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Seeking information on David Eugene Smith, Hashim Hussein and Rassam-i Arjangi?

February 21, 2016

The other day we received the following enquiry concerning an unusual edition of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.

I have a 1933 edition of the Rubaiyat “set forth in meter by David Eugene Smith based on a verbatim translation by Hashim Hussein.”  The illustrations are by Rassam-I Arjangi.  There is a 12 page introduction that acknowledges Fitzgerald.  It also is limited to 1,000 copies of which this is number 282. 

The enquirer has been looking for more information about the three people involved in the production of this edition, without success so far.  We know of the edition – it is no 422 in Jos Coumans Bibliography – but we are also unable to find out more about the contributors.  There is a long Wikipedia article on a David Eugene Smith, 1860-1944, who was a mathematician and educator.  The dates would fit, but there is no mention of him contributing to a new edition of the Rubaiyat.

Does anyone know anything more about this edition, and the people involved?  Please share your knowledge with a comment on this post.  And thanks in advance.

 

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. April 8, 2016 5:26 pm

    Bob Forrest has been doing some digging about David Eugene Smith. He has unearthed the following information.

    David Eugene Smith certainly was the mathematician and educator you mentioned, as his Rubaiyat features in a couple of obituary notices about him in mathematical journals, and the signature in his Rubaiyat matches that in a couple of his mathematical works that I have seen. It seems that his career in mathematical education began as something of an escape from a proposed career in law (proposed by his father, that is!), but that once started, he proved to be very good at it, and it became his main claim to fame. However, he had a strong inclination towards the arts and humanities, and was apparently a good linguist, with a working knowledge of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, and. considerable competence in modern languages as well – he collaborated on a translation from French of René Descartes’ work on geometry, and on a translation from German of Felix Klein’s work on the famous insoluble problems of elementary geometry (much to my surprise, I found I had a Dover reprint of the latter sitting on my maths shelf!) He also apparently collected Japanese mathematical works and collaborated on a history of Japanese mathematics, so I presume he had some knowledge of Japanese as well. He was, of course, familiar with Omar’s mathematical works, and apparently owned a 14th century MS copy of Omar’s work on algebra, not to mention various Indian mathematical manuscripts. In the midst of all this, it comes as no great surprise that he had a keen interest in The Rubaiyat, nor that in 1922 he privately published a little book on “Mathematics and Poetry” (a copy of which I’ve managed to find, though it is still in transit from the USA.)

    So now we all know a good deal more about this elusive man. Thank you Bob for sharing the results of your research.

  2. January 14, 2017 8:53 pm

    Hi.

    Rassam Arjangi, the illustrator of this book, was an early 20th century Iranian painter. He was born in Tabriz in 1892 and he died in 1961. He went to Tbilisi when he was 18 to study art. He stayed there for 4 years. Then he went to Moscow to obtain BA in fine art in 1912. He visited France and Italy during his vacation, summer of 1913. He graduated from Moscow’s Academy of Art short after the beginning of the first world war in 1914. He was kept in Tbilisi on his way back to Tabriz from Moscow by Tsarians. He escaped and went to Tabriz. In 1919 he immigrated to Tehran with his wife and son. He opened his own gallery in Tehran by the name of “Negarestan”e Arjangi where other modernists (poets, painters and musicians) were gathered to exchange ideas about modern literature and art. According to his autobiography (http://arzhangi.com/images/zendegi-beghalamekhod.pdf which is in Persian) his acquaintance with Mr. Smith, who he mentioned had a phd in history of art, were made through Dr. Sediq Alam (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isa_Sedigh) the minister of culture in Iran by the time. He wrote: “When Dr. Sediq Alam was studying in the states he made acquaintance with professor David Eugene Smith who had studied Art and classic languages and had a phd in history of art and had translated Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyat into English then. Therefor he asked his friend Dr. Sediq to help him find an Iranian artist to illustrate his edition.” So Dr. Sediq introduced Arjangi to Smith while they were in Iran and Smith was in America. Then Arjangi made 12 drawings for this book and had them sent to New York. He mentioned: “The book published in 1933 in New York by B, Western company. Now they keep a rare edition of it in Metropolitan museum.”
    There is no further record on this collaboration work in his autobiography.
    In an article about Arjangi (http://arzhangi.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=107&catid=14&Itemid=473 – sorry in Persian again) I read that D. E. Smith was in Iran at least once and he gave speeches on Art and history but there is no reference. Here (http://www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/Biographies/Smith_David.html) says: “Retiring for Smith certainly did not mean that he led a quiet life and he continued his love for travel (in fact during his life he made eighty Atlantic crossings). For example he spent four months in winter 1932/spring 1933 in Persia (now Iran), Iraq and Syria. He was able to obtain about 150 manuscripts during these months in Persian, Arabic and Hebrew which were either translations by the Arabic scholars of Greek texts or were works by mathematicians such as Omar Khayyam.” but there is no trace of the publication of Rubaiyat by him.
    So far this is all I managed to find on the matter. However while I’m doing a research on Arjangi’s works and life, I probably will find more information on this, though if you are still interested I’ll share them with you then.

    (this is my email: amirsj.hakimi@gmail.com)

  3. February 8, 2017 4:10 pm

    Many thanks for this information. For someone like myself, who doesn’t read Persian, to have ready translations of the relevant bits of Persian websites is particularly useful. I for one would welcome any further information on Arjangi which you might find, in particular about any illustrations he might have done for an edition of Hafiz (unpublished ?) One query, though. You say Arjangi died in 1961, but his granddaughter, Parastoo Ganjei, on her former website, said he died in 1975. Is there perhaps some confusion here with the death of Arjangi’s second son (I don’t know his name) in 1961 ? Just a guess.

    • February 10, 2017 5:15 pm

      Thank you. You are right there about his date of death. His second son perished in 1961(1340 solar hijri) of suspicious death by poisoning when he was only 22, according to his biography, and Arjangi himself died in November 17th 1975 (sorry I didn’t double check the date the other time).
      However I can’t believe I missed out something else too.
      In his autobiography he talks on Smith one more time. He says:
      “[…] after Rubaiyat was published in America, professor Smith, the translator who was a literary and scientific figure came to Tehran as a guest of [Reza]Shah. He gave a speech in a college and said the enemies of Iran were saying that Iran where once was the cradle of artists, nowadays doesn’t have any; today Arjangi has proved them wrong. Iran still has genius artists. I have seen many editions of Khayyam’s Rubaiyat either in Europe or in America which were illustrated by painters but none of them could have reached through the spirit of the narrator of Robaie; but Arjangi has been perfectly well successful there. If Khayyam was today alive he would have chose Arjangi to draw for his Rubaiyat, himself.
      Professor Smith telegraphed Tabriz and asked me to come visit him in Tehran. But because I couldn’t, I had a picture of myself, I sent it to him and I apologized. Then he came to visit me in Tabriz. […]” (The rest is irrelevant).

      About his work on Hafiz I heard there is something but I haven’t found anything useful about it yet.

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