Collecting Editions of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, 1918

by Terry Stillman, Stillman Books

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam is said to be one of the ten best known poems in the world, and probably the most popular piece of Oriental literature in the Western World. A number of auspicious events were necessary for this phenomenon to occur.

If Edward Cowell hadn’t been able to interest Edward Fitzgerald in the study of the Persian language in 1852 and brought to Fitzgerald’s notice in 1856 a Persian manuscript in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, then Fitzgerald would not have translated these “Epicurean tetrastichs by a Persian of the eleventh century”. If Edward Fitzgerald himself hadn’t persevered, after being rejected by Fraser’s Magazine, and paid to have his first translated version of 75 quatrains published, it probably would have been no more than a scholarly exercise.

If, after publication in 1859 by London bookseller Bernard Quaritch, Whitley Stokes hadn’t later passed by Quaritch’s bookshop and plucked a copy from the “penny box”, Fitzgerald’s book would have died on Picadilly Street. If Whitley Stokes, well-known as a Celtic scholar, had not given a copy of Fitzgerald’s Rubaiyat to his friend Dante Rossetti on the 10th of July, 1861, then the translation would not have been introduced to the influential literati of the day. It passed from Rossetti to Charles Swinburne to George Meredith to William Morris to Edward Burne-Jones to John Ruskin to the Brownings and on and on, even to America. These romantic verses kept gaining in popularity, necessitating more and more editions to be printed. From the 1880’s up until WWI, hundreds of thousands of English students were forced to memorize The Rubaiyat.

Today, no one really knows how many hundreds of editions have been printed from Fitzgerald’s various translations alone, not to mention other English and foreign translations. There are a startling array of sizes, bindings, illustrations and printing materials. With the exception of the Bible and Shakespeare’s collective works, the Rubaiyat must be the most printed book in the world.

Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
1922 First Edition of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

The most common editions are based on the four versions of translation by Fitzgerald. The first edition consisted of 75 quatrains (stanzas); the second edition (1868) was expanded to 110 quatrains; the third (1872) and fourth (1879) editions had 101 quatrains. The variations between the third and fourth editions consist of 17 words and 18 punctuation marks only. Fitzgerald’s first edition totalled only 250 copies and had paper covers, which is why a very good (VG) copy today would be valued in excess of $25,000.00.

Certainly, the most ornate edition was produced by London’s Sangorski & Sutcliffe in 1911. Folio size with an inlaid jeweled peacock binding of burgundy morocco, with jeweled clasps, and an original illuminated frontispiece on vellum. This edition was limited to 10 copies.

Many fine artists in the early 20th century took up the challenge to illustrate The Rubaiyat. Among them were Edmund Dulac, Willy Pogany, FrankBrangwyn, Elihu Vedder, Sarkis Katchadourian, Adelaide Hanscom, Gilbert James, Charles and T.H. Robinson, Arthur Syzk and Rene Bull. Special limited editions were often published first, followed by many reprints. A poem about enjoying life to the fullest with wine, women and song certainly inspired a great deal of marvelous, exotic illustration. Surely, if one were to choose one book to spend a lifetime collecting, The Rubaiyat would be that book.

Terry Stillman is the owner of Stillman Books, a converted bricks-and-mortar store that now exists only in the ethereal vapours of the World Wide Web–in other words, an online bookstore which you can find here. You can also search Stillman Books on Biblio.com. Mr. Stillman has specialized in collectible children’s and illustrated books for more than thirty years.

 

 



This entry was written by and posted on August 5, 2010 at 3:27 pm, filed under Book Collecting and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink

53 Responses to “Collecting Editions of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam”

  1. Heidi

    I have unearthed a suede-bound copy of the Rubaiyat that appears to have no dates anywhere. It is published by Thomas Y. Crowell and illustrated by Gilbert James. Translated by Edward Fitzgerald. It has an introduction (lengthy) that is unsigned. The binding is separated at the spine, but the pages are immaculate. Please help me research this fun, old book. How can I find out who wrote the intro and what date (approx) it entered my family’s treasures.
    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Alan

      I also have an old suede copy from my Mom. Has anyone found any further inofmation on that copy of the Rubiat

      Reply
      • I also have a suede copy printed in Edinburgh and would like information, Small format. thanks

        Has Alan received any replies? Mercedes

        Reply
  2. Carol Friel

    My grandfather had a friend give him this book in 1917. It was publishd by Thomas V. Crowell Co, New York but doesn’t have a date. It’s bound in soft brown suede with a gold border, Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam @ the top inside the border

    Reply
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  4. Yvonne Adair

    I have a leather bound copy of the rubaiyat of Omar khayyam published George Harrop daed 1930 how do I find out its value.

    Reply
  5. Yvonne Adair

    I have a leather bound copy of the rubaiyat of Omar khayyam published George Harrop daed 1930 how do I find out its value. It has beautiful illustrations by Willy Pogang. Thank you.

    Reply
  6. Brian Duffissey

    I have a copy of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khyyam by Edward Fitzgerald with illustrations by Willy Pogany, printed by Thomas Y Crowell Co.,
    Printed in Gt Britain by Riverside Press, Edinburgh. 94 pages with 8 coloured pictures. There are no dates anywhere in the book – can you help with further information ?

    Reply
    • Hannah Off

      I have a copy that sounds like about the same thing and it appears to be from the 1920s. No date actually in the book but that’s what was penciled in by the store I got it from and I searched for a similar copy that also claims to be from the 20s.

      Reply
  7. Giovanni

    I have a copy of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam by Edward Fitzgerald with illustrations by Willy Pogany, printed by The Riverside Press Edinburgh, January 1944, 94 pages with 8 coloured pictures. I would like to find out its value. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Chris

      I also a leather bound copy of 94 pages with 8 pictures. It has 76 verses using the first edition translations. My copy has no publication dates so I’m interested in knowing how you know your version was printed in 1944. I have no idea of its value.

      Reply
  8. Janine Jackson-Bruce

    I have a copy of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam with illustrations by Adelaide Hanscom and photographs with ‘Copyright 1905 by Dodge Publishing Co’ written underneath. It’s a hardback published by George G Harrap & Co MCMV111 in London:XV York Street Covent Garden

    Reply
  9. Kevin Stevens

    I have a copy of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam by Edward Fitzgerald with 12 illustrations by Edmund Dulac. It’s a hardback second edition in reasonable condition with 110 poems and 189 pages Would anyone have more information on it or it’s value, many thanks.

    Reply
  10. Gemma

    I have a copy of the e Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, it says presented by willy poganys and I think printed by George g Harraby and Co Ltd London. It was presented to my great gran in 1922 at college. pages are all binded. Any idea possible value?

    Reply
    • Amber

      Gemma, at first glance while searching on Biblio.com and BookGilt.com for similar copies to the one you described, I am afraid that the copy that you have is only going for abound $20-$30. I hope that you can hold onto it and enjoy that book and continue passing it down through the family.

      Reply
      • Wendy Hewitt

        Hi! I have a 1909 edition, published by George G. Harrap, signed, endorsed and dated by Willy Pogany. Also included within the pages is a holiday greeting card, from, ‘The Poganys’. I’m trying to determine its rarity and possible value.
        Thank you for this terrific site!
        Warmest Regards,
        Wendy Hewitt

        Reply
  11. Robert

    It seems I have a copy of the Sangorski & Sutcliffe edition with the jewelled peacock. It is very ornate, folio size, and indicates illustrations by Edward Fitzgerald. Any idea on how I can find out its value? Thanks!

    Reply
    • Sue Amit

      Do you still have this book Robert? I am writing a book on Omar and would be pleased to see it

      Reply
  12. Marie lester

    Hoping someone can help me? I’ve found a leather bound copy signed by Edward Fitzgerald I do not know how to tell if this is a stamp or an actual signing and I don’t know what edition it is here is a photo of the signature please contact me with more info or if you can point me in the right direction!

    cutendbitter@yahoo.com

    Reply
  13. Marie Lester

    Hi! i’m trying to figure out what edition I have or if it’s worth anything I guess! It has a signature of Edward Fitzgerald, is leather (or maybe suede?) I THINK it is a 5th edition? Is there a way to know that? I cannot find a printing date for the book we have or anything it is stamped with ‘Thomas Y Crowell and Company publishers’ on the inside in the begining. the epilogue is by Alfred Lord Tennyson. the editor is ‘W. Aldis Wright’ and it is 281 pages.

    In the table of contents it has the following;

    Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam(1st edition) pg 119
    Variations between second, third and fourth editions of Omar Khayyam pg 150
    Comparative table of stanzas in the 4th editions pg 166

    if someone with more info or more knowledge could get in contact with me that would be fantastic!

    ๐Ÿ™‚

    my email is cutendbitter@yahoo.com

    Reply
    • Amy Levin

      I have the same edition. Did you learn any more about it?

      Reply
  14. Paulo Barbosa

    Hi I do have a copy of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam translated by Edward Fitzgerald with drawings by Elihu Vedder. Copyrighted by Houghton, Miffelin & Co. 1884. Anyone have more information and/or possible value? Thank you all!

    Reply
  15. Leanne Jennings

    I have a copy of Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. A 1942 reprint edition. It has a cover which on the inside, the print is upside down, but the outside cover’s writing is the right way. Illustrations are by Willy Pogany.
    Reprint by Spottiswoode, Ballantyne & Co LTD, Colchester, London & Eton.

    Can you give me some information regarding the cover, a mistake maybe?
    Thank you.

    Reply
    • Joanna

      Leanne I seems have same copy of the book. Have you found out any informations how much its her value?
      Thank you

      Reply
  16. Mike elzea

    I have a vest pocket series of rubaiyat. Of Omar .its signed as a gift to someone and dated 1911.its about an inch and one half wide by four and half inch tall,leather bound,with gold on the edges of the pages.from what i understand,there was only 24 books in the series,with 4 titles,that makes 6 books printed for each title.i have one and looking for the value

    Reply
    • Robin Forlow

      Hi Mike, I have the same copy as you, have you found any more info? I have not found a reference anywhere except I read that one matching this description had been donated to a museum in America, but I don’t know which one, hope you can help, regards, Robin.

      Reply
      • Robin Forlow

        Also, there are no dates or publishing info of any sort in the book.

        Reply
  17. Joy Garofalo

    I have a copy of Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam by Edward Fitzgerald with illustrations by Willy Pogany. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company. Printed in the United States of America by the National Process Co., N.Y. There are 12 illustrated pictures. What is the difference between this copy and those with only 8 pictures besides the obvious? I’m interested to also know when this would have been printed and the value. Any information you could give me is appreciated.

    Reply
  18. Terry Davis

    I also have a copy I would like to have more information about. It is bound in soft material that feels like suede leather. The title and an illustration of leaves, roses, and stems growing out of a pot are embossed on the cover. The book has 94 numbered pages. There are 8 color plates added to the book.

    The only identifying information printed is as follows:

    The illustrations and decorations in this edition of FitzGerald’s translation of the “Rubaiyat” are by WILLY POGANY

    Printed in Great Britain by the Riverside Press, Edinburgh

    If anyone has any information, please contact me via email. Terrydavis@live.com

    Thank you.

    Reply
    • Mercedes Deines

      I have the same edition with 8 color plates
      tipped in, no dates, gilt decoration on cover of pocket sized volume.

      Reply
  19. Catherine Venter

    I have what appears to be a 1st edition 1859 Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. The book is intact apart from the cover having become unglued…please contact me as I’d like this valued. Many thanks

    Reply
  20. Connie Heck

    I have a copy, The Rubaiyat of omar khayyam, that was found in a zip lock bag that states the author as Edward Fitzgerald copyright 1909 by Brewer Base & Company printed on paper first edition. Is it worth anything, worth holding onto?

    Reply
  21. Richard Gee

    I have a paperback miniature editon, 2 3/4 X 5 3/4 inches; missing front cover.
    Is it worth anything?

    Reply
  22. Shirley Morse

    My copy is similar in many respects to some of the earlier entries except that the illustrations are colour plates from drawings by Abanindo Nath Tagore and it was published by Leopold B Hill, 2 Langham Place, London, W1 from Edward FitzGerald’s First edition (1859). I would also like some idea of its value.

    Reply
    • MichelleCaltaux

      I have a similar copy – did you find anything out about it?

      Reply
  23. Rich (In Name Only) in Reno

    I have the Thomas Y. Crowell edition containing both the Rubaiyat and the Salaman And Absal Of Jami. First time I’ve found one with another work in it. This one’s undated, 4 x 6 format, gold stamped design on front cover (laurel wreaths, crossed quill pens and a lyre) and title on spine, gilded top edge, green leather cover with green marbleized endpapers and flyleaves, black and white frontispiece, otherwise no illustrations.

    Reply
  24. Jude

    I too have unearthed this book but illustrations by Margaret R Caird and introduction by Laurence E Housman, published by Collins Clear Type Press…not sure if it worth anything.

    Reply
  25. Jason Firmstone

    I have a pocket version 100mm by 132mm. Gold embossing on spine. Reprint of the fourth edition. Edward Fitzgerald. Macmillan and Co London. 1911. Wondering it its worth selling?

    Reply
  26. John S.

    I have a copy–suede cover, 101 quatrains, published by The Saalfield Pub. Co. of Akron, Ohio. No illustrations but has notes at the end.

    Reply
  27. Tanya D.

    I bought a copy of the Rubiayat at a yardsale and have not been able to find another like it, ive searched ebay, abebooks etc. It does not have a date , it the pages are not illustrated. It is a green hardback book, on the bind it says My Ladys Library with a crown embossed above those words. On the nt cover there is a crown , then the title and there are what looks like flower stems and leaves as decoration.
    when you open there is a pic of Edward fitzgerald .it says Springfield Ohio The Crowell Publishing Co Publishers…just like that, no date and and no edition info.
    does anyone know if this is a first edition? or the value? thanks

    Reply
  28. kathy nichols

    I have a Rubaiyat copy that is turquoise in color and stamped on the front in gold. A sailing ship is on the front.It says Philadelphia -Henry Altemus Company on the title page. There is only one illistration. Could you tell me about this and the possible value?

    Reply
    • GALE INWOOD

      I have a very similar one as the one you described. Did you find out anything about the value?

      Reply
  29. Michael

    I have a copy in leather with a tree emossed on the front cover and the title upper mid center in the leaves. 92 numbered pages + 2. 12 plates, noncolor glued into book. Spottiswoode, ballantyne & company. I have never even been able to find a picture of this exact book. Any info is much appreciated.. No dates in the volume..

    Reply
    • viki

      hi, it seams we have the same book, mine is brown leather, printed by Spottiswoode, ballantyne & company England, published by george g. harrap & co. ltd, I have been able to date this as one of the original books NOT a limited edition and numbered as reprint, it’s original, Rare and dated between 1849-1859, this is what I have found so far. as for pricing I have no idea because it is so rare, as soon as I get it valued I will let you know. simular sold for $9.000. but was not the same as ours. ours is earler.

      Reply
  30. Cheryl

    The hard/soft leatherette cover of my copy has a 4C portrait of a woman. Copyright 1900. Any advice/clues to value or where I could have it appraised. Very good condition.

    Reply
  31. Mario Merino

    I have a copy of the Rubaiyat in Spanish, dated 1938, Mexico. The green leather binding says Eduardo Hay Version on the cover. Third edition. Writing on the binding is gold color. Is this of any value?

    Reply
  32. debra

    I have a material folder with 12 poams and drawings on old rice paper , the folder does up with 2 wooden pieces through loops , looks very old , does anyone know year it may be,

    Reply
  33. Tom O'Brien

    I have a 1st edition from 1859.
    Publisher is Collins.
    Illustrations by Marjorie Anderson.
    It has a dark red what feels like a leather cover with just the title in Gold on the front. Any idea if it’s worth something? Thanks.

    Reply
  34. Sarah P

    Hello, I have a vest pocket book series. It’s olive green with gold on the front. It’s by Edward Fitzgerald. Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Preface by Nathan Haskell Dole. Portland Maine Thomas B Mosher MDCCCXCIX. I haven’t been able to find a similar copy. Was wondering if it’s worth something? Thank you!

    Reply
  35. Mercedes Deines

    I have a tiny 3″ x 4″ copy in red leatherette that had darkened some pages. It is profusely illustrated with wood block prints, no color and it has an addendum entitled “Omar Khayham the Astonomer Poet of Persia By Edward Fitzgerald” and title page explains “With an essay By Edward Fitzgerald”. No date, printed by Robert K. Hass, Inc., Publishers” all in caps and then(Formerly Little Leather Library Corporation) New York, N.Y.

    Reply
  36. Lisa Kavanagh

    I have a small 4 in x 5 in copy – no date. Green velvet (?) soft cover with Gold embossed on square panel and border of flowers and leaves. London, Leopold B. Hill 2, Langham Place, W
    Would love to know itโ€™s age. One of my Mums (dec) most treasured items. Looks very old

    Reply

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