December 6, 2022

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The very precious book sank with the Titanic and burned in the bombing of London

Among the artworks of enormous value lost with the sinking of the Titanic, in April 1912, is the painting “La Circassienne au bainfor the French painter Merry Joseph Blondel, whose value at that time amounted to 100 thousand dollars, which is equivalent to three million euros today. Another equally famous work was a very valuable version of quatrains (Rubaiyat) by the Persian poet Omar Khayyam, a collection of poems also mentioned in the book Titanic. The right story by American writer Walter Lord, who inspired director James Cameron for the famous 1997 film.

Known in the UK as ‘Great Age’ due to its exceptional binding, this book is made of about 9 square meters of gold leaf and goatskin and decorated with 1,050 precious stones, including sapphires, topazes and emeralds. It is particularly unfortunate because it was lost in the sinking of the Titanic, and because a prized copy of it was made twenty years later also met a similar end.

Omar Khayyam was a philosopher, mathematician, astronomer, and poet who lived between 1048 and 1131 in what is now Iran. famous for its development solar calendar More accurate than time, but also for his poems that dealt with themes such as the brevity of life and the randomness of existence. The Rubaiyat (or Rubaiyat) was first introduced into the English language in the mid-19th century and became particularly well known thanks to the work of two Irish scholars. As he said in a long article BBCAnd the Also read by Francis Sangorskian English craftsman who had already bound some of the work’s volumes and decided in 1907 to create a binding with embellishments like ‘never seen before’.

At the time, Sangorsky ran a bookbinding workshop with his partner, George Sutcliffe, whom he met in 1897 during trade lessons, and the two were so highly regarded that they even took an interest in some of the prized volumes of King Edward VII’s library. With great effort, Sangorsky was able to persuade John Stonehouse, who then ran the London Southern Library, to commission him: the only instructions he received were to “do it and do it well”, without any limits, so long as the cost of the work was “reasonably justified” and that when The book’s completion had the “most unusual binding” known to the modern world.

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Sangorsky completed the volume in 1911, after two years of work, and the cover, fourth, spine, and some panels are decorated with images of peacocks, plants, musical instruments, animals, skulls, and traditional Persian motifs symbolizing life and death. BBC He says he paid crazy attention to every detail: he borrowed a human skull and paid an employee at the London Zoo to feed a rat to a snake in order to reproduce the drawings as faithfully as possible.

Stonehouse was very pleased with what the newspaper said daily mirror He called it “the most unusual binding ever produced” in the world, but was considered by some to be vulgar and too prolific, including the royal librarian. Then his problems began.

Digital reconstruction of the binding of the volume missing in the sinking of the Titanic and one of the other copies of the volume work from Sangorski and Sutcliffe Laboratory

The Sotheran bookstore put the books on sale for £1,000, the equivalent of about €140,000 today, but the only offer it received – and he turned down – was that of New York book distributor Gabriel Wells, who was willing to spend only £800 after some time. Stonehouse attempted to ship the book to the United States, relying on a more profitable market than the English one, but the copy was returned because no one wanted to pay tariffs. Then he proposed it again to Welles, who refused to buy it first for 900 pounds and then 650, but was finally bought by one of his assistants when “Omar the Great” was auctioned in the absence of others interested. March 1912.

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From that moment on little has been known about the book, which was supposed to board a ship for New York the following April 6, but instead ended up in the next book, the RMS Titanic, which departed on April 10, 1912 from Southampton .

According to Don Lynch, historian of the Titanic Historical Society, it was likely entrusted to 27-year-old Harry Elkins Widener, who came from a wealthy Pennsylvania family and had gone to London to buy books. Neither Widener nor his father, who was traveling with him, survived the sinking of the ocean liner, in which more than 1,500 people died. The very valuable book was also lost.

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The loss of such a precious and precious volume – about three times the most expensive volume on sale in the library, he said. BBC The current manager, Chris Saunders – has created a lot of tension between Stonehouse on the one hand, and Sangorsky and Sutcliffe on the other. Things went wrong in the bookbinding workshop when 37-year-old Sangorski drowned on 1 July 1912 while on vacation with his family in Sussex.

Sutcliffe continued to carry on in the workshop, along with his nephew Stanley Bray, who in 1932 was inspired by Sangorsky’s original drawings to decorate and bind a new volume of work, which he was able to complete before the start of World War II. To protect the new edition from possible bombing, the book was kept in the basement of a building on Fore Street, which was nonetheless one of the first streets in London to be bombed during raidsThe series of German air raids on the British capital between 1940 and 1941.

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The safe in which the book was inserted was found intact, but the heat from the fires caused by the bombing melted part of the leather cover and charred most of its pages.

After the end of World War II, in 1945, Bray began work on a third binding of the work, using many of the gems recovered from the copy damaged in the bombings. After quite a bit of time to dedicate himself to it, he completed it in the 1980s, is now retired, and is estimated to have devoted over 4,000 hours of work. Currently a Bray version of “Omar the Great” It is kept in the British Librarywhere permission is seldom granted.

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