The judges, headed by Professor John Carey and including novelists Ruth Rendell and Hilary Mantel, gave a special commendation to a book by travel writer and Independent contributor Charles Nicholl, Somebody Else: Rimbaud in Africa.
In January, Hughes's set of free translations from the first-century Latin poet's Metamorphoses won the pounds 23,000 Whitbread Book of the Year Award and, before that, the Whitbread prize for poetry. His wholly unexpected and revealing sequence of poems about his troubled marriage to the poet Sylvia Plath, Birthday Letters, still dominates the hardback bestseller charts.
The 68-year-old Hughes, who lives in Devon, did not appear for the awards ceremony at Goldsmiths Hall in the City of London. In a statement read on his behalf, he said that he "had been amazed to watch the public life of Tales from Ovid" as it progressed from award to award. "I don't know when anything has given me such a shock of pure writer's joy.
Hughes's friend and publisher Matthew Evans, the chairman of Faber & Faber, said: "Ted has returned to the centre of things."