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Original illustration pictorial art of a map of Persia -- present-day Iran -- created for the lavishly illustrated 1937 Random House edition of The Adventures of Hajji Baba of Ispahan. The map is reproduced in the book as a two-page frontispiece (see photo above). A calligraphic inscription in the lower right of the map explains: "For the reader's easier understanding & memory these are the towns visited by Hajji Baba son of Kerbelai Hassan the celebrated barber of Ispahan."
The Persian Empire is colored yellow, the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf are blue, edged in green, and the surrounding regions in the earth tones. Cities and towns are labeled in red and black. A legend lower left gives the scale in miles. Also labeled are larger geographic regions such as Mesopotamia and the Great Salt Desert, and homelands of peoples such as the Kurds and the Bakhtiari, as well as historical events such as “The Shah’s expedition against the Moscovites” and “The Turcoman predatory excursions from the plains of Kipchâk.” The surrounding areas show few cities and instead are inscribed with the name of the region and the legends: “To the east the land of The emirs of Afghanistan” and “to the west the land of the Sultan.” The entire map is surrounded by a floral border against a black background, outlined in blue.
The Adventures of Hajji Baba of Ispahan is a 19th century adventure novel by the British author James Morier, first published in 1824. It is rumored to be loosely based on the life of Abolhasan Khan Ilchi, the Special Iranian Ambassador to England from about 1810 to 1813. Morier traveled with Ilchi in Iran, and his story has a striking authenticity in its portrayal of the culture and customs, as evidenced by the fact that the 19th century Persian translation by Mirza Habib Isfahani is regarded as a classic in Iran.
The 1937 Random House edition was designed and illustrated by Cyrus LeRoy Baldridge in collaboration with the Book-of-the-Month Club. Baldridge prepared for the project by spending a year in the region and making sketches along the route taken by Hajji in the story. In an illustrator’s note at the beginning of the book, he explains he succeeded in making “hundreds of sketches” despite challenging conditions. Although he carried an official document granting him permission to travel throughout the country, the “provincial suspiciousness” exacerbated by the totalitarian regime of the Shah caused him to be “repeatedly driven out of cities…by my official protectors -- the police!”
Cyrus LeRoy Baldridge was an American illustrator, printmaker, painter, and author, an adventurous spirit with a deeply humanistic outlook and lifelong curiosity about different cultures. Baldridge was mentored as a youth by Chicago illustrator Frank Holme, and graduated from the University of Chicago in 1911. When America entered World War I in 1917, he was put in charge of illustrations for Stars and Stripes magazine and his sketches made on the front became the basis for his first book, I Was There. He went on to illustrate over 40 books, for both adults and children. After the war, he and his life companion Caroline Singer became part of a circle of New York City artists and intellectuals. Their first collaboration was White Africans and Black, written by Singer with illustrations by Baldridge and based on a walking trip across central Africa -- today some 300 drawings made during his travels form one of the major collections of Fisk University’s Aaron Douglas Gallery. Other books based on their travels in Asia and the Middle East followed. He also wrote and illustrated the widely distributed American Legion publication, Americanism--What Is It? which emphasized the egalitarian values of the Founding Fathers. In 1947, he wrote his autobiography, Time and Chance (1947), and soon after relocated to Santa Fe with Singer. There, he turned to painting the Western landscape. Besides Fisk University, major collections of his drawings and paintings are held by the University of Wyoming, the University of Chicago Alfred Smart Museum of Art and the Santa Fe Museum of Art.
Inscriptions: Paper sticker, lower center, for book layout, as issued. A penciled instruction to the artist in the lower margin notes “Mr. Baldridge: “these are the towns visited by.” Mr. Scherman thinks should be in red. Otherwise swell!!! [signature].” Evidently this is the corrected version.
“Cyrus Leroy Baldridge.” Wikipedia.com. 26 August 2007. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyrus_Leroy_Baldridge (27 September 2007).
Gilbert, Dorothy B., ed. Who’s Who in American Art. New York: American Federation of Arts and R.R. Bowker, 1959. p. 27.
Morier, James, illustrated by Cyrus LeRoy Baldridge. The Adventures of Hajii Baba of Ispahan. New York: Random House, 1937.