Carnegie Mellon University

February Highlight - Curator's Choice

Rubaiyat coverOmar Khayyám’s Jeweled Rubáiyát

Omar Khayyám, 1048-1131. 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 Rubáiyát, a book of poetry, was published in modest form without illustrations in 1859. The book did not sell well 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 binding is by Sangorski & Sutcliffe of London, dated 1912.  The front cover has a sunken panel with a ruby-eyed snake (made of snakeskin) wrapped around inlaid red leather apples, and 14 sapphires. The back cover has a sunken panel inlaid with 12 garnets. 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, which is highly polished morocco leather.

This translation is attributed to Edward FitzGerald, 1809-1883.

Selected by Mary Catharine Johnsen, Special Collections Librarian