London: Macmillan and Co., 1895. Item #04200
Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam
In a Fine Inlaid Binding by Morrell
MORRELL, binder. Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. The Astronomer-Poet of Persia. Rendered into English Verse. London: Macmillan and Co., 1895.
Fifth edition, later printing. Octavo (8 x 5 1/2 inches; 204 x 140 mm.).
Bound by Morrell ca. 1895 (stamp-signed in gilt on front paste-down). Full dark green morocco, covers double-ruled in gilt. Front cover with a very decorative wide border enclosing gilt flowers and grapes surrounding an elaborately gilt 'paisley' design inlaid in red and tan morocco. Spine with five raised bands with gilt dots, decoratively paneled, lettered and tooled in gilt in compartments, gilt board edges and decorative turn-ins, gray paste-downs and end-leaves, top edge gilt, others uncut. minimal darkening to spine otherwise a very fine example of an inlaid binding by Morell.
The London bindery of W. T. Morrell was established about 1861 as successor to the firm begun by Francis Bedford, who, in turn, had taken over the famous bindery of Charles Lewis. Prideaux in her "Modern Bookbindings" published in 1906, says that Morrell at that time had a very large business that supplied "all the booksellers with bindings designed by his men," bindings that were "remarkable for their variety and merit."
Edward FitzGerald’s version of Omar Khayyam’s quatrains was widely read only after it was taken up by the Pre-Raphaelites in 1861. The first version of the Rubáiyat had been published in 1859, the same year that Darwin’s Origin of the Species had appeared. A few years later, Matthew Arnold would publish “Dover Beach”, in which the melancholy long retreat of the “Sea of Faith” left humanity on a “darkling plain”. Already in 1850, in “In Memoriam”, Tennyson had raised questions about Christian doctrine and the immortality of the soul, only to dismiss them with suspicious glibness. The doubts and fears of the twelfth-century Persian philosopher were shared by many of his English and American readers. In the Rubáiyat, as the day wears on, its mostly agnostic protagonist becomes increasingly preoccupied by thoughts of mortality and judgment in a possible afterlife, and this too perfectly matched the Victorian preoccupation with death. Deathbed scenes were a popular staple of fiction and the cowled figure stalked through quite a few novels.