London: George Routledge and Sons, Limited, 1904. Item #04729
A Spectacular Early Bayntun Binding on a Finely Printed Rubaiyat Illustrated by Gilbert James
Deluxe Edition with the Twelve Photogravure Plates Hand -Colored
BAYNTUN, binder. The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. Translated by Edward Fitzgerald. Translated by Edward Fitzgerald. With Twelve Hand-colored Plates after Drawings by Gilbert James. London: George Routledge and Sons, Limited, [ca. 1904-1908].
Deluxe edition of 250? copies with the photogravure plates hand colored.
Small quarto (7 13/16 x 5 7/16 inches; 199 x 139 mm.). 159,  pp. Twelve fine hand-colored photogravure plates including frontispiece, all with original tissue-guards.
Bound by Bayntun of Bath ca. 1910 (stamp-signed in gilt on front turn-in). Full turquoise crushed levant morocco, front cover double-ruled in gilt surrounding two elaborate wide borders of grapevines inlaid in purple, brown and dark green morocco's within a border of elaborate gilt pointille. The large center panel with an inlaid multi-colored morocco and gilt decorated figure based on the hand-colored frontispiece. Above and below the inlaid figure are two panels enclosing the the title in decorative gilt. Lower cover bordered in gilt and black. Spine with five raised bands, decoratively inlaid with leaves and bunches of grapes in dark green and purple morocco's. Five of the panels with elaborate gilt pointille, the remaining one lettered in gilt. Gilt ruled board-edges, and turn-ins, cream watered silk liners and end-leaves, all edges gilt. A spectacular example of an early 'Bayntun Rubaiyat'. Housed in a later? fleece-lined blue cloth slipcase.
Gilbert Penrose JAMES (1865-1941) was one of the earliest and most prolific of the artists to take up the challenge of providing illustrations for FitzGerald’s verses and his work was reprinted many times in different forms during the twentieth century. Twelve drawings were used in the photogravure edition of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (George Routledge & Sons Ltd., London, and E.P. Dutton & Co., New York 1904). The drawings were here related to FitzGerald’s first edition, and were prefaced simply with FitzGerald’s own introduction. The photogravure edition gives us some measure of James’s commercial success at this time, for it ran to several editions involving at least 18,000 copies by 1912. Routledge also issued a deluxe edition of this (in 1908 ?), in a fine binding, and in which the twelve drawings were hand-colored. Born in West Derby, Liverpool, he worked as a clerk in a corn merchant's office, and became a close friend of the artist Sidney H. Sime, who is best known today for his extraordinary fantasy illustrations. Whether or not the two things are connected is unclear, but James did turn from office work to art. He seems to have exhibited three pictures at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool - in 1889 and 1890 as Gilbert James, and in 1892 as Gilbert P. James.
In about 1891 he moved to Gerrard Street, Soho, London, registering in the census of that year as “a student in painting". Once in London, he began to contribute black and white illustrations to a number of magazines, his first recorded publication was in Shorter’s newspaper, The Sketch, in May 1894. Throughout the rest of the 1890s he was a prolific magazine illustrator including, some of his Rubaiyat illustrations. He also contributed to The Idler, The Pall Mall Magazine, Black and White, The Butterfly, The Ludgate Monthly, Pick-me-up, The Quartier Latin and - two more of Shorter’s publishing ventures — The Tatler and The Sphere. For The Tatler he did at least two other Rubaiyat illustrations, including a cartoon which parodied verse 11 of the first edition by including a gramophone in place of Omar’s singing beloved!; and for The Sphere he did at least two further Rubaiyat illustrations. He was a busy man, and, some time before 1901, had set up a studio in 10 Fitzroy Street (now demolished), just off Tottenham Court Road, thus becoming, literally, a neighbour of Whistler, who lived for a while at no. 8 (also now demolished.) (In 1909, Whistler having long moved out, Walter Sickert was to move in. It was an artistic neighbourhood!) This was to remain James’s address - at least officially - for the rest of his life. (With thanks to Bob Forrest).