The Rubaiyat of Anne Marie

This is actually the unfinished manuscript of an unpublished edition of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. The MS consists of an unfinished title–page (Fig.1a) followed by 88 pages, the title–page naming the artist as “Anne Marie” and indicating that it was intended for publication by “Ben Abramson, Publisher New York City.” We shall have much more to say about both artist and publisher later, but suffice it to say here that the artist’s full name was Annemarie (sic) Bonnet, and that the MS must date from between 1944 and 1949, these being the dates between which Abramson operated in New York City. The MS, incidentally, is listed as #251 in Jos Coumans’ The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam: an Updated Bibliography (2010), the entry being based on the catalogue of a London book–dealer who offered it for sale in 2006 (1).

The MS contains 15 fully quoted quatrains, neatly handwritten in pencil, the spaces for the remaining 86 quatrains being indicated simply by their quatrain numbers in Roman Numerals. To give the reader a better idea of the layout, Fig.1b shows the hand–written opening quatrain on p.1; Fig.1c shows p.2, a typical page containing quatrain numbers only; and Fig.1d shows the hand–written quatrain XIV on p.10. Since each of the 15 fully quoted quatrains is identical in FitzGerald’s 3rd, 4th & 5th editions, it is not possible to be sure exactly which edition the artist used.

There are 15 illustrations in all (Figs 2a–2o – browse images), so one naturally assumes that these correspond to the 15 fully quoted quatrains, which by and large seems to be the case. But there are problems. With one exception (Fig.1b), where the artist illustrates a quatrain, it is handwritten (in pencil) in full, in the middle of an otherwise blank page, with its quatrain number in Roman Numerals above, the relevant illustration to face the quatrain & continue the pagination. Thus, for example quatrain XIV is on p.10 (Fig.1d), with a neat Red & White Roses illustration (Fig.2b) on p.11, then p.12 (the back of the illustration) is blank, & then p.13 is blank but for the word “design” handwritten on it in pencil (more on the “designs” below.) Unfortunately, though the pages are numbered (in pencil) in the top left or right hand corner, the illustrations & their backs aren’t, and since some of the illustrations clearly do not relate to the quatrains they now face, it is clear that many of the illustrations have been shuffled about over the years, and are now in the wrong places. That creates severe problems for those illustrations that don’t clearly relate to any quatrain, for without page numbers to guide us, we do not know if they in the right place or not, or where they should go if they aren’t. Fortunately, since there are 15 handwritten quatrains and 15 illustrations, of which several are clearly still in the right places, the number of possibilities is limited.

Before looking in detail at the 15 illustrations, we should note that the MS also contains 1 large design (Fig.3a), 2 small designs (Fig.3b & Fig.3c), plus two small designs for the opening and closing words, “Wake!” (Fig.3d) and “Tamam” (Fig.3e). Unfortunately, none of the designs is actually attached to any particular page, so it is not clear if Fig.3a goes on any or all of p.7, p.13, p.19, p.31, p.37, p.43, p.49, p.67, p.75 & p.81, all of which are blank but for the word “design” written on them in pencil. Fig.3b perhaps belongs on p.3, which has a rectangle labelled “grape pattern” above the space reserved for quatrain VI, and Fig.3c probably belongs on p.20 & p.21, which both bear blank rectangles labelled “flower design” at the head of the page. The space for Fig.3d is clearly indicated in Fig.1b, with a space for Fig.3e similarly reserved on p.88 (browse images.)

Some designs were clearly planned but never executed. Thus Anne Marie intended to do decorative initial letters to some quatrains – the W beginning the initial word “Would” of quatrain XLIX on p.44 is one example of several (Fig.1e). Again, a blank rectangle labelled “red animals” appears at the head of p.77, bearing the quatrain numbers LXXXVIII and LXXXIX (Fig.1f), a similar rectangle appearing above quatrain LXXXVII on p.76. Quite what the artist had in mind here is not clear, as quatrains LXXXVII (“A Sufi pipkin – waxing hot &c”) and LXXXVIII (“Some there are who tell / Of one who threatens he will toss to Hell &c”) both relate to the Potter’s Shop!

Turning now to the 15 illustrations, we first take a look at the 11 which can be related to quatrains with certainty or reasonable certainty (browse images).

Fig.2a – This surely relates to quatrain I, the rising Sun striking the Sultan’s Turret with a shaft of light, though it was not filed with this quatrain when I received the MS. Its relation to quatrain I would explain why the hand–written quatrain on p.1 is at the bottom of the page (Fig.1b) – to make room for this illustration. (The 14 other hand–written quatrains feature on even numbered pages, with their illustration to face them – see note on Fig.2b below.)

Fig.2b – This clearly relates to quatrain XIV (“Look to the blowing Rose about us &c”) and indeed it faced this quatrain (Fig.1d) when I received the MS.

Fig.2c – This clearly relates quatrain XX (“And this reviving Herb whose tender Green / Fledges the River–Lip on which we lean &c”) though it was not filed with this quatrain when I received the MS.

Fig.2d – This would seem to relate to quatrain XLI (“And lose your fingers in the tresses of / The Cypress–slender Minister of Wine”), the Wine being represented by the surround of vines. However, it was not filed with this quatrain when I received the MS.

Fig.2e – This surely relates to quatrain XLVIII (“A Moment’s Halt – a momentary taste / Of Being from the Well amid the Waste”) though it was not filed with this quatrain when I received the MS.

Fig.2f – This surely relates to quatrain LIII (“But if in vain, down on the stubborn floor / Of Earth, and up to Heav’n’s unopening Door &c”) though it was not filed with this quatrain when I received the MS.

Fig.2g – This clearly relates to quatrain LVIII (“ Angel Shape / Bearing a Vessel on his Shoulder &c”) and indeed it faced this quatrain when I received the MS.

Fig.2h – This clearly relates to quatrain LXVI (“And by–and–by my Soul return’d to me, / And answered ‘I myself an Heav’n and Hell’ &c”) and indeed it faced this quatrain when I received the MS.

Fig.2i – This probably relates to the second Pot in quatrain LXXXV (“Then said a Second – ‘Ne’er a peevish Boy / Would break the Bowl from which he drank in joy &c”) and indeed it faced this quatrain when I received the MS.

Fig.2j – This surely relates to quatrain XC (“So while the Vessels one by one were speaking / The little Moon look’d in that all were seeking &c”) though it was not filed with this quatrain when I received the MS.

Fig.2k – This quite possibly relates to quatrain XCVI (“Yet Ah, that Spring should vanish with the Rose! / That Youth’s sweet–scented manuscript should close! &c”) and indeed it faced this quatrain when I received the MS.

We are now left with four illustrations (Figs.2l, 2m, 2n & 2obrowse images.) and four hand–written quatrains (VII, XXV, XXXIV & LXXIV) to pair with them. But there is no sign of the “Muezzin from the Tower of Darkness” of quatrain XXV in any of these four illustrations (or in any other of the illustrations for that matter!), and quatrain XXXIV (“Then of the Thee in Me who works behind / The Veil &c”) would seem to be a singularly un–illustratable one! Of these four remaining illustrations, then:

Figs.2l & 2m do not conclusively match any quatrains, let alone these four ‘left–over’ ones. When I received the MS, Fig.2l was facing quatrain I (which is illustrated by Fig.2a) and Fig.2m was facing Fig.3a and not facing any quatrain at all.

Fig.2n could conceivably relate to quatrain LXXIV (“Drink! For you know not whence you came, nor why &c”), for the theme of the illustration certainly seems to be one of wine, women & song. It was not paired with this quatrain, however, when I received the MS, but, totally inappropriately, with quatrain XX (which clearly belongs to Fig.2c.)

Fig.2o could conceivably (at a pinch!) relate to quatrain VII (“Come, fill the Cup, and in the fire of Spring / Your winter–garment of Repentance fling &c”), but there is no Cup and no Bird of Time. It was not paired with this quatrain, however, when I received the MS, but, totally inappropriately, with quatrain XC (which clearly belongs to Fig.2j.) Note that Fig.2n could fit quatrain VII just as well as Fig.2o.

The location of Fig.2l in the MS when I received it might suggest that it was a generic “learned Omar” frontispiece, but then that would leave one hand–written quatrain without an illustration, which would perhaps suggest that an illustration has been lost sometime in the past. However, the coincidence of 15 illustrations and 15 hand–written quatrains rather implies that the MS is complete in respect of the illustrations.

Note the AM monogram for Anne Marie to the lower left of each of the illustrations.

Other work for Ben Abramson

Though her illustrated Rubaiyat was never published, two books illustrated by our artist were certainly published by Abramson.

The first was Clarence K. Streit’s book Hafiz in Quatrains (Ben Abramson, New York, 1946.) This was actually a reprint of Streit’s earlier book Hafiz: the Tongue of the Hidden (The Viking Press, New York, 1928), with decorations added by Anne Marie. That her full name was Annemarie Bonnet is made clear by the colophon of the book:

The decorations are by Annemarie Bonnet. She did the Persian script at the beginning and end of the Quatrains, from the originals done by Hafiz Nejmeddin Effendi, professor of calligraphy at the Stamboul School of Calligraphy in Istanbul, Turkey. Both are in the style called sulus, which was frequently used in Persian illuminated manuscripts of the time of Hafiz. The one at the beginning of the quatrains is the name, Hafiz, and the other reads, Lisan–ul–Ghaïb, meaning, The Tongue of the Hidden, a Persian description of him.

The decorations consisted of three sets of floral decorations, repeated cyclically through the book (Figs.4a, 4b & 4cbrowse images.) These images also give a good idea of Streit’s approach to Hafiz, expressed in quatrains which clearly mimic FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat. (In his Foreword Streit expresses regret that “FitzGerald did not give us Hafiz as well as Omar.”) The Persian script for “Hafiz” (Fig.4d) and “The Tongue of the Hidden” (Fig.4e) were copied from the cover of the 1928 edition. Finally, the swirling floral decorations suggest that Anne Marie designed both the dust–jacket (Fig.4f) and the title–page (Fig.4g.) Note from this last that Streit regarded his efforts as “a transfusion presenting the spirit of the Persian poet”, not as a translation. This invites comparison with FitzGerald’s acknowledgement that his efforts constituted “a very pretty Eclogue...tessellated out of [Omar’s] scattered quatrains,” rather than a systematic translation. (2)

The second book that Anne Marie worked on for Ben Abramson was William B. Ziff’s book He the Maker (Argus Books Inc., New York, 1949). For this she did the frontispiece and seven other woodcut illustrations for the book (browse images), as opposed to the simple floral and calligraphic decorations for the Hafiz, and as a result she received full billing on the title–page thus: “Illustrated by Annemarie Bonnet.” (Fig.5a)

In order to make some sense of the illustrations, it is useful to know something about Ziff’s book.

In brief, He the Maker is a curious free–verse poem of some 40 pages which imagines God looking down on His Creation, and on Man in particular. He muses on how Man has pictured Him through the ages – caricatures in Man’s own image, in effect – and puzzles how He could have created beings who can be so savage, violent, hateful and cruel (Hiroshima and the Nazi gas–chambers were recent history at the time of publication, remember.) But God also sees a reflection of Himself in Man, and wonders if Man is somehow a hideous caricature of Himself ? And Earth is but one such world that He created...

Even given this it is sometimes difficult to see what the artist had in mind when she created her illustrations, but the following comments might prove useful to readers of this essay.

Fig.5a (the frontispiece) seems to represent the Hand of God in the Act of Creation.

Fig.5b (p.9) seems to be a picture of Man as looked down upon by God, the red swirl perhaps indicating God’s infusion of life (and awareness of God ?) into Man.

Fig.5c (p.13) seems to represent God as inextricably bound up in the Natural World, the red Sun perhaps symbolic of God as the Generating Force of Nature.

Fig.5d (p.25) clearly represents Man kneeling before the Hands of God, the red symbols representing various forms of Worship (Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Buddhism.) Note again the swirls indicating the Divine Presence (cf Fig.5b.)

Fig.5e (p.29) seems to represent God musing on a kneeling Man as the pinnacle of His Creation, the red lightning flash igniting incense (?) in a tripod–bowl – hence the swirls. The wheel is perhaps symbolic of Man’s inventiveness and intelligence.

Fig.5f (p.34) represents God musing on Man as the “cracker of atoms” (p.33), whose inventiveness makes him not only the pinnacle of God’s Creation, but its most dangerous denizen from whom all living creatures (including his fellow man) flee in terror (p.35). The red imbalanced scales perhaps symbolise this.

Fig.5g (p.40) seemingly represents Man with his eyes raised towards the Heavens, perhaps in supplication to God (the Red Sun again) given the savagery of the World he has manufactured for himself (symbolised by the jagged and fractured background between which the Sun breaks through?) The bombs and gas chambers of the Second World War are clearly alluded to on p.42.

Fig.5h (p.44) seems to refer to the feeble attempts of the pious to make sense of the recent slaughter of the Second World War “while they grasped the faces of their slaughtered saints / Which they put on and off for masks.” (p.43)

Note the AM monogram to the lower left of Figs.5a & 5h, different to that used with her Rubaiyat illustrations. We shall meet both again later.

The Streit and Ziff books appear to be the only two books illustrated by Anne Marie which were ever published, by Ben Abramson, or anyone else for that matter. We shall have more to say about both books later, but first let us devote some space to Ben Abramson himself, as he is clearly of key importance in our artist’s background.

Ben Abramson, Publisher

Ben Abramson was born in Lithuania in 1898, his family moving to America when he was about five years old, settling in Chicago. In 1916, in search of work of any kind, he took a job at the Economy Bookshop in Chicago, thinking it would only be a temporary stop–gap until something better came along. But his enthusiasm for the book–trade was fired by the job, and by about 1920 he had set up his own business in Chicago, the Argus Bookshop. By the late 1920s he had ventured into publishing, his aim being to publish material that no other publisher would handle, this including the erotic, the eccentric and the off–beat as we shall see.

A valuable source of information about Ben Abramson is the book written by his daughter, Deborah B. Covington (hereafter DBC), The Argus Book Shop: a Memoir (Tarrydiddle Press, West Cornwall, Connecticut,1977), though it has to be said that her book was hampered on account of the records of Argus being destroyed in accordance with her father’s will (p.57). Consequently she is uncertain about his first publication, and about the dates and origins of some others.

Certainly one of his earliest publications was Poor Jack, allegedly by James Branch Cabell, but actually a spoof by Ben of Cabell’s The Love Letters of Falstaff, an episode in his historical novel The Line of Love, originally published in New York in 1905. Poor Jack was printed on paper dating from 1906, in period type, and bound in wrappers of that time – designed to deceive, in other words. It was published by Ben under the false imprint of Richmond in 1927, and became a famous American forgery. Whether or not Cabell was in on the act is not clear – DBC tells us that at one point Cabell strenuously denied authorship, but behind the scenes admitted to Ben that it was “a fine imitation” (p.62–3).

One of the most contentious of his early publications was a 1928 reprint of What Never Dies: a Romance by Barbey d’Aurevilly supposedly translated by Oscar Wilde under his nom de plume Sebastian Melmoth, though probably not by him at all – Wilde’s name was attached to many works to ‘help sales’, in this case attached to the earlier English translation published by the notorious Charles Carrington “for Private Circulation” in Paris in 1902 (3a). This was quite possibly the one ‘adapted’ for Argus, though a translation was also current in vol.XIII of The Writings of Oscar Wilde, published by A.R. Keller & Co., in London & New York, in 1907. At any rate, DBC writes:

Ben commissioned Jamieson to design the Wildean style end papers and title page and the frontispiece. Again Helen Bird Pettee who was then Helen Bird did the ‘translation’, merely editing another translation as she also did not read French but her writing was superb in English and her ‘adaptation’ was very well done. This was published under the Peacock Press which was the Argus Press using a peacock tail as the logo, and was issued in 1928. (p.72)

Actually, the Argus edition seems to have followed its Parisian fore–runner in that it was “Privately Printed”. The mildly erotic bedroom scene in the frontispiece is signed “Jamieson” and the end papers bear the framed portraits of Wilde and d’Aurevilly, the frames supported by a naked woman.

Another early publication of Ben’s – this time one which bore a genuine imprint – was a reprint of Fabius Zachary Snoop’s extraordinary little book From the Monotremes to the Madonna: a Study of the Breast in Culture and Religion (Argus Books, Chicago, 1933), which may have been an ‘unofficial’ copy – it had been published by John Bale, Sons & Danielsson in London in 1928 (3b). At any rate, DBC says, “Whether it was published elsewhere and Ben bought unbound sheets and issued it under the Argus imprint, I do not know...I think it was issued in around 1935.” (p.73)

Next, not her father’s first publication as DBC believed (p.57), but certainly an early one, comes Norman Douglas’ novel South Wind (2 volumes, illustrated by John Austen, Argus Books Chicago, 1929), originally published by Martin Secker in London in 1917, and with numerous reprints down to the present day.

In 1930 Ben published The Collected Tales of Pierre Louÿs, again illustrated by John Austen, this being followed in 1931 by Louÿs’s Songs of Bilitis, illustrated by Donald Denton. Both were published under the imprint of Argus Books, Chicago, the latter being ‘translated’ from the French by that above–mentioned non–French reading ‘translator’, H.M. Bird. (It is not clear whether she ‘translated’ the former as well.)

In 1930 it was also back to false imprints again – or rather, no imprint at all, with the publication of an edition of D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, “Printed complete from the Original Manuscript”, with no publisher specified. If we follow DBC (p.89), Ben published this from a first edition, signed for him by Lawrence, and smuggled into the USA!

Not everything was a bit shady, though, for in 1930 appeared a limited edition of Suetonius’ Lives of the Twelve Caesars under the imprint of Argus Books, Chicago. Illustrated by Frank Pape, it was ‘translated’ by the ubiquitous H.M. Bird, who, knowing no Latin, simply cribbed a standard translation and “rearranged the sentence structure enough so that she could not be accused of plagiarism” (DBC p.64). A trade edition of it appeared in 1934. This was followed, also in 1934, by Robert H. Sherard’s Oscar Wilde Twice Defended from André Gide’s Wicked Lies and Frank Harris’s Cruel Libels, under the imprint of the Argus Bookshop Inc, Chicago. (As DBC writes, “Ben always admired Oscar Wilde” (p.72) – recall his early publication of What Never Dies.) Three years later, in 1937, appeared an edition of John Rathbone Oliver’s essay Spontaneous Combustion: a Literary Curiosity, under the imprint of the Argus Bookshop Inc., Chicago. (Ben Abramson knew Tiffany Thayer, founder of the Fortean Society, and this last title might tie–in with that, the subject being a favourite Fortean talking point. (4a))

Things got shady again in 1941, though, with the publication of Henry Miller’s book The World of Sex, “Printed for the Friends of Henry Miller by J.H.N.” (JHN = John Henry Nash). According to DBC, Miller’s books were smuggled into the USA by servicemen who sold them to her father to cover their expenses while on leave (p.35).

In 1944 Ben Abramson moved Argus from Chicago to New York City, to be nearer auction houses and nearer to England (DBC p.35), and with plans to extend his publishing ventures.

In 1945 he published Thomas de Quincey’s essay Doctor Johnson and Lord Chesterfield, “Printed now for the first time with a facsimile of the Manuscript” (DBC p.65); H.P. Lovecraft’s Supernatural Horror in Literature; and August Derleth’s book HPL: a Memoir, all under the imprint of “Ben Abramson, Publisher.” (Abramson was an early champion of Lovecraft – DBC p.64.)

The year after, 1946, was a bumper year. As we have seen, Streit’s Hafiz in Quatrains appeared in this year, as did Albert Richard Wetjen’s Youth walks on the Highway (“a brief story told in allegory of a young man’s sexual experience” – DBC p.58); Albert Ehrenstein’s novel Tubutsch, translated by Eric Posselt and Era Zistel, and illustrated by Oskar Kokoschka (“Why Ben decided to reissue [this]...I do not know” – DBC p,81); and Charles G. Finney’s The Circus of Dr Lao with illustrations by Boris Artzybasheff (“because it was the book most demanded in Antiquarian Bookman and because he thought it was a great book” – DBC p,59.) All these, of course, were under bona fide Abramson imprints. Not so Henry Miller’s Aller Retour New York, which was “Printed for Private Circulation Only” in 1946, in a limited edition of 500 copies. This sold out rapidly and was followed by a reprint (DBC p.67). It is now a Penguin Classic, of course!

It is also worth mentioning that “Ben was always interested in science fiction: long before it became fashionable he was reading and selling it.” (DBC p.59) In 1947 he published, under the imprint of Argus Books, New York, J.O. Bailey’s Pilgrims through Space and Time, subtitled “A History and Analysis of Scientific Fiction”, probably the first serious treatment of the history of science fiction.

Finally, he was a great Sherlock Holmes fan, helping to found The Baker Street Journal which ran from 1946 to 1949, under the imprint of “Ben Abramson, Publisher” (DBC p.78–9).

One of the reasons for the demise of The Baker Street Journal was that in 1947 Ben had suffered a physical and mental breakdown, and spent some time in a sanatorium. The medical bills and loss of business during his illness meant that by 1948 he was in financial trouble. In 1949 he moved home and business out of New York City to Mohegan Lake, some 50 miles away, but his business barely kept afloat, surviving off the unsold stock of the past. He had never really liked New York, and in 1953 he returned to Chicago. But times had changed from when he was there in 1944, and neither he nor his business ever recovered. He died, apparently by his own hand, whilst in hospital, in 1955.

The year 1949, of course, was the year of publication of Ziff’s He the Maker, and despite his troubles, he did publish some books on into the 1950s.Thus, Julian B. Arnold’s book Through a Calendar’s Window appeared in 1952 under the imprint Argus Books Inc., Mohegan Lake, and Ben Aronin’s book Walt Whitman’s Secret appeared in 1955 under the imprint Argus Books, Chicago. His last publication was William Gillette’s The Painful Predicament of Sherlock Holmes, “a Fantasy in One Act”, published under the imprint of “Ben Abramson, Chicago”, in 1955. As the publisher lay on his death–bed, a newly delivered copy had been received from the bindery. As his daughter noted, “I sent a copy to the hospital and it was the last book he held in his hands” (DBC p.44.)

Streit & Ziff revisited

DBC mentions Annemarie twice in her book, both times with her name mis–spelt as Annamarie. The first is in connection with Streit’s book Hafiz in Quatrains, published in 1946, remember. DBC writes thus:

Clarence K. Streit was an old friend and customer of Argus. He had translated the Quatrains of Hafiz, which Viking had published in 1928.

Annamarie Bonnet, also an Argus customer from Meriden, Connecticut, was a talented artist. Streit spoke to Ben quite casually about reissuing the Hafiz if he could find an illustrator to his liking. Ben remembered seeing the work of Miss Bonnet and introduced them. The result was again a reprint by Ben in two editions, one limited to 350 signed and numbered copies signed by both Streit and Bonnet and a trade edition of probably 3000 copies because that was the usual number Profile printed for Argus. (p.65)

As we saw earlier, the artist’s name was correctly rendered Annemarie Bonnet in the colophon of Streit’s book, but more than this, we learn from the above passage that in the mid 1940s our artist was associated with both Meriden, Connecticut, and New York. However, her connections with Meriden, Connecticut and New York in the mid 1940s do not serve to trace her in the 1940 US Federal Census, either as Annemarie Bonnet or Annamarie Bonnet (or Anne–Marie Bonnet, with or without the hyphen for that matter.)

The second reference to the artist in DBC is in connection with Ziff’s book He the Maker, published in 1949. Ziff, it should be noted, was head of the Ziff Davis Publishing Company, as well as being a friend and customer of Ben Abramson. DBC writes:

Bill had written a pantheistic narrative poem which he felt would not fit into the Ziff Davis list, so he asked Ben to publish it, with Bill underwriting it. The talented Annamarie Bonnet who had done such a beautiful job on illustrating the Clarence Streit reissue of the Hafiz Quatrains was commissioned to do the woodcuts for the Ziff book which was entitled He the Maker. Profile Press did the printing as usual. Ben was ill at the time so Bill had to do much of the promotion but one of Ben’s talented secretaries, either Ruth Hirschberger or Jean Garrigue stepped in and wrote the copy for the catalogue which featured He the Maker. (p.74)

As we saw earlier, the artist’s name was correctly rendered Annemarie Bonnet on the title–page of Ziff’s book, but curiously, in a note on the back of the dust jacket, she is Annamarie once more. Be that as it may, the note tells us:

ANNAMARIE BONNET who provided the illustrations for HE THE MAKER, is a European artist, now residing in America. Her previous work has excited much favourable attention.

“A European artist now residing in America” (ie in the late 1940s), of course, could explain why she does not appear in the 1940 US Federal Census, for she may well have still been in Europe then. But where ? Unfortunately, the surviving correspondence of both Streit and Ziff with Abramson gives no clues. (4b)

Who was Annemarie Bonnet ?

A broad world–wide sweep on for Annemarie Bonnet reveals only one such, resident in Berlin and listed in a street directory for 1935 as “Bonnet, Annemarie Kunstgewerblerin SW19 Sebastianstrasse 77.” Kunstgewerblerin means something like a (female) commercial artist. In the Berlin street directory for 1940 she is listed as “Bonnet, Annemarie Journalistin SW68 Sebastienstrasse 77.” The address is clearly the same, Journalistin meaning (female) journalist, which, taken in conjunction with commercial artist, perhaps implies doing illustrations for newspapers and / or magazines. (The German connection is odd, as her name is distinctly French or Belgian, so it is perhaps worth mentioning that in both directories there are just under 30 Bonnets listed.) But after 1940 she disappears from the records until she reappears in the phone books for Hamburg in 1964, 1965, 1966 and 1967, the listings in which, unfortunately, give no indication of her occupation. But then, after 1967, nothing – no online trace of her death (and none anywhere of her birth, either), at least not on

Turning to, which has better coverage of European records, it made sense to launch a broad search for Annemarie Bonnet within a time frame suggested by the foregoing. Assuming that in Berlin she was in her twenties or thirties, and that she was not too old when she worked for Ben Abramson, would imply, roughly, that she was born between about 1900 and 1915. Plus any candidate would have to have died after 1967. No Annemarie Bonnet fitting that time–frame turns up but three Anne–Marie Bonnets do. A fourth Anne–Marie Bonnet was born in 1918, slightly outside our time–frame and died after 1967. However, all four of these lived and died in France and there is no reason to link any of them to our artist. A fifth, however, is more promising, though born well outside the above time–frame.

She was Anne–marie Bonnet (sic), who was born in 1891 in Hochfelden, now in Alsace, France, close to the German border, but back then, remember, Alsace was officially Alsatia, having been annexed by Germany in 1871, and remaining thus until 1918. (If she is our artist, she would therefore have been in her forties when in Berlin, and in her fifties when she was doing work for Ben Abramson.) Furthermore, her mother’s maiden–name was Muller, which has a distinctly German ring to it, though she was actually born in Ettendorf, in the same region of France. Anne–marie features in a family tree, a screen shot of which is shown in Fig.6. Note that no year of death is given for her, unlike for her parents and seven siblings, which in this context could imply that she did not die in France. Unfortunately, German death records for post–1967 (the end of our artist’s Hamburg period) are not accessible, so we do not know if she died in Germany.

Of course, all this is tentative, but a scenario that makes sense and fits with all the foregoing is that Annemarie Bonnet was born in Hochfelden, and, possibly via German family connections, she came to work in the arts in Berlin in the 1930s. Then, in the early 1940s, possibly on account of the War, she moved to America, where she continued to work as an artist, illustrating the two books mentioned above for Ben Abramson, with hopes of following these with her Rubaiyat, which was, alas, to remain unpublished. Perhaps it was some time after Abramson’s death in 1955 that she returned to Germany, but I stress again that all this is tentative: it is entirely possible, for example, that our artist was born and died in Germany (recall the number of Bonnets in the Berlin street directories), in which case she would not show up anywhere on or, German birth records being mostly as inaccessible as death records. However, a strong indication that we are on the right track is that a copy of Ziff’s He the Maker has survived (5) which carries a gift inscription written by the artist herself: “Für Tante Greta / von / Annemarie Bonnet / Weinachten / 1949.” (Fig.5i = “For Aunt Greta, from Annemarie Bonnet, Christmas 1949.”) This certainly suggests a German heritage, and may well explain why she was described on the dust–jacket of He the Maker as “a European artist”, for with the year of publication following so soon after the end of the Second World War, “a German artist” might not have been so welcome!

Unfortunately, I can find no trace of our artist’s entry to, or exit from, the USA, though this is perhaps not surprising as the online records can be patchy. A partial confirmation of the foregoing hypothesis would be if she was present in the 1950 US Federal Census, but this will not be online until 2022, and at present access to the census records for that year is restricted to family members.

Hopefully, however, more information will surface in the future.

Other Art–Work

As we saw earlier, though her full name was Annemarie Bonnet, she signed her artwork with an AM monogram which took the two forms shown in Figs.7a & 7b.

The monogram in Fig.7a appears to the lower left of the illustrations in the unpublished Rubaiyat – on the title page of which, remember, she names herself as Anne Marie, not Annemarie Bonnet (Fig.1a). The monogram in Fig.7b appears to the lower left of two of the woodcuts in Ziff’s book (Figs.5a & 5h.) Both monograms appear on the collection of 106 original artworks (87 paintings and 19 linocuts) owned and currently for sale by Tom Congalton of “Between the Covers – Rare Books”, Gloucester City, New Jersey, USA, a broad shot of a selection of which is shown in Fig.8. (6a) As Tom notes:

Most are signed with the “AM” monogram in paint or pencil; about half have been dated from 1937, and about half have short captions by the artist (mostly on laid–in note cards) that identify the literary figures and scenes depicted... I have thus been able to more easily identify many illustrations and roughly collate them into nine portfolio collections by subject: Hamlet; Le Morte D’Arthur; Tennyson I; Tennyson II; Salome; The Snow Queen; Egyptian Deities; The Crusades and the Magic Mountain; and The Unknown Woman. (6b)

At this point I should remind readers that the Anne Marie Rubaiyat was at one stage Tom’s tenth portfolio (1), though it had already been arranged in a relatively new folder of plastic wallets by the time he bought it.

A monogrammed (Fig.7b type) linocut of Guinevere from Le Morte D’Arthur is shown in Fig.9 and an (unsigned ?) painting of Salome is shown in Fig.10. Looking at Fig.8, it is clear that Anne Marie had some interest in Egyptian gods and goddesses, and also in Japanese art. It is clear, too, that she had a predilection for depicting the human face with garishly coloured stylised features, notably eyes in the form of quadrilaterals, without pupils, of which Figs.9 & 10 are examples. This predilection shows through to some extent in her Rubaiyat illustrations, for in those depicting human figures, the eyes, though almond–shaped, are coloured uniformly in gold. Fig.11 is another example of her work, with crescents for closed eyes. It is signed in the lower left–hand corner with the monogram of Fig.7b. This one belongs to “The Unknown Woman” category.

It is not known if the two monograms of Figs.7a & 7b relate to different phases of the artist’s career. As regards the latter monogram, it is interesting that in her handwritten quatrains in the Rubaiyat MS, the artist renders a capital M rather like the M in monogram of Fig.7b – as with Muezzin in the third line of quatrain XXV (Fig.1g).

An unanswered question at the time of writing is why, if Annemarie Bonnet herself returned to Germany, so much of her art–work remained in the USA. It may be, of course, that Ben Abramson bought the collection or at least held it for exhibition. He certainly held an exhibition at the Argus Book Shop of the work of Australian artist, Norman Lindsay (DBC p.28) and at least one work ended up on his living–room wall at home (DBC p.58). He also occasionally offered paintings and drawings for sale in his Argus Book Shop Catalogues. A large drawing by Norman Lindsay was up for sale in his Catalogue #11 (item 224a), for example, and in the same catalogue he listed no less than 43 original oil paintings of fish by I.L. Petrie (item 219.) These last, Abramson explained in his catalogue note, had been done for a commissioned book on ichthyology whose publication never went ahead. (He does not name the publisher involved.) Again, in his Catalogue #31, Abramson listed two watercolours by John Austen (items 37 & 38), an original oil painting by George Cruikshank (item 163), and a watercolour by Frank C. Pape, with a pen and ink drawing by the same artist (items 378 & 379.) So, was Anne Marie’s art–work, including her Rubaiyat illustrations, which, like Petrie’s fishes, had been destined for a book never to be published, left in the USA for sale through the Argus Book Shop ? At the moment nothing is known for sure.


Note 1. I have been unable to trace the whereabouts of the MS further back than the mid to late 1990s, when it was sold to Tom Congalton of “Between the Covers – Rare Books”, Gloucester City, New Jersey, USA, by a Tennessee book–dealer who prefers to remain anonymous, and who, in any case, has no record or recollection of where he got it from. As indicated in the section on Anne Marie’s other art–work, the MS came with a large batch of over a hundred of her paintings and linocuts. However, the Tennessee book–dealer had numerous trade–contacts in Chicago, where Ben Abramson died, and where his Argus Books business was finally wound up, so it may well be that it came ultimately from the Publisher’s estate, the MS having been lodged with him for some reason. I say “for some reason”, as, in its present state, with a half–finished title page and several uncompleted or missing designs, it can hardly have been a MS waiting for a publication that never came.

Note 2. Alfred McKinley Terhune and Annabelle Burdick Terhune, The Letters of Edward FitzGerald (4 volumes, Princeton University Press, New Jersey, USA, 1980), vol.II, p.294.

Note 3a. For a good account see Colette Colligan, A Publisher’s Paradise: Expatriate Culture in Paris, 1890–1960 (University of Massachusetts Press, 2014), p.129–130.

Note 3b. They also published its companion volume, Reproduction and Sexual Evolution from the Protozoa to the Primates, probably in 1926. Fabius Zachary Snoop must surely be a pseudonym, though the identity of the person behind it remains mystery. A careful reading of both books suggests that he was a medical man, and one with a wry sense of humour.

Note 4a. The association between Tiffany Thayer and Ben Abramson is well covered at:, this account being based on the letters between the two men preserved in the Argus Bookshop Correspondence housed in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University at YCAL MSS 427, Series 1, Box 12, Folder 410.

Note 4b. The letters are preserved in the Beinecke Library at Yale at YCAL MSS 427, Series 1, Box 12, Folder 403 (Streit) and Box 13, Folder 466 (Ziff). The Ziff folder contains only a single letter dated 4 August 1943 which, not surprisingly, has no bearing on He the Maker, which was not to be published for another six years. The Streit folder does have a bearing on his Hafiz in Quatrains, but only on the prospect of re–issuing his earlier 1928 edition, and getting clearance from the Viking Press which had issued it. The correspondence all dates from between April and June 1944, at which period the illustration of the proposed new edition had not even been raised.

Note 5. The copy was sold by Harry and Ann Polizzi, The Book Barn, Edgewater, Florida, through Invaluable Auctions, in January 2020. Fortunately, they retained an image of the inscription, which, though low resolution, nevertheless serves as a useful record of it (Fig.5i).

Note 6a. On AbeBooks here.

Note 6b. See



My thanks are due to Tom Congalton and Harry & Ann Polizzi for their respective images used in this article, and to Michael Behrend for bringing the Invaluable Auctions catalogue entry (cited in note 5) to my attention. I must also thank Roger Paas, Sandra Mason & Bill Martin for proof–reading this article and for making various useful suggestions.


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