John Buckland Wright’s biographer, Anthony Reid, suggests that the copper engravings for the Golden Cockerel edition of the Rubáiyát are the artist’s masterpiece in that medium (the 1947 woodcuts for Endymion being the equivalents in wood engraving).
The 1938 Golden Cockerel edition of Edward FitzGerald’s famous translation of the eleventh-century Persian poet’s love songs contained eight engravings by John Buckland Wright, but he also produced five further plates to be included in a ‘special’ edition. A later 1944 Dutch edition contained the eleven engravings shown here.
Immensely popular in the 1940s and 50s, the Rubáiyát harks back to a romantic time of peace and beauty when all that mattered were the simple things of life, subjects that John Buckland Wright was brilliant at bringing to life in his pastoral imagery.
A book of verses underneath the bough,
A jug of wine, a loaf of bread – and thou
Beside me singing in the wilderness –
Oh, wilderness were paradise enow!
The Golden Cockerel edition was produced in a print run of 300 copies, including 30 specials with the additional five plates.