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Edward FitzGerald’s birthday today

March 31, 2015

efgyoungcutToday is the 206th anniversary of the birth of Edward FitzGerald.  We hope that all Rubaiyat enthusiasts will join us in marking the event in some way.  We owe him a great deal.

More interpretations of the Rubaiyat by Austin Torney

March 30, 2015

Austin Torney has continued to present his interpretations of the Rubaiyat in a number of different ways.

austintorneybodleyROKFirst, his lavishly illustrated ‘Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam Resplendent’ is now available in several editions and different formats. There are more details on

Second, extracts from these editions are presented as videos on YouTube with musical accompaniment and some of the quatrains spoken or sung. The two films are on:

Third, Austin has undertaken a major project to reinterpret (in his terms ‘transmogrify’) all 158 quatrains in the Bodleian manuscript of the Rubaiyat. In this exercise, he is following in the footsteps of other Rubaiyat lovers like Le Gallienne who used existing ‘translations’ as a basis for their own rendering of the elusive meaning of the Khayyammic originals. In his interpretation, Austin has drawn on Jos Coumans’ new Concordances website, which brings together many historic ‘translations’ of the Bodleian’s Persian quatrains – see Jos’ earlier post on this blog Austin’s new version of the text of the 158 Bodleian quatrains, together with an additional 6 of his own are available on Illustrated versions of the Rubaiyat with his ‘transmogrified’ text are available via

Our congratulations to Austin on all his hard work and the interesting results that he has given us. Not everyone will agree with all his interpretations, but both text and images are stimulating, and they will, we hope, encourage a wider interest in the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.

More on ‘A Canadian Connection in the Early 1900s’ – Illustrations

March 17, 2015

Here  are the illustrations to go with Danton O’Day’s post on early Canadian connections with the Rubaiyat – see previous post for the text on this interesting subject.

1. Images from the Rubáiyát of Canada or Omar Up-to-Date [1928]


2. Book cover and title page from the “First Canadian Edition” Musson Toronto

canada2a3. Images from two other Musson Toronto Rubáiyát


FitzGerald’s Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám: A Canadian Connection in the Early 1900s

March 17, 2015

We have received this interesting post from Danton O’Day in Canada.  There are also great illustrations, to follow in due course – see next item posted.

As a Canadian collector of FitzGerald’s The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, I was interested in what my country had contributed to the early history of this publication. Sadly the first encounter I had with that history turned out to be a joke. The Rubáiyát of Canada or Omar Up-to-Date was written by Stanley Wisdom and published circa 1928 by Consolidated Distilleries, Ltd., Montreal, Canada (see Figure 1). This tiny (5” x 4”, 15pp.) brown stapled booklet with a title in gold inside a black rose-adorned design on the front cover was clearly a promotional item.  While it was profusely decorated and illustrated, the artist was not listed. While some might consider this an ignominious contribution to the glorious history of the Rubáiyát, this ignominy was enhanced by the quality of the poetry itself.

Dreaming when Dawn’s left hand was in the sky./ I heard a voice within the next room cry, /   “Wake my little ones, and fill the cup/ Before the ‘Hill’s & Underwood’s’ runs dry.”

 The question remained, was Canada just a historical joke or was there more to the story. A little bit of searching revealed that Canadian publishers did produce books on FitzGerald’s The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, not only as co-published volumes with British and American publishers but also as separate Canadian publications of books originally issued by others.

Clearly the country of Canada was just emerging as a self-ruling entity as the Rubáiyát poetry itself was first released upon the English speaking world. In 1859 when Edward FitzGerald anonymously published his first edition of the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, Canada was still a self-governing colony of Britain. Around this time Canada was facing invasion both by American armed forces and by farmers hoping to claim sparsely settled lands. But in 1867, the British were happy to relinquish their dwindling political and economic hold on the distant colony and Canada was happy to oblige. Through Confederation the original “Kingdom of Canada” evolved into the less presumptuous “Dominion of Canada” two years later in 1869. During those two years, FitzGerald’s second anonymous edition (1868) was published in Britain although this was not due to finances being loosened up by getting rid of the distant North American colony. Still, Canada’s entry into the Rubáiyát publishing world wouldn’t occur for another 35 years.

As early as 1903, the first versions of FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat were listed as published in Canada but these were books co-published simultaneously in different countries typically including England and/or the USA. The Sufistic Quatrains of Omar Khayyam as translated by Edward FitzGerald, E.H. Whinfield and J.B. Nicolas was published in London and Toronto by L. Beling Tetens. Blanche McManus illustrated a copy of FitzGerald’s Rubáiyát that was published in London and Toronto by The Musson Book Co. Seven years later, around 1910, a 1st edition of the book was published by The John C. Winston Company of Philadelphia, Chicago, and Toronto. That book contains a full colour frontispiece plus three additional illustrations by Charles Robinson. In 1911, another printing of FitzGerald’s first edition illustrated with four water-colour drawings by A.A. Dixon was published by Cassell & Company, Ltd., London, New York, Toronto and Melbourne. A later 1934 publication of the 1st and 4th FitzGerald editions by Thomas Nelson & Sons, Ltd., lists Toronto along with London, Edinburgh, Melbourne, and New York. These early co-publications revealed that Canada was involved in the early publishing history of The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám but not as a stand-alone publishing entity.

Canada retained close ties with Britain over the years and its geographical location beside the USA meant that the sharing and reprinting and co-publication of books weren’t unexpected. More to the point, the population of this vast country was so comparatively small it couldn’t sustain a uniquely Canadian publisher. But that would slowly change. Around 1909, The Musson Book Co., Ltd. of Toronto, published an illustrated copy of FitzGerald’s 2nd edition (second version) of The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám illustrated by Edmund Dulac. Although this was a reprint of a 1909 book published by MacMillan in London, this book is considered to be the first Canadian Edition of FitzGerald’s Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam (see Figure 2).

Around this time, Musson also independently published at least two versions of the 1st edition of The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám as translated by Edward FitzGerald that included illustrations by Gilbert James. Although their exact date of publication is not indicated, the subject, design and overall appearance of the books suggest publication prior to 1920 and possibly as early as 1910.

The first and larger book (7” x 5”) with 12 black and white illustrations, including frontispiece, has a reddish-brown soft leather cover with title and design in gold on front and spine. The second book is smaller. Again, no publication date is given for this 5½” x 3½” book with its red soft leather cover and embossed design and title in gold on the front and spine plus a red silk bookmark (see Figure 3).  Judging by the books themselves it appears that the larger book was published prior to the smaller one but that is conjecture of the author based on each book’s attributes. It is not known if any other versions or reprints of this book or any other editions have been published but these books represent the first documented Canadian-only publication of Edward FitzGerald’s Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. To date no other Canadian publications of Omar’s Rubáiyát by any other translator appear to have been identified during this early time period.

Danton H. O’Day

Oakville, Ontario CANADA


Exploring Khayyam: a website devoted to the understanding of the quatrains attributed to Omar Khayyam

March 16, 2015

ko8-samarkand00Barney Rickenbacker has sent us information about his website Exploring Khayyam which he has recently renewed and is updating – see .   Barney comments on the site as follows

‘The idea of a site on Khayyâm occurred to me when I began reading the quatrains attributed to him.  I was in my second year of Persian studies. I liked the quatrains and thought that I could read them at this stage.  From the readings I prepared translations. This weblog records my renditions of some of the quatrains, the translations of others and discussion of each quatrain.  This is a work in progress, and in this format it has the advantage of revision.  Comments are generally philological.  In time, a better understanding of Khayyâm may allow me to return to each quatrain and add further notes.  I hope that my notes are helpful to students studying Persian.  There is a lack of commentary in English on individual quatrains, and the comments I and others make can begin to fill the void.  I encourage those who look at the site to add their comments for my benefit and for the benefit of all site visitors.’

Rubaiyat enthusiasts will find much of interest on the site. There is text in Persian, various ‘renditions’, and much valuable comment. In particular, the comment on quatrain 61 contains further discussion of issues relating to FitzGerald’s Quatrain 1 in the first edition and the meaning of ‘throwing the stone in the cup’ – most recently examined in this blog in

All good wishes to Barney with the further development of his site. We look forward to reading more.

Corresponding quatrains

March 3, 2015

ColeEver since the early days, there has been an urge to find out more about the original sources of Omar Khayyám’s rubáiyát.  Research by orientalists resulted in a number of studies into, and editions of early texts. These studies often contain tables of corresponding quatrains from various sources, notably by Heron-Allen, Christensen, Rempis, Arberry, Csillik and Tirtha to mention only a few.

For a long time I have been looking for a way to merge these separate tables into a sort of meta-table, that would enable the user to find all the variants of one specific quatrain. It would be a task beyond my (limited) capacities to list all known or published translations of the rubáiyát, but one could start with the quatrains that that are dealt with in the studies refered to. But even that is an immense task, as there are numerous sources that are never published or exist only in non-western languages.

What I have finally come up with recently is a website, Concordances of the Rubáiyát,  that presents the quatrains from the Bodleian manuscript, in the persian version as edited by Edward Heron-Allen (2nd ed. 1898). Each quatrain is accompanied by a number of translations from various authors whose work is in the public domain, and a listing of references to copyrighted translations. Apart from that the website has a couple of (sortable) tables, taken from the editions by Anet, Arberry, Heron-Allen, Thompson and Tirtha (with more to follow soon), and a selection of quatrains from the translations in question, that have a relation to the quatrains in the Bodleian manuscript.

The project is still in progress, a number of mistakes is inevitable but I would be very happy to be notified and to receive comments and suggestions.

Go to Concordances of the Rubáiyát

Omar’s Rubaiyat as a Theory of Everything

February 23, 2015

Austin Torney has sent us an interesting article on the interpretation of the RubaiyatHis paper starts as follows.

27pal1102scf2Clued in via a paper on Existence by my friend, Johann de Jong, I now realize all the more, and further add my own take, that Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyat reveals the Theory of Everything (ToE), even if Omar did so inadvertently, for he wrote of “…evermore Came out by the same Door as in I went”, “…But not the Master-knot of Human Fate”, and so forth; however, he still unveils a philosophy, the central tenet being the primacy of the ‘Now’—over “Unborn To-morrow and dead Yesterday”.

It turns out that there is only the Now, in nature, and in us as the present sensation, which smoothly rolls along, due to our human imagination of anticipation of what is likely next to come and to our very recent memory of what just went on. Such, as with music, it sings the song of continuity.

Outside of memory, the past is not kept and the future is not yet. We look through Time, not space, to ‘see’ distant galaxies and stars, as they were long ago, some of which may no longer exist. Even the vision of our own sun is eight minutes behind the Now, and has changed. …..

To read Austin’s full article, go to  Our image is Doris Palmer’s illustration of the confused student of quatrain 27 (1st edition) which Austin quotes.


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