A reviewer in the Bookman considered Balfour's 1920 edition of the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám to be one of the most beautiful of the many editions of 'Omar' to have ever been published. The early 20th century was a Golden Age for lavish editions of the poem illustrated by the most accomplished artists of the day. Balfour's stunning Art Deco style, gloriously decadent and risqué as it is, carries a strong echo of Beardsley. His remarkable suite of 38 illustrations epitomizes an the era of opulence, extravagance and a new found freedom of expression following the radical social changes caused by the First World War.
Why this website?
Books such as these, and particularly the Balfour first edition of the Rubáiyát, are extremely scarce these days. The aim of this website, and subsequent projects to follow, is to redress the balance somewhat by bringing these beautifully illustrated limited edition books and reproductions of their superb illustrations to a wider audience. 
The prints
We are very pleased to be able to offer, for the first time, a rare opportunity to acquire fine-art quality copies of Balfour’s Art Deco illustrations. The illustrations have been scanned at high resolution, colour corrected and printed on archival quality matt paper with pigment based silver-halide inks. Each illustration is captioned with the quatrain to which it belongs.
The eBook
Digital editions give us the chance to reproduce colour; enhance illustrations, emulate typestyle and layout exactly as in the original limited print edition. This eBook is a faithful reproduction of the now rare Balfour edition. Biographical notes concerning Omar Khayyám, FitzGerald and Ronald Balfour are also included as are useful links, the text for all five editions of FitzGerald’s translation.
The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
It would be difficult to overstate the popularity of FitzGerald’s Rubáiyát. When first published in 1859, barely a single copy was sold for two years. Then, having been discovered by the Pre-Raphaelites, it's popularity grew by degrees until after FitzGerald’s death in 1883. By the late 19th century, it had swept across the World. Since then, it has been translated into 70 languages; appeared in at least 1300 different editions, illustrated by 150 plus artists and set to music by 100 composers.
It would be a great mistake to regard FitzGerald’s Rubáiyát as a simple translation. More accurately, it's a collaboration across almost a millennium, between two great poets from radically different cultures. One might say that Omar provided the raw materials but it was FitzGerald who actually built the structure.
That FitzGerald took enormous liberties with Omar Khayyám's text is beyond doubt. Indeed, much of the scholarly criticism aimed at the Rubáiyát over the preceding years centred around the fact that FitzGerald’s translation was anything but faithful. However, few now doubt that the poem is a lyrically beautiful original creation or that FitzGerald’s reorganization of Omar's quatrains retains something of the poetic spirit of the originals. FitzGerald’s Rubáiyát is now regarded as a masterpiece in English verse and has immortalized both FitzGerald and Omar Khayyám in Western literature.
Useful Links
- The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam - Balfour Edition
Published by Constable and Company Limited, London - 1920
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ORDER EBOOKThe_eBook.html

© Norman Clark, 2013. All Rights reserved.