The Second Printing: Small, but Crucial to "Omar's" Success

RUBÁIYÁT OF OMAR KHAYYÁM, THE ASTRONOMER-POET OF PERSIA.

(London: Bernard Quaritch, 1868). 206 x 162 mm. (8 1/8 x 6 3/8"). xviii, 30 pp. Second Edition. ONE OF 500 COPIES.

Original printed wrappers. In a suede-lined folding box (measuring 240 x 180 mm.) of marbled paper backed with maroon morocco, raised bands, gilt floral sprig to spine panels, black morocco label. Title page with embossed bookseller's oval ("Sold by W. J. Pigott, Lexington, Mo."). Potter 129. Wrappers with small loss of paper at bottom of spine, a little foxed and soiled, but the fragile binding surprisingly sturdy and, in all, a remarkable survival. Internally with some faint creases and just a breath of soiling, but not only remarkably attractive for what it is, but remarkably attractive, period.

For its second edition, FitzGerald expanded his "Rubáiyát" from 75 quatrains to 110, making it the longest of the five versions he issued. Potter indicates that the first printing of 1859 did not sell well and seemed destined for the penny-a-copy bin at Quaritch's. However, Rossetti, Swinburne, and other Pre-Raphaelite poets praised it and, thus, brought it to public awareness, which created a demand for more copies. So, Quaritch printed a small second edition of 500, to be sold at a price of 1s. 6d. (Potter notes that when a copy re-appeared in their catalogue in 1929, it had appreciated sharply to £52 10s.) Our second and subsequent early editions made the poem fashionable among the writers and their readers who were moving English literature away from Victorian orthodoxy and convention. According to Day, by the end of the 19th century, "a copy of the 'Rubáiyát' upon an Oxford table was a symbol of sophistication. Today . . . it remains the most popular single poem of the Victorian era." FitzGerald described his translation efforts as a "transmogrification" in a letter to his close friend Edward Cowell—who had taught him Persian and introduced him to Omar's verses—describing it as "very un-literal" and admitting, "Many quatrains are mashed together: and something lost, I doubt, of Omar's simplicity, which is so much a virtue in him . . . I suppose very few people have ever taken such pains in Translation as I have: though certainly not to be literal. But at all cost, a thing must live: with a transfusion of one's own worse life if one can’t retain the original's better. Better a live sparrow than a stuffed eagle."
(ST17640-075)

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PJP Catalog: NY22BF.068

RUBÁIYÁT OF OMAR KHAYYÁM, THE ASTRONOMER-POET OF PERSIA. EDWARD FITZGERALD.
RUBÁIYÁT OF OMAR KHAYYÁM, THE ASTRONOMER-POET OF PERSIA.
RUBÁIYÁT OF OMAR KHAYYÁM, THE ASTRONOMER-POET OF PERSIA.
RUBÁIYÁT OF OMAR KHAYYÁM, THE ASTRONOMER-POET OF PERSIA.

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