Cabinet 10

Open Book

'I warn you I shall allow myself complete freedom in doing these illustrations...I shall try and make a visual poem, oriental in feeling and inspired by Fitzgerald but in no way a literal illustration.' So wrote JBW to Sandford about his work for the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, published by Golden Cockerel in 1938. In 1944, another version was produced clandestinely in the Netherlands under German occupation during the Second World War. The quatrains were translated into Dutch by H. W. J. M. Keuls (under Ponticus). JBW was not only pleased with the outcome - the images are collotype reproductions - but he was particularly proud of the fact that one of his books had been selected for printing by the Dutch resistance.

Kwatrijnen [Quatrains] van Omar Khayyam. Amsterdam: Uitgeverij De Bezige Bij [Busy Bee Press], 1944. Special PK 6577 D8 K82.


Although the female nude remained his favourite subject, JBW did undertake other work. One of the seventeen books he illustrated for Golden Cockerel was Matthew Flinder's narrative of his expedition to Furneaux's Islands on the coast of New South Wales in the colonial schooner Francis in 1798. While JBW's artistry is evident in the images, the visual impact is eroded because the nine wood engravings were printed in green on paper with a greenish texture. To make some amendment, he printed additional plates for his own copy in black and white.

Matthew Flinders' Narrative of his Voyage in the Schooner Francis, 1798: Preceded and Followed by Notes on Flinders, Bass, the Wreck of the Sidney Cove, &c. London: Golden Cockerel Press, 1946. Hocken: Bliss KXH F.


The economic slump in Britain after the war meant that JBW had to look elsewhere for commissions. The London firm of Lindsay Drummond engaged him to illustrate The Seven Who Were Hanged, a powerful work from the pen of Leonid N. Andreyev (1871-1919), the Russian playwright. JBW once admitted that he had to 'ring the changes or go cuckoo.' In this instance, he not only provided seven pen drawings in a style markedly different from previous work, but also produced a portrait vignette of Andreyev (not shown) which was his first scraper-board illustration.

Leonid Andreyev, The Seven who were Hanged. London: Lindsay Drummond Ltd., 1947. Special PG 3452 R3 E53 1947.

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University of Otago Master of the Burin: The Book Illustrations of John Buckland Wright, 1897 - 1954 <