The Arabian Nights’ Entertainment, or The Thousand and One Nights, is a famous collection of stories originally written in Arabic and introduced into Europe in the early eighteenth century. Antoine Galland translated the text into French in 1704 and from this work Jonathan Scott produced an English edition in 1811. The first direct translation into English came from the pen of Edward William Lane in 1839m and it is from his text that many subsequent editions were taken. A later, brilliant translation in sixteen volumes was published by Sir Richard Burton in 1885-8.
The origin of the tales is uncertain, although the framework of the stories is undoubtedly Arabian. The basis of the ‘entertainments’ is well known: they tell the story of a King who, on the morning following the consummation of each marriage, has his new wife killed. The beautiful Scheherazade avoids such a fate by telling stories the end of which she tantalisingly refuses to reveal. The King thus allows her to live for another day when, of course, the clever girl has another tale to tell.
The stories themselves have inspired a symphonic suite, a ballet, musicals and plays, and never lose their timeless charm. This facsimile of a nineteenth-century edition is enhanced by the inclusion of fifteen original plates.