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The Somerton Man Case. The body of a man found on an Australian beach close to a major Atomic Testing ground, he was probably poisoned, a copy of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam and an unbroken Code page found and associated to him. Set against a Cold War background in 1948, was this man a spy? We think so and this blog focuses on the evidence that was left behind and in some cases missed, the Code page, Dry Cleaning numbers, A Poem and a small, torn piece of paper bearing the words TAMAM SHUD.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Somerton Man: The Books, The Code Page & The Aspect Ratio

"O! What A Tangled Web We Weave When First We Practice To Deceive.."

Sir Walter Scott: Marmion

Was there a deception in the Somerton Man Case?

The devils in the detail and deception is the devils work 

In this case, the 'detail' primarily relates to the proportions of the book, for those who may be unaware, it's called the 'Aspect Ratio' and what that means for the copies of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam is the ratio of the width of the book to the length of the book. The book was printed and published by Whitcombe & Tombs and it is thought that the print run was 1942.

For the enthusiasts, Whitcombe & Tombs had printing, retail and wholesale facilities in all major cities in New Zealand with offices in Melbourne and Sydney which city also had a retail shop.

Importantly, there was also a distribution office and later retail store in London from 1930 onwards. Read more.about W&T history. It raises the question, could SM have bought his copy in the UK?

Let's first take stock of the available evidence from the case and then arrange that into a form where we can draw some reasonable conclusions. 

The Evidence

1. An image of what we believe to be the copy of the book as found and associated with the Somerton Man. This book was identified as being from a Whitcombe & Tombs Courage and Friendship series, Edward Fitzgerald First Edition, a pocket edition in fact. It is assumed that the pages of the book, which appears to be in good condition, were white in colour with each page having a distinctive and elaborate background design. This image to the right shows a torn out area just beneath the last quatrain of the book.

2. On the left, an image of a book cover said to be from the same book that was associated with the case; this is a very grainy image and of poor quality: More recently, another image of that same cover of the book has been released, it is a 'cleaner' image and was organised by Professor Abbott. He informs me that this was arrived at by first reducing the size of the older image.

3. A full set of images of every page of a Courage & Friendship series Rubaiyat known as the JW version is contained in this link to a PDF download. This book is a paperback version with yapped edges. ('Yapped' means that the book cover is slightly larger than the interior pages of the book so that it folds over the edges of the assembled book block within the cover thus affording additional protection for those pages. This book contains images of the Copyright page, a Biographical Note page and also a Triangular Trade Mark with a written phrase beneath it found on the back of the last page of verses. The book and images are of good quality. In particular note the back page to the left, it shows the Yapped edges quite clearly as a squarish inner area of the page.

4. This is where it gets interesting! The image below is of the back cover of the JW Rubaiyat, you can see the darker lines that indicate the location of the 'yapped' edges: You can also see that it's been rotated and is on its side. The image has an aspect ratio of very close to .79:1, that is the width as you now see it is equal to 1 and the height is.79 in comparison.

5. Now here's the code page, it also has an aspect ratio of .79:1. This is really important because the code page matches almost exactly the ratio of the back cover of the JW Rubaiyat:

5. This next image below highlights the 'Yapped' edge which matches the Yapped edge surround of the JW Rubaiyat. What has been done here is to match the code page to a copy of the Courage & Friendship series produced by Whitcombe and Tombs. Why is this important? Because as far as I am aware the code page has always been thought to have come from a copy of the Rubaiyat as represented in item 2 above showing the grainy covers. That book cover has a ratio of .75 to 1, well short of the .70 ratio of the JW version.

6. This image below shows how the code page could have looked on the back cover of the paperback book, I have edited it so that it has a transparent background, that allows us to view the letters of the code in place on the back of the book. You should still be able to make out the faint lines of the Yapped edges beneath. Bear in mind that the Police say they only saw indented writing and that with the aid of a UV light.

You can download the next image, the transparent image of the code page:

There is a free editing tool you can download, IrfanView, that you can use to view and magnify the above image. I think you may be surprised at what you see amongst the letters and the shaded areas when magnified. The image that you see here is a transparent one against the black background of the blog page

7. The final image for this post shows the complete book as it was said to have been found by a Mr. Francis.

The Code page as published on the University of Adelaide Wiki, and as obtained from the Advertiser Newspaper had dimensions of 1800pixels X 1402 pixels and at 400 DPI which converts approximately to 11.4 cms X  9.2 cms. The aspect ratio was based on that set of dimensions. The dimensions of the back page of JW Courage and Friendship version of the Rubaiyat are 11.4 X 9.2 cms. You can expect a slight variation in dimensions due to wear and tear on the book cover

This completes the first of a few such posts that hopefully will provide everyone with a clearer understanding of the nature of the Rubaiyat that was found. Comments are very welcome.

The next post will look more closely at another most interesting aspect of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam book found and associated with the Somerton Man.

I use a number of different software tools including IrfanView, it is a free photo viewing tool that you can download here.

With this tool you will be able to quickly load and enlarge any of the images you find in this or other posts. 

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