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Martin, W.H. and S. Mason

The Art of Omar Khayyam. Illustrating FitzGerald's Rubaiyat. William H. Martin & Sandra Mason. London-New York, Tauris, 2007. 184 p. Index. ISBN 978-84511-282-0

"This book describes a phenomenon unique in publishing history: a book of poetry, published anonymously nearly 150 years ago - purporting to be the translation of an eleventh century Persian work - which has remained almost continuously in print and has stimulated at least 130 illustrators to try to illuminate the verses it contains." "The poetry in question is Edward FitzGerald's version of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, a mathematician, astronomer and philosopher in eleventh century Persia. Edward FitzGerald was first introduced to Khayyam's verses in the original Persian in 1856. Since 1859, there have been many hundreds of separate editions and reissues of the Rubaiyat, including many further translations of FitzGerald's work into other languages." "Today, FitzGerald's Rubaiyat is one of the most universally known of all poems. It is also probably the most widely illustrated of all literary works. William H. Martin and Sandra Mason have produced the first serious attempt to examine the illustrated editions in detail. The authors tell the story of the popularity of FitzGerald's Rubaiyat, and survey how different illustrators have approached the task of interpreting the individual themes and topics of this poem." "Although the book focuses on one literary work, it provides a history of the changes in book illustration, mostly in Britain and America, over the past century and a half. With some 300 colour illustrations and covering the work of over 100 artists, it also provides background on the illustrators and a bibliography of the illustrated versions of FitzGerald's Rubaiyat. This will prove a unique reference tool for collectors and bibliophiles."--Jacket.