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Who's who
About us

A brief summary

(click on headings for more details - see also under Who's who for information on other people involved with the Rubaiyat)

Omar Khayyam (1048-c.1131)

  • He was a famous Persian mathematician, astronomer and philosopher,

  • He lived in the 11/12th centuries and worked at the court in Eastern Iran.

  • Many verses (four line quatrains or rubai) have been attributed to him but it is not clear how many of these he actually composed.

  • One of the earliest established collections of quatrains dates from 1461. This Ouseley manuscript, in the Bodleian Library in Oxford, was used by FitzGerald in his translation.

Edward FitzGerald (1809-1883)

  • Edward FitzGerald was a wealthy Victorian ‘gentleman of letters’ who lived most of his life in Suffolk, in and around Woodbridge.

  • A chance meeting with a local young man named Edward Cowell (later a Professor at Cambridge) set FitzGerald on to his Persian studies.

  • Cowell discovered the Ouseley manuscript of Khayyam’s Rubaiyat in the Bodleian Library, and sent a copy to FitzGerald.

  • This, together with another larger manuscript from Calcutta, provided FitzGerald with the basis for his Rubaiyat.

FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

  • FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam was first published in 1859. It contained 75 quatrains, and was an interpretation not a literal translation of the verses attributed to Khayyam.

  • After an initial failure, FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat became ever more popular, at first in Britain, then in the United States and then in the rest of the world.

  • The Rubiayat has been translated into over 70 different languages to become the most widely known poem in the world. A new edition has been published almost every year since the 1880’s.

  • As well as being a beautiful poem, the philosophy of the Rubaiyat seems to have appealed to many people over the years.


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