The fate of the Sangorski Omar 2

The second and last part of an article on Sangorski's  ill-fated Omar Khayyam binding. It was found in Piccadilly Notes: an occasional  publication devoted to books, engravings and autographs (1929).   A contemporary eyewitness account talks of Sangorski's Omar with its 'gold leaf blazing and the light flashing from hundreds of gemstones studding the tails of the peacocks on the cover..' Less commonly known is  the odious role played by New York customs officials in the affair and that the magnificent book was, in fact, making its second trip across the Atlantic when it was lost forever beneath the waves. J.H. Stonehouse writes:

Sangorski made six separate designs for the book; two for each of the outside covers, doublures and the fly leaves. In the front cover, the eyes of the peacock's feathers were jewelled with 97 topazes, all of which were specially cut to the correct shape of the eye, and the crests of the birds being suggested by 18 turquoises; while rubies were inset to form eyes. The surrounding border and corner pieces were set with 289 garnets, turquoises and olivines (peridots); the outer grape-vine border was inlaid in brown and green morocco and set with 250 amethysts arranged so as to form bunches of grapes.
  The back cover was set with 198 turquoises and olivines and in the centre was inset a model of a Persian mandoline, made of mahogany inlaid with silver,satinwood and ebony.
  The front doublure was divided into a number of sunk panels, and in the centre one was a subtle suggestion of Stanza 58- "O thou who man of baser earth didst make, and who with Eden didst devise the snake" -the dominating feature being a snake modelled and inlaid in various coloured leathers, with ivory teeth and an emerald set in as an eye, surrounded by and entwined among a conventional arrangement of an apple tree, with the sun suggested in solid gold appearing through the foliage. The whole of the background being closely filled with gold dots, throwing the designs slightly into relief. The panel was also intended to be an emblematical suggestion of Life.
  The design of the back doublure was intended to be an emblematical suggestion of Death. In a sunk panel on the doublure appeared a realistic representation of a skull, modelled in leather with carved ivory teeth, surrounded with a design based on a poppy: the floral symbol of death.  The front fly-leaf was decorated ,with an intricate inlaid strapwork border with an inlaid rose in the corners; the introduction of the rose being intended to further carry out the suggestion of Life at the beginning of the book.
  The back  was similar in appearance to the front one, but the design in the corners instead of being based on the rose suggesting Life is composed of a conventional treatment of the deadly nightshade which, but to taste, is Death.
  After the termination of the coronation celebrations, it was decided that I should go to America and exhibit the Omar there. I made my arrangements, engaged rooms in New York and sent the book forward so that it would be through the customs before my arrival. Two days before I was due to start, I received to my dismay, a cable, from our shipping agent stating that the custom authorities had claimed duty on the book. Under the regulations then existing in America, not only were books more than,20 years old duty frae, (as they still are) but it was then permissible to put a non-dutiable book in an expensive binding without having to pay duty on the binding. The edition of the Omar which we had used was undated, but knowing that it was published in 1884, we naturally supposed that the customs would accept it as a duty-free book. However they claimed that the publishers had, or might have, printed off copies from the same plates at a later date, thus bringing the book within the dutiable period. There was, however, no means by which we could disprove this supposition, and as Mr Sotheran considered himself justified in refusing to pay the duty, the Omar was returned to us.

A fatality seemed follow the book, for no sooner had the book returned to Piccadilly than a dispute arose between Mr Sotheran and Mr Sangorski respecting payment for the binding; an a result of Mr Sotheran, much to my disgust, decided that he would have nothing more to do with Omar, and instructed me to send it to Sotheby's to be sold without reserve.

The sale came on at a very bad time; just in the middle of the serious Coal Strike; and I had the mortification, on March 29th, 1912, of seeing the Book, which was the result of so much thought and enthusiastic workmanship; for which we had been asking £1000; knocked down for £405. The buyer being Mr. Gabriel Wells.

The White Star SS. "Titanic," the largest and most magnificent Vessel in the world, with a displacement of 60000 tons, was 883 feet long, 92 and half feet broad, with a height from keel to bridge of 104 feet; she was cited with 8 steel decks, and was divided into 16 compartments by 15 transverse water-tight bulkheads. She carried 2008 passengers and crew. It was claimed that she was the last word in shipbuilding, and was unsinkable. She sailed from Southampton, on her maiden voyage to New York, on April 10th 1912. On the following Sunday, April 14th, at 11.45 p.m., in Latitude 41 degrees 46' North, and Longitude 50 degrees 14' West, she collided with an iceberg, and sank two and a half hours later; when 815 of her passengers, and 668 of her crew were drowned; 705 of her people were rescued by the SS. "Carpathia," after spending the night in open boats.

Amongst the valuable property which was lost when the ship foundered, was the Great Omar, with the 1050 Jewels.

Sangorski himself was drowned when bathing at Selsey Bill, on July 1st, 1912; he was only 37 years of age; and life for him as a great Master Craftsman had only just begun.  TAMÁM.


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