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Decorated title page of Rubaiyat

Decorated title page of Rubaiyat

From a manuscript of Omar Khayyam, Rubaiyat (Quatrains), dated AH 865 (1460 AD), Shiraz

Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, MS Ouseley 140, fol 2v

The small size of this manuscript belies its key role in the story of Edward FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. It previously belonged to Sir William Ouseley and was purchased by the Bodleian Library in 1844.

Within a decade, it came to the attention of Edward FitzGerald’s friend and Persian teacher EB Cowell. Cowell had studied Persian at Oxford and subsequently catalogued numerous Persian and other manuscripts for the Bodleian. Cowell gave FitzGerald a copy of this manuscript, and shortly after taking up an academic position in India he sent FitzGerald a copy of a second Omar Khayyam Rubaiyat manuscript he had located there.

The Bodleian’s manuscript is the earliest-known securely dated copy of Khayyam’s poetic work.