu Vedder (1836–1923) was an American Symbolist painter, and also something of a poet himself, producing a few volumes of his own illustrated verse. Many illustrators favour an Orientalist interpretation of the Rubáiyát despite the popularity of the quatrains being more a result of their universality than their exotic qualities. Vedder produced over 50 drawings that concentrate on the mystical aspects of the poem, setting hand-lettered texts against illustrations that are either very similar to his paintings or direct copies of some of his canvases. It’s unfortunate that the reproductions in this edition—a reprinting of Vedder’s 1884 original—aren’t better. The book is still one of the more remarkable editions, however. Browse the rest of it here or download it here.
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Mention yesterday of Edmund J. Sullivan’s illustrations for The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam made me realise that I’d never seen a complete set of Sullivan’s illustrations for this volume (75 in all) despite one particular drawing (the rose-crowned skeleton) being very familiar. Sullivan’s Rubáiyát was published in 1913, and the translation is the Edward Fitzgerald version. These copies aren’t the best quality but they’re good enough at a small size to give an idea of Sullivan’s renderings which feature more occult references than usual for this title. Browse the rest of the pages here or download the book here.
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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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