KHAYYAM, Omar. The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Translated into English verse by Edward Fitzgerald. With an introduction by A.C. Benson. Illustrated by E. Geddes. Reproduced from a manuscript written, designed and illuminated by F. Sangorski and G. Sutcliffe. London: Siegle, Hill & Co. n.d. (c.1912). Folio. pp. , 12 (coloured plates of illuminated manuscript). Cream buckram, elaborately stamped in gilt with a peacock motif on upper cover, title and floral design in gilt on spine. Pictorial endpapers. Frontispiece and titlepage illuminated in full colour. The text beautifully printed in red and black, decorative initials in red, blue, brown and gold. Presentation inscription on front free endpapers, dated December 25th 1917. Occasional light foxing to the text. Top edge gilt, remainder untrimmed. A near fine copy.
Edward Fitzgerald (1809-1883), poet and translator; 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 Khayyam the eleventh-century mathematician, astronomer and poet was born at Naishapur in Persia. The political events of that time played a major role in the course of his life. A literal translation of the name Khayyam 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. A superb copy of a remarkable work.
Another copy of the ‘Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam’, 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.
This edition with lavish decoration and sumptuous embellishments give this the feel of a medieval manuscript. A fabulous production of this most famous philsophical love poem.