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RUBÁIYÁT OF OMAR KHAYYÁM
Boston: [Printed by the Riverside Press for] Houghton Mifflin and Company, 1884. First Trade Edition. This impressive feat of illustration and book design made the reputation of American artist Elihu Vedder, who is responsible not just for the Art Nouveau-style artwork, but also for the handwritten text, the binding design, and the endpapers. According to the Smithsonian, which owns the original designs, "from the moment of its publication, Elihu Vedder's 'Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám' achieved unparalleled success. . . . Critics rushed to acclaim it as a masterwork of American art, and Vedder (1836-1923) as the master American artist. Vedder's 'Rubáiyát' set the standard for the artist-designed book in America and England." The text is an uncertain but beautiful amalgam of the Medieval and the 19th century. Although we know that Omar Khayyám was an 11th century astrologer and mathematician, we are less certain about his poetic accomplishments, and very unsure if the text here was his work. What we do know is that the poetry is early, that it may have been Omar's, that it was translated into English in 1859 by Edward FitzGerald (1809-83), and that this lush and evocative translation has become a widely acclaimed work whose popularity has endured to the present day. Vedder's edition rearranges FitzGerald's translation into three sections around the themes of joy, death, and rebirth, and he populates it with Blakeian images. Trained in the Academic style of painting, Vedder had seen an exhibition of Blake's work on a visit to London in 1876, and ANB notes that his work "subsequently displayed a more idealized human form." Blake's influence is apparent here, particularly in what Vedder called the "cosmic swirl" motif, representing the "gradual concentration of elements that combine to form life; the sudden pause through the reverse of the movement which marks the instant of life; and then the gradual, ever-widening dispersion again of those elements into space." Only this first edition of this work was issued in this folio format; later printings appeared in octavo with inevitable loss of grandeur. The massive size and weight of this volume often results in damage to the joints and hinges; copies as solid and tight as the present one are hard to find.. 405 x 325 mm. (16 x 12 3/4"). [57], [vii] leaves, mounted on tabs. First Trade Edition. Publisher's illustrated brown cloth and patterned endpapers designed by Vedder, top edge gilt. With ornamental title page and 56 photo-lithograph plates of Art Nouveau illustrations by Vedder. Front flyleaf with owner's (illegible) signature dated 1926. A touch of soiling to edges of binding, rear board lightly chafed, a little rubbing to corners and spine ends, isolated marginal smudges or marks, but all of these imperfections very minor and otherwise A FINE COPY, clean, fresh, and bright internally, in a very well-preserved binding. This impressive feat of illustration and book design made the reputation of American artist Elihu Vedder, who is responsible not just for the Art Nouveau-style artwork, but also for the handwritten text, the binding design, and the endpapers. According to the Smithsonian, which owns the original designs, "from the moment of its publication, Elihu Vedder's 'Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám' achieved unparalleled success. . . . Critics rushed to acclaim it as a masterwork of American art, and Vedder (1836-1923) as the master American artist. Vedder's 'Rubáiyát' set the standard for the artist-designed book in America and England." The text is an uncertain but beautiful amalgam of the Medieval and the 19th century. Although we know that Omar Khayyám was an 11th century astrologer and mathematician, we are less certain about his poetic accomplishments, and very unsure if the text here was his work. What we do know is that the poetry is early, that it may have been Omar's, that it was translated into English in 1859 by Edward FitzGerald (1809-83), and that this lush and evocative translation has become a widely acclaimed work whose popularity has endured to the present day. Vedder's edition rearranges FitzGerald's translation into three sections around the themes of joy, death, and rebirth, and he populates it with Blakeian images. Trained in the Academic style of painting, Vedder had seen an exhibition of Blake's work on a visit to London in 1876, and ANB notes that his work "subsequently displayed a more idealized human form." Blake's influence is apparent here, particularly in what Vedder called the "cosmic swirl" motif, representing the "gradual concentration of elements that combine to form life; the sudden pause through the reverse of the movement which marks the instant of life; and then the gradual, ever-widening dispersion again of those elements into space." Only this first edition of this work was issued in this folio format; later printings appeared in octavo with inevitable loss of grandeur. The massive size and weight of this volume often results in damage to the joints and hinges; copies as solid and tight as the present one are hard to find.
      [Bookseller: Phillip J. Pirages Fine Books and Mediev]
Last Found On: 2017-11-11           Check availability:      Biblio    

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