The Rubáiyát

The Rubáiyát is the work of Omar Khayyám (1048-1131), translated into English and adapted by Edward FitzGerald (1809–1883). Khayyám was a Persian polymath, mathematician, philosopher, astronomer, physician, and poet from Neyshapur, in modern day Iran. The author of treatises on mechanics, geography, and music, Khayyám was one of the major mathematicians and astronomers of the medieval period. He wrote the most important treatise on algebra in pre-modern times and proposed a heliocentric theory centuries before Copernicus. His significance as a philosopher and teacher and his few remaining philosophical works have not received the same attention as his scientific and poetic writings.


Edmund Dulac illustration from 1909 edition of the Rubaiyat. (

Edward FitzGerald made Khayyám the most famous poet of the East in the West through his celebrated (some would say “fanciful”) translation and adaptations of Khayyám’s rather small number of quatrains (rubaiyaas) in Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, which also led to his revival among Iranian readers. The many editions of the Rubáiyát feature exquisite bindings and illustrations. The collection was assembled by Curator Carl Weber to commemorate the centennial in 1959, as described in a March 1959 article in the Colby Library Quarterly.


Our Rubáiyát Collection features more than two hundred editions. They are on view in our main reading room. Each volume is described in the Colby Libraries web catalog, with a RUBAIYAT prestamp before the call number.