[FITZGERALD, Edward, translator]
Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, the Astronomer-Poet of Persia. Rendered into English Verse.
London: Bernard Quaritch, 1868. 8vo. (8 1/8 x 6 3/8 inches). xviii, 30pp.
Original printed paper wrappers. Housed in a full black morocco box with cloth chemise.
Second edition of Edward FitzGerald's translation, substantially expanded and revised from the first of 1859.
Omar Khayyám (1048-1131) was a Persian mathematician, astronomer, philosopher, and poet, famous in his own country and time chiefly for his scientific achievements. He is known to English-speaking readers mostly due to Fitzgerald's translations, which were quite free and liberal in their paraphrasing and would prove to be the "most popular verse translation into English ever made" (Decker, p. xiv). The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, attributed to him, is said to be one of the ten best-known poems in the world and one of the most popular pieces of Middle Eastern literature in the Western world. In the poem, as the day wears on, its protagonist becomes increasingly preoccupied with thoughts of mortality, the uncertainty of life, and judgment in a possible afterlife. There are hundreds of editions published from Fitzgerald's various translations alone, which emphasized the protagonist's agnosticism. According to this, it has been suggested that this work was as highly influential on the advent of modernism as Darwin's "Origin of Species" published in the same year as the first edition. Five hundred copies of the second edition were printed, with Quaritch selling each at a price of 1s. 6d.; when a copy re-appeared in their catalogue in 1929, it had already reached a price of £52 10s. (Potter, p. 12). Fitzgerald substantially revised the text of the Rubáiyát four times, with none of these five versions seen as truly definitive. The first edition had 75 quatrains, while the present second edition, which has 110 quatrains, is the longest of the five.