Friedrich Rosen: orientalist and diplomat

In the recently published Friedrich Rosen. Orientalist scholarship and international politics Amir Theilhaber describes the diplomatic career and scholarly-literary productions of Friedrich Rosen “to investigate how politics influenced knowledge generated about the “Orient” and charts the roles knowledge played in political decision-making regarding extra-European regions. This is pursued through analyses of Germans in British imperialist contexts, cultures of lowly diplomatic encounters in Middle Eastern cities, Persian poetry in translation, prestigious Orientalist congresses in northern climes,leveraging knowledge in high-stakes diplomatic encounters, and the making of Germany’s Islam policy up to the Great War.”

An extensive chapter 6 deals with Omar Khayyam’s Ruba’iyat and Rumi’s Masnavi, in the context of politics and scholarship of translating Persian Poetry.

Friedrich Rosen. Orientalist scholarship and international politics. Amir Theilhaber. Berlin, Munich, Boston: De Gruyter Oldenbourg, 2020. viii, 627 pp. ISBN: 978-3-11-063925-4.
Also available as Open Access document.

Friedrich Rosen shows a short article about Friedrich Rosen, the well known German translator of Omar Khayyám’s rubáiyát.
Friedrich Rosen (1856-1935) was an orientalist, a diplomat und a politician. From May till October 1921 he was also German minister of foreign affairs. From 1916 till he was appointed as German envoy in The Hague, in the Netherlands.

See: Friedrich Rosen und die Übersetzung der Rubajat Omar Chayyams in: 17 Dez. 2020

See also a recent post about Amir Theilhaber’s recently published biography: Friedrich Rosen. Orientalist scholarship and international politics (Berlin 2020)

Douglas Taylor (1938-2019)

The death of Douglas Taylor, 27th May 2019, means a great loss, not only for his wife and children and all other loved ones, but also for the international Omar Khayyám community.

Douglas was a keen collector of the rubáiyát, he took the verses of the old Persian poet to heart and found comfort and consolation in them. More than that, he spent much of his time and energy in studying, analysing and comparing the various translations and editions of the verses ascribed to Khayyám. Over the years he built a respectable library of all sorts of editions and related material.

All these years he seemed to work in silence, maybe voluntarily, but when he came into contact with other scholars, collectors and researchers, he enjoyed the exchange of information, the discussion and the suggestions for further research. Answering questions about whatever what, if related to Khayyám, seemed his second nature.

I came to know Douglas when I was preparing my bibliography of the Rubáiyat of Omar Khayyám, somewhere in 2008. It was Michelle Kaiserlian who alerted me a certain American gentleman, who also collected rubáiyát editions, and through her Douglas and I started an e-mail contact that lasted until a few weeks before his tragic death.

He alerted me to new or unknown editions, he answered my questions almost as if he was expecting them already and soon after our first contacts it became obvious to me that here was a man who was very deep into Omar, not as a maniac but as serious scholar. And though he was rather hesitative about publishing his work or sending it out in print, he was always more than willing to share the results of his work. Proof of that is his work on uncovering, studying and documenting all sorts of material relating to Khayyám.

In later years it turned out that he had already started comparing various editions and translations of the rubáiyát, which would help me enormously in preparing my Concordances of the Rubáiyát  website. Without his help and unselfish contributions, it would be in no way what it is now.

A few weeks before his passing away, he sent me a message that he had been in hospital, but that he now was back in the saddle again, looking forward to return to his Omarian studies. He had recently been studying the sources of Eric Hermelin’s Swedish translations, and was also preparing to investigate the sources of the Finnish translation by Toyvo Lyy.

He had also studied French translations, and even went as far as trying to read or understand articles and chapters in the Dutch language, probably with the assistance of Google Translate, but it showed how eager he was to learn and understand what Khayyam was all about and what Omar meant to other people. It also showed that he looked at Khayyám’s rubáiyát from a wider view than just the English speaking world.

He more than once  expressed his regrets that he wasn’t able to join meetings with fellow omarians abroad, and on one occasion, last year when there was a conference in the Netherlands, he wrote that he wished he could be there, “even if I didn’t understand one word”.

Now I am truly sad that he is no longer with us, but I am also happy that my wife and I were able to meet with Douglas and his wife Avlona, in 2014.

Thanks Douglas, for all your good works, rest in peace.

Omar’s birthday

Today, May 18, Omar Khayyám’s birthday is celebrated worldwide, maybe more so now that Google produced a ‘doodle’ representing the famous poet-scientist. This novelty was picked up by various news websites and newspapers, all acknowledging the old scientist’s reputation as a man of science, poetry and wisdom.

The Google search engine provides over 3 million results when you search for ‘Omar Khayyám’, which is rather depressing than motivating to do any further studies on Khayyám. So here is a selection of some recent books on Khayyám and his rubáiyát.

The Great ‘Umar Khayyám. A Global Reception of the Rubáiyát. A.A. Seyed-Gohrab. Leiden, Leiden University Press, 2012. 267 p. (Iranian Studies Series). ISBN: 9789087281571. [Online available at Open Access]
This volume collects eighteen essays on the history of the reception of ‘Umar Khayyám in various literary traditions, exploring how his philosophy of doubt, carpe diem, hedonism, and in vino veritas has inspired generations of poets, novelists, painters, musicians, calligraphers and film-makers.

FitzGerald’s Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. Popularity and Neglect. Edited by Adrian Poole, Christine van Ruymbeke, William H. Martin and Sandra Mason. Anthem Press, 2011.
240 p. ISBN 9780857287816.
This volume of essays is based on a conference held in July 2009 at Trinity College, Cambridge to celebrate the bicentenary of the birth of Edward FitzGerald (1809) and the 150th anniversary of the first publication of his ‘Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám’ (1859).

The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. An updated bibliography. Jos Coumans. Amsterdam, Leiden University Press, 2010. 250 p. ISBN: 978-908-72-8096-3.
The bibliography lists a new selection and description of more than 1.000 editions of the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám.

A book of verse. The biography of the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. Garry Garrard. Stroud, Sutton, 2007. 270 p. ISBN: 978-0-7509-4631-5 (Hardback).
The book tells the story of how The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám has provided delight and fascination for centuries.

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.
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.”

The wine of wisdom. The life, poetry and philosophy of Omar Khayyam. Mehdi Aminrazavi. Oxford, Oneworld Publishing, 2005. 396 p. ISBN: 1-85168-355-0.
Philosopher, mathematician, scientist, and mystic – his many different identities are examined here in detail, creating a coherent picture of this complex and often misunderstood figure.

There are numerous websites on Omar Khayyám as well, but there is one that stands out as a platform for discussion and exchanging information: Omar Khayyam Rubaiyat.

For a more detailed and up to date survey of books and articles see Omar Khayyám.

New editions – 2018

Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám. [Translated by Edward FitzGerald; decorated by william Morris]. London, Folio Society, 2018. 23 pp.

This edition of The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám is a facsimile of British Library Add MS 37832, created in 1872. It employs the translation of Edward Fitzgerald, first published in 1859. It was calligraphically written by William Morris and decorated by him with painted and illuminated borders. The figures in the borders were designed by Morris and Sir Edward Burne-Jones, and were painted by Charles Fairfax Murray.

Frank Unger illustrates the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, 1906.Danton O’Day. Emeritus Books, 2018. 96 pp. ISBN 978-0-46-471984-7.

The watercolours in Unger’s original volume are bound in Moroccan leather that is gilt-embossed with an artistic rendering of the title, „Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám“, plus gilt corner designs on the front and back covers—a design incorporated into this new softcover offering. An Introduction to Unger’s book and A Look Back at Unger’s Contribution put his work into context dealing with issues such as how the artist put his personal spin on FitzGerald’s translations.

Omar Chayyam. Vierzeiler.Übersetzt von Adolf Friedrich Graf von Schack. [Edited by Karl-Maria Guth]. Berlin, Contumax – Hofenberg, 2018. 88 p. ISBN: 978-3-7437-2477-8.

Reprint based on the 1878 edition by Von Schack.

Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám.Rendered into English verse by Edward FitzGerald. With drawings by Edmund J. Sullivan. Norwalk, Easton Press, 2018. 320 p.

De luxe edition. Reprint of the first edition, 1913 publiahed by Methuen & Co., London.
Printed on archival quality paper. All edges gilt, and issued in a slip case, with title and ornaments in gold.

Omar Khayyam Rubaiyat. With paintings by Gizella Varga Sinai. Compiled by Németh Ágnes. Budapest, Kossuth Kiadó, 2018. [Unpag., ca. 117 pp.] ISBN: 978-963-09-9198-8.

Selection of 60 quatrains; English by Edward FitzGerald, Hungarian by Szabó Lörinc and Persian version by Sadeq Hedayat. Illustrated throughout in full page colour illustrations by Gizella Varga Sinai, with page ornaments by Afshin Najafzadeh. Introduction by Pouran Boroumand.

Jos Biegstraaten 1944-2018

Jos Biegstraaten, founder and long-time president of the Dutch Omar Khayyám Society, passed away Friday March 23.

Biegstraaten was the first in the Netherlands to bring Dutch enthusiasts and lovers of Omar together. They formed a small group of four, meeting twice a year in an informal setting, discussing and exchanging information about Khayyám and the Rubáiyát.

The club soon developed into a more serious society, including academics, publishers, translators and collectors, their efforts resulting in yearbooks, catalogues, contributions to journals and magazines, concerts and exhibitions and more. All of this thanks to Biegstraaten’s never ending enthusiasm and inspiration.

Jos was also a keen collector of rubaíyát editions. He loved to meet and talk to people who shared his interest, and he was proud to be a member of the prestigious London Omar Khayyam Club.

A particular field of interest became the ‘Omar Khayyám parody’, in which he was an expert. As if to express with Omar that life and life’s questions should be taken with a smile.

The Dutch Society will remember Jos Biegstraaten as a true friend of Omar, and a friend of all omarians.