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khayyam fitzgerald rubaiyat

Omar Khayyam, Edward FitzGerald and The Rubaiyat

6th - 10th July, 2009

"And, strange to tell, among that earthen Lot
Some could articulate, while others not:
And suddenly one more impatient cried-
'Who is the Potter, pray, and who the pot?'"

This week-long conference to be held at Leyden and Cambridge celebrates the 200th anniversary of the birth of Edward FitzGerald (1809) and the 150th anniversary of the first publication of his famous Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (1859).

We gratefully acknowledge the generous help of the following institutions :

The Soudavar Cambridge Fund for Persian Studies, the British Institute for Persian Studies, the Iran Heritage Foundation, the Department of Middle Eastern Studies at FAMES, Cambridge, the Faculty of English, Cambridge, the Ancient India and Iran Trust, Cambridge, Trinity College, Cambridge, Pembroke College, Cambridge and "Cambridgeshire Culture", Cambridgeshire Country Council.

2009 will be an opportunity to mark the unique achievements of this former Cambridge student (Trinity 1826-30) and his extraordinary contribution to world literature. The Rubaiyat, rather loosely based on the verses attributed to the eleventh-century Persian writer, Omar Khayyam, has become perhaps the most widely known poem in the world. It has been republished virtually every year from 1879 (the year of FitzGerald's fourth edition) to the present day, and translated into some eighty different languages.

In collaboration with the Persian Department at the University of Leyden (the Netherlands), we are organising a four-day conference which will examine both the life and work of Omar Khayyam (scientist, mathematician and astronomer) (in Leyden, 6th and 7th July 2009) and the life and work of the Victorian English author Edward FitzGerald (in Cambridge, 9th and 10th July 2009), with a particular emphasis on the impact of his Rubaiyat and the reception of the poem in different languages and literatures and on the illustrations of the numerous editions of the text.

Leiden website:

The second half of the conference, in Cambridge (9th and 10th July 2009), will concentrate on FitzGerald's work, especially The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, and other European translations of Khayyam's rubaiyat, on their impact on European literature and 'Orientalism', on the publication history of the translations and the illustrations of the quatrains.

The Cambridge part of the programme will include a lecture programme open to the public, with a key-note speaker and presentations by academics of international standing, concerned with both English and Persian literature. The event will be linked to an earlier exhibition at the University Library displaying copies of the relevant Persian manuscripts (please note: original manuscript material will not be included in this exhibition; Manuscripts Department material which is included will be represented by copies, for conservation reasons) and the papers of FitzGerald and his mentor and correspondent, Edward Cowell, subsequently Professor of Sanskrit in Cambridge.

Details of the Cambridge half of the Conference

For more information on the Cambridge half of the conference, please contact:

Dr Christine van Ruymbeke
Ali Reza and Mohamed Soudavar Lecturer in Persian Studies
Department of Middle Eastern Studies
Faculty of Asian & Middle Eastern Studies