The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam:
1941 Pocket Books Gordon Ross Edition

This Pocket Books edition contains illustrations from Gordon Ross, the first I’ve seen of his, an introduction by Louis Untermeyer, and the first and fifth editions of the FitzGerald translations. True to the publisher’s name, it is indeed pocket size. Slim and compact. It is about as long as the size of my hand.

Although this is called a ‘Pocket Book’ edition, it doesn’t feel like it cut corners on its presentation or build. The art is fantastic, the binding has stood up to time incredibly well, and it even contains footnotes. Interestingly, it does not include the typical bio/introduction, just Louis Untermeyer’s. Regardless, it is a really great edition with wonderful little touches. The art is a real standout for me.

Apologies for the awkward photos and lighting, it was hard to hold down the book and take pictures at the same time.

The Book Itself

Printed in the USA. I assume this is the 4th printing of the edition, which was done in 1948. It was originally published in November 1941. It’s interesting seeing the big gap in years between the 3rd and 4th printing. I’m wondering if World War II was the cause?

The cover artwork is bright and descriptive. I love editions that contain so much information up front and inside them…makes it much easier to catalog.

The Poetry

The poetry pages are plainly, but fantastically, executed. On various pages there are footnotes on the meaning of certain phrases. For example, Surly Tapster as the devil and Chequer-board being a reference to chess (which is interesting that it had to be spelled out).

The Illustrations

Gordon Ross’s illustrations are wonderful. They have a sort of surreal quality, like Edmund J. Sullivan’s art, but…simpler and streamlined. I really love how Ross brought the quatrains to life and interpreted them. I almost wanted to add each quatrain and Ross’s artwork for them, but I had to limit myself to a few.