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Who first used the title ‘The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam’?

July 6, 2012

David Calderisi asks another question.

I know that there were at least two earlier translations of Khayyam poems but did anyone before Fitz use the title: “The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam”?

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Garry Garrard permalink
    July 6, 2012 1:28 pm

    The short answer is, as far as I know, no, nobody used that title before Fitz. A longer answer is to list previous translations and titles:
    1) The first translator of OK was Rev Thomas Hyde, polyglot orientalist and Chief Librarian at the Bodleian Library. In his massive work Religion of the Ancient Persians (1700), he included a life of OK and a few of his quatrains translated into Latin – but no separate title as far as I am aware.
    2) In 1818, Joseph Hammer-Purgstall translated 25 quatrains into German in his Geschichte der schönen Redekünste Persiens – again I believe no title beyond a version of OK’s name.
    3) Louisa Costello translated Hammer-Pugstall’s German into English and her verses were published first in Fraser’s Magazine, vol 21 Jan-Jun 1840 under the title Omar Chiam. Her verses were published separately later, in 1846 under the title of The Rose Garden of Persia.
    4) Gore Ouseley translated two verses into English, but they weren’t published until his memorial volume in 1846 – again as far as I know without a separate title.
    5) Then there seems to have been a gap until 1858, when Cowell published 30 unrhymed verses translated into English in the Calcutta Review No 59, March 1958 under the title of simply Umr.
    6) And then, in February 1959, Fitz’s first version finally went to print.
    If anyone knows the precise titles of those translations above to which I have put no name,, I’d be glad to hear them.
    Garry Garrard

  2. July 6, 2012 1:50 pm

    The translations that Garry refers to, can be found of course in Potter. We find that Hyde = 555 (2nd ed. 1760); VonHammer-Purgstall = 440; Costello = 318; Ouseley = 559; Cowell = 319.
    We also have W. Jones (Potter 336) and H.G. Keene (Potter 338).
    Garcin de Tassy’s article in the Journal Asiatic, nr. IX, Paris, 1857, was titled: “Note sur les Rubáiyát de ‘Omar Khaiyám’ (Potter 556).

  3. Garry Garrard permalink
    July 7, 2012 7:44 pm

    Yes, the Potter references are useful. However, the Jones edition is just a single Ruba’i and the Keene edition had just two quatrains originally in 1816 titled Die Fundgruben .
    Since the de Tassy version of 1857 was a translation of EFG’s transcription, I’m not convinced that can be taken as pre-dating EFG either.
    I’m not convinced there is a definitive answer!

  4. December 22, 2012 5:52 pm

    We have recently been looking again at Louisa S Costello’s translations mentioned by Garry in his 6th July comment (item 3). These English versions were published in 1840 (anonymously in Fraser’s Magazine) and 1845 (in The Rose Garden of Persia) and we notice that, in her introduction, she uses the expressions Rubajat Omar Chiam (in 1840) and Rubajat Omar Khiam (in 1845) to describe the verses. The phrase is not used anywhere as a title, but it could be said to be the first English use of the name.

    As Garry mentions, Costello based her version of the verses on Von Hammer-Purgstall’s German translation, published in 1818. It is interesting that he is also clearly the source of the description of Khayyam as ‘the Voltaire of Persia’ also quoted by Costello. Von Hammer’s German text was published by Dole in his 1896 compendium on the Rubaiyat – vol II, pp 445-451.


  1. More on ‘Who first used the title ‘The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam’?’ « Omar Khayyam Rubaiyat

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