For most people, books become a source of joy and relief; however, there are quite a few instances where the opposite is true. The Sangorski Edition of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam is one example of that. This book is beautiful. It is bound in moroccan and turkey leather, has a jewel-encrusted peacock on the front cover, and contains gold tooling.
It was originally designed by Francis Sangorski. He spent roughly two months designing it and two years creating it. An American commissioned its creation, and when Sangorski had finished it, he sent it to the commissioner on the Titanic. Needless to say, the book perished on the Titanic and was never found. At that time, it had sold for $2,000, which is roughly $45,000 today. Afterwards, Sangorski was planning on recreating it; however, he drowned six weeks later in 1912 while bathing. Sangorski’s partner, Stanley Bray, felt as if he needed to finish what Sangorski started, so he spent six years creating a second copy of the book by looking at original drawings. Sadly, the book was destroyed in the London Blitz even though it was being kept in a bank safe vault. Bray then started on a second copy. Forty years later, the copy was finished and donated to the British Library by his wife after he himself died. Before his death, Bray was asked about the tragic history related to the book. He said, “I am not in the least bit superstitious — even though they do say that the peacock is a symbol of disaster.” It currently has restricted access. Other copies of this book are currently selling for as much as $18,000. The Sangorski Edition of the Rubaiyet of Omar Khayyam is now loving referred to as “The Great Omar” and is known as the “most ambitious bookbinding ever undertaken by any bookbinder at any period in history” because it had upwards of fifteen hundred precious/semi-precious stones, five thousand pieces of inlaid leather, six hundred sheets of 22 carat gold leafing, and took two years to finish. The book definitely has a heart-breaking history, but it goes to show that something beautiful can come out of any situation.
More information on the Sangorski Edition of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam: