Press Release: The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám
Illuminated by William Morris
Translated by Edward FitzGerald
‘Masterly, panoramic, gripping’’
The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám remains one of the best-loved poems in English. It was born of an encounter between two minds across seven centuries, when Victorian scholar Edward FitzGerald translated a set of verses attributed to the 12th-century Persian poet, Omar Khayyám. Filled with the lush opulence and romance of the East, the Rubáiyát advocated the pleasures of earthly life – wine, love, song – over the uncertain promise of heaven.
William Morris created four versions of the Rubáiyát and we have selected the version that best exemplifies his unique and enduring style; the 1872 edition held by the British Library (Add MS 37832). Each page was meticulously hand-written in calligraphy by Morris and decorated with elaborate borders, nature-inspired motifs and exquisite classical and religious figures. Morris shared the work of the illustrations with fellow artists Edward Burne-Jones and Charles Fairfax Murray. Our edition of one of Morris’s finest and most elaborate works is a complete facsimile of the manuscript.
FitzGerald was notoriously free with his translation. As well as structuring the poem so that it moves from dawn to nightfall, he wrote new lines and even new quatrains. He wove echoes of Greek and Roman literature, the Bible and Shakespeare into his Persian source so that the Rubáiyát seems at once exotic and familiar, as if its lines have always existed. Above all, the poem owes its power to FitzGerald’s absolute mastery of Khayyám’s quatrain form, with its strong, mostly unrhymed third line and simple, direct language.
Printed in lustrous gold and full-colour throughout, the cloth binding features an intricate floral gold-block design by Morris and is presented in a cloth slipcase also with gold blocking.
Bound in blocked cloth. Facsimile of 1872 British Library Edition. 32 pages. Printed in four-colour and gold ink throughout. Blocked slipcase. 6½˝ × 4¾˝.
UK £29.95 US $45.95 Can $59.95 Aus $67.95
For media enquiries please contact
UK & ROW Ken Hooper, Cherish PR
020 3626 0282,
US & Canada Cathleen P. Williamson