Library of Congress bookplates


Artist: Phil May (1895).

The bookplates housed at the Library of Congress aren’t all available for online viewing which is a shame when their collection includes notable examples such as these. Three of the plates here were designed by the artists whose books they identified; two of the others are for writers—Edgar Rice Burroughs and Jack London—while the sixth one is for Charlie Chaplin. The artists’ plates look like continuations of the work of their creators which makes them less interesting than those of the writers and actor, all three of which say something about the way these men saw themselves reflected in their work: the pantheon of characters from Burroughs’ fiction; Chaplin’s poor boy conquering London; and Jack London’s lone wolf daring you to try to steal his book.


Artist: Frederic Remington (between 1880? and 1909).


Artist: Studley Burroughs (between 1914 and 1922).

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Elihu Vedder’s Rubáiyát


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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The art of Elihu Vedder, 1836–1923


The Last Man (1886–1891).

Vedder was one of the principal American Symbolists, possibly the leading one although there wasn’t the same degree of competition in the United States as there was in Europe. Last time I was casting around the web for his work he wasn’t so visible but that’s changed recently with a dedicated website. Vedder’s 1884 edition of the The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám is highly-regarded and at least one of those drawings—The Cup of Death—was reworked as a painting. Compared to his Continental contemporaries he’s a particularly gloomy artist, with sombre subjects rendered in a sombre palette. The Last Man is typical as well as being curiously inexplicable; is the serpent there a Satanic presence? And why is there a dead (?) angel boy at the feet of the Last Man?

The Smithsonian American Art Museum has a set of the Rubáiyát illustrations.


Soul in Bondage (1891–1892).

Previously on { feuilleton }
Angels 5: Angels of Death