Dr Samuel Johnson
Vincent Van Gogh
Limited to 1,000 copies, Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám is one of our fastest-selling limited editions and has now sold out.
The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám holds a unique place in English literature. A sensation of the Victorian age, it remains, a century and a half after publication, one of the best-loved poems in the language. With its exotic themes and its blend of melancholy and romance, it has seduced readers and inspired artists. Now The Folio Society celebrates the poem’s 150th anniversary with this magnificent collector’s edition, illustrated by Niroot Puttapipat.
The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám was born of the encounter of two minds across seven centuries, when the reclusive scholar Edward FitzGerald translated a set of rubáiyái or quatrains attributed to the 12th-century Persian poet, Omar Khayyám. Each quatrain is a meditation on the fleeting nature of life. Man is compared, variously, to a bubble poured out with wine, a piece on a chess board, or a clay pot created by a careless maker. 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.
AWAKE! for Morning in the Bowl of Night
Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight:
And Lo! the Hunter of the East has caught
The Sultán’s Turret in a Noose of Light.
The poem’s message, controversial for its time, could be explained away as belonging to the ‘heathen’ Omar. Yet the true author was really more FitzGerald than Khayyám. As well as structuring the poem so that it moves from dawn to night, FitzGerald created entirely new lines, images and even whole quatrains. Into his Persian source, he interwove echoes of Greek and Roman literature, the Bible and Shakespeare, 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 the quatrain form, with its strong unrhymed third line and simple, direct language.
I sometimes think that never blows so red
The Rose as where some buried Cæsar bled;
That every Hyacinth the Garden wears
Dropt in its Lap from some once lovely Head.
Published anonymously, the Rubáiyát at first languished on a penny bookstall, before it was discovered by Edward Burne-Jones, William Morris and the rest of the Pre- Raphaelite circle. It became a poetic phenomenon on both sides of the Atlantic, with devotees including Mark Twain and Arthur Conan Doyle, and Omar Khayyám clubs flourished throughout Britain and America. The poem’s growing fame coincided with new developments in colour printing, and it proved a source of great inspiration to artists, illustrators and publishers – the most expensive book binding ever created (over 1,000 precious stones were set into the leather) was for a single-volume edition of the Rubáiyát. The reclusive FitzGerald, who rarely left his native Suffolk, would have been astonished at the impact of his poem on such a range of readers, writers and artists, an impact that is still felt today.
Come, fill the Cup, and in the Fire of Spring
The Winter Garment of Repentance fling:
The Bird of Time has but a little way
To fly—and Lo! the Bird is on the Wing.
This year, The Folio Society marks the poem’s 150th anniversary with a brilliant new artistic interpretation. This limited edition has been exquisitely illustrated by Niroot Puttapipat, one of the most gifted young illustrators working today. His affinity with the late Victorian period and his lyrical, almost dreamlike style make him the perfect artist for the Rubáiyát. The images he has created are beautifully detailed, rich in texture, capturing the opulence of the poem, filled with the rich lapis blue and gold decoration that is such a feature of Eastern art.
Delivery of limited editions may take longer than standard editions. Please contact us for more information.
Limited to 1,000 numbered copies
Artist Niroot Puttapipat has created 16 illustrations printed with gold borders, which are individually tipped in as colour plates set within further intricate decorative borders. Additionally, each volume includes a special limitation spread containing an etching, hand-printed under the artist’s supervision and signed by him with the limitation number. The limitation page and endpapers have been printed letterpress by the Logan Press. Each quatrain occupies its own page. The edition includes two introductions, one by A. S. Byatt and one by Edward FitzGerald, as well as FitzGerald’s notes to the first edition.
Insights into the work of The Fine Book Bindery
We'd like to draw attention to the website of The Fine Book Bindery, based in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire. This remarkable company and their skilled bookbinders contributed so much to the success of The Rubáiyát of Omar Kháyyám. On their website, they include a fascinating slideshow detailing the extraordinary - and painstaking - process of binding these editions, from the printing of the limitation page and end papers to the finishing of the presentation box. It will come as no surprise that The Fine Book Bindery also produced the binding for last year's Centenary edition of The Wind in the Willows, which also sold out quickly after publication.