The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, Edward Fitzgerald Translation, George G. Harrap & Co. (1930)

Edward FitzGerald‘s nineteenth century translations (or what he called his “transmogrification”) of poems known as The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, originally written in Persian by the poet and mathematician Omar Khayyám (1048–1131), have become enormously influential in the Western Canon as a classic work of English Literature. Fitzgerald’s Rubaiyat has lent itself to scores of fine press editions, as artists and illustrators such as Edmund Dulac, Edmund Joseph Sullivan, Arthur Szyk, Edward Burne-Jones, Valenti Angelo and Willy Pogány have all famously tackled The Rubaiyat indelibly stamping their imagery into the minds of literature lovers and book collectors everywhere.

Over the coming months, Books and Vines hopes to highlight many such editions starting with today’s look at the 1930 edition from George G. Harrap & Co., with simply marvelous color plates and etchings from Willy Pogany (1882-1955), originally done for Harrup in 1909 (or perhaps updated for this edition — I have seen some suggestions of that, but cannot verify). Pogany’s work on the colored plates for The Rubaiyat reflect the Art Nouveau style that influenced him, as well as an innocent, almost whimsical visualization perhaps born from Pogany’s extensive work in illustrating children’s books. For the etchings, Pogany turns classical, cautiously erotic and fully grown up with beautiful work, framed between almost Kelmscottian decorations.

The edition itself is worthy of these beautiful illustrations. Full royal green Moroccon leather is used to bind the edition, with raised bands and gold stamped titling and decoration. The paper is hand-made Japon vellum, top gilt and side uncut. Depending on condition, I have seen this edition on Abe’s from anywhere between $800 and $3000 (the edition highlighted in the pictures below is at The Book Gallery in Phoenix and is listed low on that price scale). Long and short, this is one beautiful book!

{Ed. Note: Books and Vines previously reviewed a Pogany illustrated Faust from 1908 here.}.

About the Edition

  • 24 full color plates by Willy Pogany
  • Printed by R. & R. Clark, Ltd., Edinburgh
  • Illustrated endpapers
  • Printed on Japon vellum (hand-made) with 24 full color tipped in plates, elaborate borders, calligraphy text, and designs
  • Publisher’s full green Morocco with elaborate gilt and circular floral motif and raised bands
  • Pogany’s signature in ink to front free end paper which contains an original etching signed in pencil by Pogany
  • Limited to 750 copies for England and 500 for the United States, this is #374 of the English set
  • 7 3/4″x11″

Pictures of the Edition

(All pictures on Books and Vines are exclusively provided to highlight and visualize the work being reviewed.  A side benefit, hopefully, is encouraging healthy sales of fine press books for the publishers and fine retailers that specialize in these types of books (of which Books and Vines has no stake or financial interest). Please note that works photographed are copyrighted by the publisher, author and/or illustrator as indicated in the articles. Permission to use contents from these works for anything outside of fair use purposes must come directly from the copyright owner and no permission is granted or implied to use photo’s found on Books and Vines for any purpose that would infringe on the rights of the copyright owner.)

{Ed. Note: Apologies for some pictures being a bit out of focus; these pictures were taken at a book store (Book Gallery in Phoenix), not at my controlled picture taking environment.}

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, George G. Harrap & Co., Spine and Cover
The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, George G. Harrap & Co., Cover
The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, George G. Harrap & Co., Macro of Cover
The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, George G. Harrap & Co., Side View
The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, George G. Harrap & Co., Endpaper
The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, George G. Harrap & Co., Limitation Page
The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, George G. Harrap & Co., Title Page and Frontispiece
The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, George G. Harrap & Co., List of Plates
The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, George G. Harrap & Co., Sample Illustration #1 with Text
The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, George G. Harrap & Co., Sample Illustration #2 with Text
The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, George G. Harrap & Co., Sample Illustration #3 with Text

3 thoughts on “The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, Edward Fitzgerald Translation, George G. Harrap & Co. (1930)

  1. Thanks for this interesting post. Readers might also be interested in the recent and superbly illustrated catalog of a recent Australian/British exhibition, ‘Love and Devotion: From Persia and Beyond’ (Melbourne 2012) which used the collections of the Bodleian Library and the State Library of Victoria to explore the influence of Persian poetry in the West. The display included FitzGerald’s original manuscript translation of the Rubaiyat, the 15th century illuminated Persian manuscript he worked from, and other editions such as the Grosset and Dunlap edition illustrated by Sarkis Katchadourian (New York, 1946). This was a truly superb exhibition,exploring a wide story of Persian, Mughal and Ottoman literary tradition including its influence on authors such as Chaucer. There is a web version at http://exhibitions.slv.vic.gov.au/love-and-devotion .

  2. Pogany did several versions of the Rubaiyat over the years. There was an earlier Harrap version before WW I that had a more elaborate limp suede binding and came in a decorated solander box and was. I believe the first edition. I saw it once in a bookstore and it seems like it used the same illustrations, but I can’t be sure. (I don’t remember there being as much nudity.) I did not care for the printing itself, which was in a faux Persian script and printed in sepia. This is a much nicer version! Although I wanted a copy with the Pogany illustrations for years, the Szyk version has grown on me to where I now prefer it to all others.

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