PLAIN AND LITERAL TRANSLATION OF THE ARABIAN NIGHTS' ENTERTAINMENTS, NOW ENTITLUED [sic] THE BOOK OF THE THOUSAND NIGHTS AND A NIGHT. With Introduction, Explanatory Notes on the Manners and Customs of Moslem Men and a Terminal Essay Upon the History of T
Burton, Richard F., [translator]
Price: 15,000.00 USD
(London: H.S. Nichols, Ltd., 1897), A VERY RARE AND PROBABLY UNIQUE SET OF THIS HIGHLY IMPORTANT EDITION, THE FIRST TO BE ILLUSTRATED, AND THIS COPY WITH AN ADDED SET OF THE ORIGINAL PLATES SINGULARLY HANDCOLOURED. Nichols' printing is a scarce and handsome edition, the first to include the illustrations by Letchford. In 1896, two years after their first edition of ARABIAN NIGHTS, the Nichols-Smithers duo commissioned Sir Richard Burton's close friend, Albert Letchford, to paint 65 illustrations for another edition as well as a portrait of Burton, and soon after commissioned for 5 more. Burton and Letchford had met several years before when Letchford was 18 when he was in Florence beginning his art education and had discussed the possibility of illustrating "Nights." "Burton's suggestion of illustrating the "Nights" had appealed greatly to Letchford on account of the unlimited scope such a subject would give to an artist who loved the East and had a boundless imagination." Letchford commenced study of Eastern images for his paintings, though only one of the illustrations was painted in Burton's lifetime. Richard Burton was one of the foremost linguists of his time, an explorer, poet, translator, ethnologist, and archaeologist, among other things. 'The Thousand Nights and a Night' is probably the most famous of all his many works. This translation reflected his encyclopedic knowledge of Arabic language, sexual practices and life: "it reveals a profound acquaintance with the vocabulary and customs of the Muslims, with their classical idiom," [Ency Britt] as well as colloquialisms, philosophy, modes of thought and intimate details. In contrast to Victorian mores, Burton was driven to explore what would now be called by literary critics the uncanny/Unheimliche or the unresolvable tensions of human beings. Accordingly, he recorded details of daily life and practices that were considered vulgar at the time. "The Arabian Nights" have been traced back to an ancient Persian masterpiece, the "Hazar Afsanah" or "Thousand Tales." The stories themselves can be dated from between the 8th and the 16th centuries and were for popular entertainment. They include a range of subjects from romance and fantasy, to homosexuality, bestiality, and obscenity. While a number of other English translations predated Burton's unexpurgated version, perhaps his achieved greatest notoriety due to its copious footnotes and the "Terminal Essay" found in the last volume. They are a compendium of his private reservoir of anthrological and sexual curiosities. His discussions of female sexual education and homosexuality excited intense debate and controversy at the time of publication. Burton's intellectual influence is far-reaching. His amazing grasp of languages and culture anticipates the globalism of the future. His geographical discoveries not only make him an interesting historical figure but also allowed for future exploration. The detail with which he wrote and his willingness to examine intimate aspects of daily life were precursors to modern ethnography. And his understanding and willingness to immerse himself in cultures that are still little understood by those in Western nation-states is enlightening on many levels. Burton's "Nights" was enthusiastically received and lauded as "masterly, strong, vital, and picturesque," and as "one of the most important translations to which a great English scholar has ever devoted himself." However, it was not without its critics, including th Edinburgh Review which wrote, "Probably no European has ever gathered such an appalling collection of degrading customs and statistics of vice." Burton was ecstatic over the immediate critical and financial success of his translation and became instantaneously famous internationally. Burton wrote of the financial success of his Nights, " I struggled for forty-seven years. I distinguished myself honourably in every way I possibly could. I never had a compliment nor a 'thank you', nor a single farthing. I translated a doubtful book in my old age, and immediately made sixteen thousand guineas. Now that I know the tastes of England, we need never be without money.". 12 volumes. Rare and Most Probably a Unique Presentation of the Illustrated Library Edition. 142 original illustrations, including a portrait of Burton, reproduced from the original pictures in oils specially painted by Albert Letchford with one set of the original 71 illustrations presented as included by the publisher and another set individually hand-coloured. 8vo, splendid, handsome and very finely executed three-quarter gilt-bordered dark red morocco over vellum covered boards, the spine in compartments separated by wide gilt decorated raised bands, the compartments of the spine elaborately decorated and lettered in gilt with beautiful arabesque designs, t.e.g., marbled endpapers. A very handsome and unusually appealing set. The bindings are very stately and attractive and the colouring of the illustrations beautifully accomplished. We know of no other handcoloured copy being offered in recent memory. Some old stains to the edges of some leaves or plates, lower corners of a few volumes with old evidence of damp. Spines, gilt-work, bands all in excellent condition.