Elihu Vedder’s Rubáiyát


A slight return to Omar Khayyam. The Edmund J. Sullivan post prompted comments about other editions so I thought I’d see what else was at the Internet Archive. The problem there is that the Rubáiyát was a very popular book in the latter part of the 19th century which means there are not only multiple editions of the Edward Fitzgerald translation but many translations by other hands, as well as numerous parodies. Anne S mentioned the Edmund Dulac edition which I suppose I ought to at least acknowledge since Dulac’s passion for Persian and Arabian art made him an ideal illustrator. But I do enjoy finding illustrated books that are less familiar, hence Elihu Vedder’s edition of 1894.


Elihu Vedder (1836–1923) was an American Symbolist painter, and also something of a poet himself, producing a few volumes of his own illustrated verse. Many illustrators favour an Orientalist interpretation of the Rubáiyát despite the popularity of the quatrains being more a result of their universality than their exotic qualities. Vedder produced over 50 drawings that concentrate on the mystical aspects of the poem, setting hand-lettered texts against illustrations that are either very similar to his paintings or direct copies of some of his canvases. It’s unfortunate that the reproductions in this edition—a reprinting of Vedder’s 1884 original—aren’t better. The book is still one of the more remarkable editions, however. Browse the rest of it here or download it here.



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