KHAYYÁM, Omar. Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. The Astronomer Poet of Persia. Rendered in English Verse. London: Macmillan, 1909. 16mo. pp. , 111, . Finely bound in full red straight-grained red morocco. Covers framed by triple gilt fillets and chain-link roll, enclosing the title and gilt decoration on upper cover. Spine divided into six compartments by five gilt raised bands, title in gilt on maroon morocco letterpiece in the second, the remainder tooled in gilt to a centre-and-corner design, with a gilt crescent in centre. Wonderful red geometrical endpapers. With the slightest signs of rubbing to the extremities, spine evenly tanned. All edges gilt. A very attractive copy.
Edward Fitzgerald (1809-1883), poet and translator, was educated at Bury St. Edmunds and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated in 1830. He has been described by Benson as “a literary recluse of Irish origin, son of a member of Parliament of great wealth and position as a landowner”. A great friend of Thackeray, Tennyson, Spedding and Carlyle, he first published his translation in 1859, which is the text reproduced here. Fitzgerald managed to convince Bernard Quaritch to put his imprint on the wrappered volume; finding he could not sell it, Quaritch relegated it to a stall in St. Martin’s Lane. It came to the attention of Rosetti and Swinburne who bought them for a penny apiece. Having gone through four editions in the author’s lifetime and thousands since his death, its immortality was ensured by its popularity with the public as one of the most quoted poems of all time.
Omar Khayyám the eleventh-century mathematician, astronomer and poet was born at Naishapur in Persia (Iran). The political events of that time played a major role in the course of his life. A literal translation of the name Khayyám means ‘tent maker’ and this may have been the trade of Ibrahim, his father. Omar studied philosophy at Naishapur and one of his fellow students wrote that he was “endowed with sharpness of wit and the highest natural powers”. Renowned in his own country for his scientific achievements, in the English-speaking world he is chiefly known for the collection of rubaiyat or quatrains translated by Edward Fitzgerald.
Another copy of the ‘Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám’, affectionately known as the ‘Great Omar’, executed at the renowned craft bookbinding firm of Sangorski and Sutcliffe, took over two years to create. Bound in full green goatskin and boasting 1,000 precious and semi-precious stones and 1,500 separate pieces of leather, it was lost when it went down with the ‘Titanic’ in 1912. It now lies at the bottom of the Atlantic in an oak casket.
Pogany’s artwork appears in full-colour inserted plates and green monochromatic decorative borders, initial letters and decorative devices.
A remarkable work in a fine binding.