London: Macmillan and Co., Limited, 1906. Item #05497
A Finely Bound Rubáyát of Omar Khayyám
RUBÁIYÁT OF OMAR KHAYYÁM. [RIVIERE, Binder]. Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. The Astronomer-Poet of Persia. Rendered into English Verse. London: Macmillan and Co., Limited, 1906.
Fifth edition, later issue. Octavo (7 3/4 x 5 /14 inches; 197 x 133 mm.). [iv], -112 pp.
Bound ca. 1906 by [Riviére] for Hatchards (stamp-signed in gilt on front turn-in). Full purple morocco, covers paneled in gilt, front cover elaborately decorated in gilt in an 'art nouveau' style with fifty-six tiny inlaid red morocco circles, rear cover with four tiny inlaid red morocco circles, spine with five raised bands, decoratively tooled and lettered in gilt in compartments, gilt board edges and turn-ins, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. A fine example.
Of the five editions published, four were published under the authorial control of FitzGerald. The fifth edition, which contained only minor changes from the fourth, was edited posthumously on the basis of manuscript revisions FitzGerald had left.
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.