February Highlight - Curator's Choice
Omar Khayyam’s Jeweled Rubaiyat
Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, the astronomer poet of Persia rendered into English verse. 3rd ed. London: B. Quaritch, 1872.
Omar Khayyám was an eleventh-century Persian philosopher, mathematician, astronomer and poet. The first edition in modern English of his Rubaiyat, a book of poetry, was published in 1859, in modest form, without illustrations. The book did not sell and was reduced from half a crown to a shilling, and finally to a penny. Algernon Charles Swinburne and Dante Gabriel Rossetti discovered the book in the penny box and praised it highly. Many illustrators and fine binders have decorated later editions.
This copy’s extraordinary leather and jeweled binding is by Sangorski & Sutcliff of London, dated 1912. The front cover has an oval sunken panel with a snake (made of actual snakeskin) wrapped around inlaid red leather apples and fourteen sapphires. The back cover has a sunken panel inlaid with twelve garnet jewels. Brown levant doublures—the lining of the inside covers—are inlaid with blue, green, and red and heavily gilded. The fly leaves are of gilt brown levant.
This translation is attributed to Edward FitzGerald, 1809-1883.
Selected by Mary Catharine Johnsen, Special Collections Librarian