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More about the pirate Rubaiyat of 1883

September 8, 2021

In the previous post we highlighted the pirated copy of FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam that was produced by Harry Quilter in 1883 – see https://omarkhayyamrubaiyat.wordpress.com/2021/09/01/harry-quilter-and-the-pirate-rubaiyat-of-1883/ .  Thanks to valuable contributions from some blog readers, we are now able to present some images relating to this rare edition of the Rubaiyat, and its production.

The first two images below have been provided by Jos Coumans, to whom many thanks.  They show the basic characteristics of the volume, described by Harry Quilter as being  ‘… the plain, unannotated text of the poem, bound in brown cardboard, and printed on sugar-loaf paper, in big Old English type …’.  Jos also alerted us to the comments about the pirate edition in J H McCarthy’s Introduction to his version of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam published by David Nutt in 1889.  In this McCarthy recounts his version of the genesis of the Quilter edition at a dinner party at Quilter’s house, and he adds his own assessment of the volume as ‘… not an attractive book … [but] a literary curiosity … [and] indeed a very rare book …’  As mentioned in the earlier post, McCarthy, who was the first president of the Omar Khayyam Club in London, is one of the people identified as acquiring a copy of the pirate edition in 1883.

Our second set of images has been provided by The Diba Library of Persian Studies, to whom we are also very grateful.  On the left is the cover of a special presentation copy of the Quilter pirate edition of the Rubaiyat.  This copy was covered in old Italian silk brocade, and was originally given by Quilter to Rev. Stopford A Brooke, an Irish churchman and writer, who was for a time chaplain to Queen Victoria.  This fine copy was subsequently owned by Ambrose G Potter, the bibliographer of the Rubaiyat – see his entry no 138.  The image on the right shows a letter of 1921 to Potter from Eben F Thompson, an American enthusiast for the Rubaiyat and one of the founders of the American Omar Khayyam Club.  In the letter, Thompson discusses the publication and distribution of Quilter’s pirate, suggesting that the print run was probably no more than 50 copies, and that Quilter refused to sell the copies, but gave them to friends, some of whom may have helped to pay for the original printing.  He quotes a price of five guineas for a copy on the market in 1906.

Taken together with our earlier information, these new images and sources help to flesh out another fascinating story in the history of FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat over the past 162 years.  Our thanks again to all contributors.  If readers have addition material on the subject , please add your comments or send them to us on sandrabill@omarkhayyamrubaiyat.com and we can post them for you.

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