Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam - Solander Box

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Bound by Richard Smart

Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyãm - Solander Box
The Book itself - One of Twenty-Five Copies Printed on Japanese Vellum. Signed by Francis Sangorski & George Sutcliffe


"My interest in this project;

This book has always fascinated me due to its historical significance and the fact that the binders were Sangorski and Sutcliffe. For many reasons, like many, I was captivated by the story of The Great Omar that went down on the Titanic in 1912. The great ship hit an iceberg on April the 13th and finally sank on April 14th 1912. People tend to be fascinated by historical events that occurred in history on their birthdays. As my birthday is April 14th, the same day the Titanic went down, it was a great honor to be given an opportunity to work on this book.

The binding was done by one of the most respected binderies in history, Sangorski and Sutcliffe. Many of their bindings are very elaborate and still easily found today in many collections and with book dealers around the world.

This was also a time that my grandfather Charles Edward Smart was working as a forwarder at Sangorski and Sutcliffe, and my grandmother as a paper restorer at Bayntun Riviere's. They were another well-respected bindery with a history of binding Cosway bindings. The London bookshop Henry Sothern's commissioned both the Omar Khayyãm and many Sangorski bindings, and the Cosway bindings bound by Riviere's

My family history in the bookbinding world also goes back three generations working with the family of David Brass.

So for me, the chance to make a box for Mr. Brass and this wonderful book was an incredible experience.

I knew in today's world of getting work done quickly and efficiently, I could not put in the time on this box I really wanted to. To perfect the design and gold tooling as done by Sangorski would of taken many hours and a huge range of gold finishing tools. They required standard gouges and pallets, then shaped them to match the pattern they wanted to create. But now, with limited tools and being so expensive to buy, there had to be a compromise. It was necessary to match the design to the tools available.

I bound the box in Hewit's full blue straight grain Morocco, and started to sketch out a pattern that would have elements of the book design in it without making it look like I was trying to reproduce a Sangorski style binding.

Using Grolieresque style on-lays of red and green leather, in a slightly Middle Eastern design, I was able to match elements in the design using gold tooling represented on the book.

The design was sketched out on paper, helping achieve a feel for the size of the pattern to fit on the cover. I then marked out the cover in blind (no gold) and worked from there. The on-lay leather required thinning with a pairing knife to be create an almost see-through look. It was then pasted and laid in place carefully with the colors close to each other so the gold had a surface to adhere to. (and not just burn between the two surfaces of leather) This is particularly tricky when creating curves and corners.

Once the leather design was pasted into place glaired and gold tooled, the inside of the box was lined with moiré silk. This was also a favorite style of Sangorski and Sutcliffe and another bindery of the time Zaehnsdorf's.

From start to finish, this required about 36 hours of work, including the design on paper and determining the required tools to create the precise shape and style.

This was nothing compared to the two years it took Sangorski to bind the Omar that was lost on the Titanic. At that time, although the design inspiration and much of the work was done by Francis Sangorski himself, the book would have passed though many hands. Such as the ladies sewing the book and sewing headbands in silk, then onto the forwarding department and finally to the finishers for the gold tooling.

This process was also applied to this copy 1/25 Bound in Vellum however, the design and finishing details would be done (or closely overseen) by Sangorski himself.

It was an absolute pleasure and highlight of my career to see this copy and make a box to house it for life.

David, Many Thanks for this opportunity and the many opportunities you have given me to work on these amazing books that pass through your shop."

Richard and his work can be found at Old English Bindery

This copy of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyãm is currently for sale from David Brass. It and many other beautiful books can be found at David Brass Rare Books.


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