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Omar Khayyam Poems – New translation now available

July 29, 2021
Front cover

Several months ago, we posted an item about a new translation of the verse attributed to Omar Khayyam, which was being produced by Iranian American researcher Siamak Akhavan – see https://omarkhayyamrubaiyat.wordpress.com/2021/04/26/omar-khayyam-poems-a-modern-translation/. This book has now been published under the title Omar Khayyam Poems – A Modern Translation. It is available from publishers Resource Publications at a price for the paperback of US$8.00 or £6.00 plus P&P; all profits are being given by the translator to Persian cultural and educational programs. There is also a hardback edition. Full details are available on the publisher’s website https://wipfandstock.com/9781666715507/omar-khayyam-poems/.

In our earlier post, we gave more information about and comment on Siamak Akhavan’s aims in producing this new translation, plus some examples of his English verses taken from an earlier draft of the book. Readers also added their comments on the translations so far available. We have not yet seen a copy of the final book, but we add below the publisher’s blurb from the back cover, which includes endorsements from other experts. We look forward to having a further discussion on the book when readers of this blog have been able to look at the new translations. Please put your comments on this post or, if you prefer, send us your comments and we can post them separately.

Comments on back cover of book

Margaret R Caird and the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

July 26, 2021

Margaret R Caird was an artist born in Edinburgh in 1896. She was brought up in the city and lived and worked there until the late 1930’s. In the late 1920’s she was commissioned by publishers Wm. Collins to illustrate Edward FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Her work on the poem was published by Collins in many different editions, probably produced from 1930 onwards. She died in Eastbourne in 1961.

M R Caird: Title page small version

Most of the above is new information which we owe to research on Caird by the indefatigable Bob Forrest. The volumes containing her work on the Rubaiyat are quite widely available but most of us have been unable to date them with any degree of accuracy. Bob has now attempted to put the different editions in an approximate order of publication with a much clearer idea of their publication dates based on the inscriptions in many of them, and other relevant advertising material.

Bob’s research results are set out in full in an article on his website: see http://www.bobforrestweb.co.uk/The_Rubaiyat/N_and_Q/M_R_Caird/M_R_Caird.htm. The article gives full details of all the known editions of Caird’s Rubaiyat, with extensive examples of the covers and contents of the books and her illustrations. There are also details of other work by her and information about her life and family. It is a fascinating read both for people, like ourselves, who have struggled with the dating of Rubaiyat editions, and for those interested in the practical history of Rubaiyat publication. We all owe Bob many thanks for sharing this research with us.

Illuminated Manuscript of Rubaiyat with William Morris style Embroidered Binding

July 7, 2021

Roger Pass has sent us information about a very special Rubaiyat manuscript which was produced in 1904.  This formed part of a special exhibition and catalogue, arranged by American antiquarian booksellers Phillip J Pirages, to mark the International Kelmscott Press Day on June 26, 2021.  We reproduce here the summary description from the catalogue together with images of the very special embroidered cover and a page of inside text.

Embroidered cover

More details about the volume and those who worked on it are given in the catalogue which can be accessed via the following link https://www.pirages.com/pages/books/ST15043/modern-illuminated-manuscript-on-vellum-bindings-embroidered-morris-company-style/rubaiyat-of-omar-khayyam .  This indicates, inter alia, that the binding may have been designed by May Morris, William Morris’ younger daughter.  The calligrapher, Percy J Smith, studied and worked in the UK, and was later involved with the design of letter forms for Great War monuments.

Our thanks to Roger for sending us this information.  It is a beautiful book, but alas the price quoted, $48,000, is way out of our reach!

Description of the Book

(BINDINGS – EMBROIDERED [MORRIS & COMPANY STYLE]). (MODERN ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM). SMITH, PERCY, Calligrapher. RUBAIYAT OF OMAR KHAYYAM. ([England]: 1904) 305 x 230 mm. (12 x 9”). [12] leaves. Translated by Edward FitzGerald.

BREATHTAKING CONTEMPORARY EMBROIDERED WHITE SILK, covers with leafy blue frame, central panel of upper cover with crewelwork depicting a Pre-Raphaelitestyle maiden playing a lute or rebec, with swirling, thorny roses in the background and tulips blooming at her feet, lower cover with blue banner bearing the name “Omar Khayyam” on a background of rose branches, smooth spine with 12 lozenges outlined in green thread, each enclosing an ivory or gold lily, all edges gilt. Initials in red, green, or burnished gold, title page with small chalice and grape cluster in burnished gold, first word of text, “AWAKE,” in large burnished gold majuscules. A breath of shelfwear to lower edge of boards, otherwise A MAGNIFICENT SPECIMEN IN OUTSTANDING CONDITION, SPARKLING INSIDE AND OUT. $48,000

Example of illuminated text

Some new exhibitions and other sources on Rubaiyat-related matters

July 1, 2021

Here are a couple of comments posted on the Background section of the blog that we feel deserve wider prominence. Thanks both to Lois and to Charles for their contributions.

loispawson June 30, 2021 10:16 am

… Your blog continues to be an amazing resource for my Illustration MA – I graduate in 2022 so have another year to go on my major project about the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam – which I never tire of reading and researching. A couple of recommendations for anyone interested in Persian culture that I’m enjoying are the HeyGo online virtual guided trips to cultural sites in Iran and the Epic Iran exhibition at the Victoria & Albert museum, which also has a great book. Thanks for your lovely blog.

Charles Mugleston June 30, 2021 1:07 pm

Good afternoon Lois and everyone,
Re Exhibitions connected with the Ruba’iya’t – there are two in Ipswich at the moment. One has just started at The Wolsey Gallery, Christchurch Mansion entitled ‘Power of Stories’ see http://www.powerofstories.co.uk and the other just finishing is ‘Pride in Suffolk’s Past’ at The Hold http://www.suffolkarchives.co.uk. Christchurch Mansion is a lovely place to visit and you can see E.F.G’s reading / writing desk upstairs alongside one of his chairs, then in the music room you can see his rosewood Broadwood Piano. ENJOY

Philatelic Omariana, or Khayyam for Stamp Collectors

June 18, 2021

Joe Howard has sent us a fascinating article on the subject of stamps and related items that have been issued with some relationship to Omar Khayyam and the Rubaiyat. In a number of cases, the products also include reference to the English version of the Rubaiyat by Edward FitzGerald. Our thanks to Joe for illuminating yet another aspect of the continuing influence of Khayyam and the Rubaiyat on our society.

Fig 1

I have not had an active interest in philately since I was a teenager. However, I recently came across an attractive set of six stamps, issued in Dubai, which piqued my interest because their illustrations are inspired by Fitzgerald’s translation of the Rubaiyat (Fig 1.). The stamps have identical postage values (60 Dirhams) but illustrate six different quatrains. These attractive illustrations, in two different styles, are delightful literal interpretations. On a complete half sheet of six stamps, the relevant quatrain is printed adjacent to each stamp. I have seen examples with the same stamps, but with the quatrains printed in French, German, and Persian. A full sheet (twelve stamps) may include two different languages.

Spurred on by this find, I located two sets, each of 17 different stamps, issued to celebrate the millennium. Each set includes a single Rubaiyat-inspired stamp. The first is from Guyana and has the relevant quatrain printed over a very colourful illustration (Fig 2.). The 17 stamps (all $35 postage value) celebrate events occurring during the period 1050-1100:  other examples are, the Battle of Hastings, the First Crusade and the introduction of the gondola to Venice.

Fig 2
Fig 3

The second set, “New Millennium – People and Events of the Twelfth Century, 1100-1150”, was issued by the Federated States of Micronesia. One stamp celebrates the death of Omar (given as 1126) and the illustration is of a figure holding a flask of wine and a loaf of bread, clearly represents the famous quatrain 11 (Fig 3.).  Other stamps in this set show porcelain, a water mill and Pope Callixtus II.

There are also stamps which utilize images of Omar Khayyam. Fig 4. shows a set of two stamps from Albania issued in 1977. One celebrates Omar as a poet, the other as a mathematician. The famous German mathematician, Karl Weierstrass (1815-1897) is said to have made the remarkable claim: “A mathematician who is not also a poet will never be a perfect mathematician.

Fig 4
Fig 5

A 2018 stamp (Fig 5.) from Iran shows both Omar and his impressive mausoleum.

The brightly coloured stamp shown in Fig 6.  is from Ukraine (2019), with the country name, in the Cyrillic alphabet, given directly below the image. Note that this image is similar to that found under the entry for Omar Khayyam on Wikipedia.com. The large (10 by 8 cm) and unperforated stamp shown in Fig 7. is also from Dubai (1967). On it, Omar is shown surrounded by the twelve signs and symbols of the zodiac and appears to be puzzling over a document-perhaps an astrological calculation.

Fig 6
Fig 7

Fig 8. shows a set of 14 stamps issued by Iran in 1923 to “…commemorate the death anniversary of Hakim Omar Khayyam, Persian mathematician, astronomer and poet.” Each stamp has “1123” on the left, “1923” on the right and “OMAR KHAYAM” towards the bottom. The unsophisticated nature of these three black printed elements, when compared with the complexity and elegance of the underlying stamp design, indicates that the black printing was not part of the original design concept. This is reinforced by closer examination which shows that the black elements are printed on top of the main design. These stamps were never issued, and most were destroyed. In 2017 this particular set was sold at auction, for $3,500.

Fig 8
Fig 9

My final item is a first day cover (Fig 9.). It was produced in 1981 by Mr. Grant Smith of Taylor County, West Virginia USA and is one of his “Land’s End” series of cachets*. The Omariana interest is in the text and illustrations on the front of the envelope, rather than the stamp itself. Clearly though the stamp, with its image of a person in a wheelchair and its slogan “Disabled doesn’t mean unable”, leads naturally to thoughts of the Kuza-Nama section of the Rubaiyat. We will see that this cover potentially refers to four different quatrains.

There is an obvious link between the image of the potter and the printed quatrain (number 60).

The background of the cover consists of concentric blue rings centred inside the lump of clay held in the potter’s left hand. This leads to the impression that there are waves emanating from the clay-possibly symbolizing the tremendous repercussions of the potter’s actions.

The illustrator has added the words “The Master Potter… Enabling Disabling” under the potter’s wheel/beside the quatrain. The choice of these present participles implies to me that the illustrator’s take on the theological debate (sometimes known as “the problem of pain”) is that the potter is directly responsible for making imperfect pots.  Possibly a comment on quatrain 63.

 A “moving finger” (hand) is writing in the sky. The powerful language of quatrain 51 may, in this context, be referring to the need for fortitude in the face of disability.

The prominent figure, of a scantily clad woman wearing a coat, is standing on a pot located on the potter’s wheel. I am grateful to Sandra and Bill for pointing out that her pose is identical to that of the male teacher in Sullivan’s illustration for quatrain 43.  There are other differences apart from that of gender: coat for a gown, hat for mortar board and the long pointer has been omitted. I have no clear explanation for the symbolism associated with this figure, other than the possibility that she is a finished “pot”. The significance of (a) the white (head and shoulders?) shape, between her ankles/calves and (b) the letters “g” and “p”, which are stacked at the base of the pot under the figure, are unclear to me.

Many of the items described above (not the stamps in Fig 8.) are currently available from on-line sources such as ebay.com or Hipstamp.com. If anyone has any comments or information on additional philatelic items referring to Omar or the Rubaiyat, I would be delighted to receive them: please add them below. *In philately, a cachet is a printed or stamped design or inscription, other than a cancellation or pre-printed postage, on an envelopepostcard, or postal card to commemorate a postal or philatelic event.

A new documentary about Omar Khayyam

May 20, 2021

We have been alerted by Siamak Akhavan to a new feature length documentary film about Omar Khayyam which has recently been completed. The film is entitled Broken Grail: Khayyam Debates Caligula. It has been produced by some Iranian film makers who together make up the Noghteh Group. This group was formed in 2011 and they state that ‘Our primary mission is to make movies and launch creative ideas to promote knowledge, culture and anything which makes people’s life better and easier.’ See https://noghtehgroup.ir/en/?page_id=8 for more information.

In their trailer, the group describes their film about Khayyam as follows:

‘This movie depicts a millenium (sic) from Khayyam’s birth to this day, and it shows Khayyam’s life and the same time depicts a theatrical group in the year 2019 who are trying to stage a play about Khayyam, and the problems that they face somehow bewildered Khayyam at that time too. The confrontation of rationalism and fanaticism, free thinking and prejudice, and so on so forth. This movie tries to depict a valid and coherent picture of this Iranian polymath.’

We have not yet had a chance to view the film in full, so we cannot explain the link between Khayyam and Caligula which puzzles us somewhat, but presumably the narrative makes this clear. Most of the dialogue is in Farsi with English subtitles. It includes interviews with a number of experts in Persian literature and Khayyamic studies including Prof Mehdi Aminrezavi and Prof Leonard Lewisohn. It has taken seven years to produce the film, and the main researcher, writer and director is Armyn Naderi.

The film is well recommended by Prof Aminrezavi and Siamak Akhavan. It can be accessed via the following link https://drive.google.com/file/d/1bHnbGp1sgynkwFGGfltc5r5Ag36Uu7WR/view . There is also a book (Farsi text only?) containing the script and background on making the film – see http://noghtehgroup.ir/en/?page_id=572. We look forward to seeing comments from our readers when they have looked at the film.

Omar Khayyam’s birthday?

May 18, 2021

It has become generally accepted that the historical Omar Khayyam was born on 18th May 1048. So today is the day on which we usually celebrate the anniversary of the famous astronomer, mathematician, philosopher, and perhaps poet. We shall be celebrating as usual this year with an appropriate beverage, and we hope that other readers will be joining us in marking the occasion. The verses (or rubaiyat) that are attributed to Omar Khayyam have given much that is good and valuable to the world.

However, this year, there is a question mark about the celebration. A forthcoming book by the Iranian American academic Mohammad H Tamdgidi raises doubts about the validity of 18 May 1048 as the birth date for Khayyam The existing dating is largely due to the work of the Indian Swami Govinda Tirtha, whose book The Nectar of Grace published in 1941 gives a detailed interpretation of earlier information about Khayyam’s horoscope. Dr Tamdgidi queries the validity of Tirtha’s analysis and suggests, from further horoscope interpretation, that a more accurate date for Khayyam’s birth is 10 June 1021. He also believes that Khayyam’s death was 10 June 1123, rather than the generally accepted idea of his death being some time between 1126 and 1131.

Dr Tamdgidi’s work is presented in a new book due to be published on 1 June 2021. The book is entitled Khayyami Millenium: Reporting the Discovery and the Reconfirmation of the True Dates of Birth and Passing of Omar Khayyam (AD 1021-1131). It is volume 2 of a series with the (to us rather impenetrable) title of Omar Khayyam’s Secret: Hermaneutics of the Rubaiyat in Quantum Sociological Imagination. It appears that there are intended to be 12 volumes in the series of which numbers 1 and 3 will be published simultaneously with number 2. More details are available on the web site of the series publishers OKCIR, see https://www.okcir.com/.

We have no expertise in horoscope interpretation and so are in no position to judge the rival merits of Tirtha’s and Tamdgidi’s claims. We shall be very interested to hear views from readers who have more relevant knowledge and who get a chance to see the full analysis in the new books. Meanwhile we shall, for the time being, continue to mark today as an occasion to celebrate our heritage of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.

A further post from Austin Torney

May 4, 2021

Austin Torney has upload a new post to the blog of the Omar Khayyam Club of America. The post is entitled Extended Rubaiyat, the new Deluxe Rubaiyat , and The Parallel Rubaiyat Book Editions, PDFs, and Videos, and it contains details of various versions of his recent Rubaiyat related publications and how they can be obtained. Brief extracts from his descriptions of each of the three publications are given below. The link to the full post is shown at the end of this note.

The Extended Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam Via Its Equal Interspersed:

Interwoven into FitzOmar’s 115 original Rubaiyat quatrains are many additional, improved ‘Omar Khayyam’ quatrains from the Bodleian and Calcutta manuscripts, as well as many of my own Omaresque inspirations.

I’ve added many more improved Bodleian Manuscript quatrains to The Extended Rubaiyat; FitzGerald only used about 35% of these. The Extended Rubaiyat videos referenced previously have been updated as well.

The best book renditions are on Lulu.com, as usual, since they allow very large uploads. The colors and details are the best ever, thanks to the Topaz AI Adjust filter.

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam Deluxe:

This is my final regular Rubaiyat rendition and is meant to be the end-all. There are 115 original FitzOmar quatrains colorfully lettered and lavishly illustrated, with section titles. There are illustrated Rubaiyat-related themes in text at the end: The Find of the Rubaiyat Edition Known as the ‘Great Omar’, the book being included whole; The Secret Life of the Rubaiyat Poems; The Transmogrification From the Farsi Arabic story; The Extended Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam Via Its Equal Interspersed text, and more.

The Parallel Rubaiyat—Echoes of Khayyam:

These are the quatrains paralleling ‘The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam’ that were merged into it to produce ‘The Extended Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam Via Its Equal Interspersed. The colored lettering here is portrait-oriented full page and many of the Boldeian-derived text and images are also.

Austin Torney’s full post can be accessed via the following link: https://theomarkhayyamclubofamerica.wordpress.com/2021/04/25/the-extended-rubaiyat-the-new-deluxe-rubaiyat-and-the-parallel-rubaiyat-book-editions-pdfs-and-videos/

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The Rubaiyat of Ned Wethered

May 3, 2021

Over the years, Edward FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam has turned up in many varied formats, produced in different countries around the world. Bob Forrest recently found another of these far flung editions, and it is the subject of the latest research article on his web site (see link at end). Bob writes as follows.

For me, one of the most unusual, quirky, and fascinating interpretations of FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat is the edition illustrated by Ned Wethered, published by Gilmour’s Bookshop, Sydney, New South Wales, in 1926. Its cover bearing the title The Australian Omar Khayyam, it uses the text of FitzGerald’s first edition and features short biographical notes on Omar and FitzGerald, pointing out, as had been noted by others before, that FitzGerald’s rendering of Omar was so extraordinary that it was as if the Persian poet had somehow been reborn in his English translator. This little booklet of 24 pages is Potter #177. Its ten cartoon illustrations led Potter to describe it as a parody, which arguably it is, even though FitzGerald’s verses are quoted verbatim. Potter dates it to [1927], but contemporary newspaper advertisements show it to have been published in 1926. …

In discussing Ned Wethered’s illustrations, Bob quotes from The Sydney Morning Herald, 2 October 1926, p.10:

“The text of “The Australian Omar Khayyam” is the familiar version by Edward Fitzgerald (sic). The only novelty is the illustrations by Mr Ned Wethered, which depict Australian types such as swagmen, deadbeats in Persian costume, and usually in alcoholic surroundings. It is sometimes held that the allusions to wine and taverns in which the Rubaiyat abound are merely symbolical. Mr Wethered, however, has taken them literally, except that beer is substituted for wine.”

As Bob adds: Actually, it isn’t quite true that beer is substituted for wine, as both – and whisky – feature in his illustrations. As the above quote makes clear, though, the illustrations are to be examined in the light of the artist’s life–experience, specifically, as it turns out, his experience of life in the goldfields of Western Australia in the early years of the twentieth century, …

In his article Bob sets out the information he has unearthed about Ned Wethered’s life and work, as well as providing images of all the Rubaiyat illustrations (one is shown left), and a detailed analysis and interpretation of the often unusual symbolism that they contain. The article makes a fascinating read and provides yet more proof of the wide ranging impact that FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat has had on people of all times and places. Our thanks to Bob for sharing his findings with us. The full article is available on http://www.bobforrestweb.co.uk/The_Rubaiyat/N_and_Q/Ned_Wethered/Ned_Wethered.htm.

Omar Khayyam Poems – A Modern Translation

April 26, 2021

We have received advance notification of the forthcoming publication of a new translation of the rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam., taken from the original Persian sources. The translation is the work of an Iranian born author, Siamak Akhavan, who has lived in North America for many years and is currently based in California. In his Preface to the book, he writes :

<< As a bilingual author and avid reader of Persian poetry and literature, I had long found Fitzgerald’s Rubaiyat to be an interpretation of Khayyam’s poems –v. a more direct translation of the literal and mystical essence of his poems–, written in an outdated English prose and hard to read (more on this in the Introduction). I believe that in this book, I have presented a more readable and accurate version. ….. One that’s been more understood by his Persian-speaking readers throughout the last millennia. >>

The author has selected 122 quatrains which he considers to be the most genuine of the many verses that have been attributed to Omar Khayyam. The selection is taken from the quatrains published by key Iranian sources, including Hedayat and Forughi and Ghani among others. In the pre-publication excerpts so far circulated, the translated verses are presented with the Farsi text below. The rhyming pattern of the English quatrains seems to vary and there is no apparent ordering of them by subject or theme. Our limited knowledge of Farsi suggests that the translations are a fairly direct interpretation of Khayyam’s originals. Two examples of verses in the new translation are shown below. Readers will reach their own views on whether these interpretations will be more accessible to a modern generation than other modern and earlier versions.

Siamak Akhavan is very keen that Khayyam’s wisdom should be shared with and enjoyed by everyone. Most of us would undoubtedly share that wish and we hope that his new book will achieve this aim. It is being published by Resource Publications (an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers, https://wipfandstock.com/search-results/?imprint=resource-publications). This is a non-profit publication venture and the author’s proceeds will go to support school building projects in Iran. July 2021 is the planned publication date with a print price of some $10. We look forward to seeing the final production.

Examples of new translation 1

This old court once ruled the world.
At its door many subjects curled.
Now at its ruins sits only a crow,
bemusedly calling, “who, who, who.”

آن قصر کھ با چرخ ھمیزد پھلو
بر درگھ آن شھان نھادندی رو
دیدیم کھ بر کنگرهاش فاختھای
بنشستھ ھمی گفت کھ کوکوکوکو

Examples of new translation 2

In youth we elated a brief prowess.
Gleed in the delusion of greatness.
Yet it proved only that in the end,
it was just going from soil to wind.


یک چند بھ کودکی باستاد شدیم
یک چند بھ استادی خود شاد شدیم
پایان سخن شنو کھ ما را چھ رسید
از خاک در آمدیم و بر باد شدیم