This page, and SC 1990:2-22, appear to have been made as a double frontispiece for a manuscript of Omar Khayyam’s scientific treatises. Known in the west primarily as a poet, Khayyam (d. 1123), a native of Nishapur, was above all a noted philosopher, mathematician, and astronomer. The central ogival frames and their finials contain information on the manuscript and its author while the border cartouches give a sampling of Khayyam’s quatrains. Although most of the poetry does not belong to the standard corpus of the poet, one quatrain is among his most famous:
“I was in the potter’s shop last night,
And saw two thousand jugs, some speaking, some dumb;
Each was anxiously asking,
‘Where is the potter, and the buyer and seller of pots?'”
-Translation from P. Avery & J. Heath-Stubbs, “The Ruba’iyat of Omar Khayyam”, Penguin classics, 1981, p. 64
Based on the compositional device of a carpet pattern, the finely illuminated decorative motifs, the expert manner of the writing in cursive hand (in two styles), and the unusual choice of parchment, a material not in use since the 10th century, may indicate that these pages resulted from an expensive experiment.
Collections Database: SC 1990.2-23