"THE FIRST AND BY FAR THE BEST REPRINT OF THE ORIGINAL UNEXPURGATED EDITION" OF BURTON'S ARABIAN NIGHTS, WITH 100 PLATES
BURTON, Richard F. A Plain and Literal Translation of the Arabian Nights' Entertainments, Now Entituled The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night with Introductory Explanatory Notes on the Manners and Customs of Moslem Men and a Terminal Essay upon the History of The Nights. Denver: Carson-Harper Company, 1900-1901. Sixteen volumes bound in seventeen. Royal octavo, contemporary three-quarter red morocco, raised bands, elaborately gilt-decorated spines, marbled boards and endpapers, top edges gilt. $6800.
Beautifully bound and illustrated limited edition, number 757 of 1000 copies "for private circulation," of Sir Richard Francis Burton's lively (and often daring) translation of The Arabian Nights—the enduring, irresistible folk tales of Aladdin, Ali Baba and many more heroes and heroines of adventure, romance, mystery and magic—with 100 plates specially designed for this edition by Stanley Llewellyn Wood.
"The first and by far the best reprint of the original unexpurgated edition of the 'Nights' was issued by the Press of the Carson-Harper Company in Denver, Colorado, in 1900-1. It is similar to the original in every way, except that instead of the name of the copyrighter being on the verso of the title-page there is the following:—This Fac-simile of the Original Edition is issued by the Burton Society of Denver Colorado for Private circulation among its members. The edition is limited to one thousand sets… Nota Bene—There were no illustrations in the Benares edition. Those contained in this volume were originally designed by Stanley L. Wood to supplement the work" (Penzer, p. 125-6). One of the great cross-cultural works in the English language, Burton's translation "is unsurpassed, though others had tried their versions of the Arabic: his text is unrivaled and the poetry superb. The notes and annotations that fill the volumes would alone make the reputation of many other men, and the final essays, dealing with the Nights and the social and religious conditions in which they appeared, are masterpieces of their kind" (Rice, 578). Burton "intended the translation to be a legacy to his countrymen, of whose imperial mission he was ever mindful, and to perpetuate the fruit of his own oriental experiences" (DNB). "Briefly, the object of this version is to show what 'The Thousand Nights and a Night' really is… by writing as the Arab would have written in English… My work claims to be a faithful copy of the great Eastern Saga-book, by preserving intact, not only the spirit, but even the mécanique, the manner and the matter. Hence, however prosy and long-drawn out be the formula, it retains the scheme of The Nights, because they are a prime feature of the original… Moreover, holding that the translator's glory is to add something to his native tongue… I have carefully Englished the picturesque turns and novel expressions of the original in all their outlandishness" (Burton, from The Translator's Forward, pp. xiii-xiv). In this set, finely bound by Dutton, Volume III of the Supplemental Nights is divided into two separately bound parts, a feature which Penzer, in his respected bibliography, first attributes to the later undated Burton Club editions; but the dates on the title page versos (1900 in all volumes except the final three Supplemental Volumes which are dated 1901) and all other features conform to Penzer's description of the Carson-Harper Company first reprint. Bindings have the 1885 through 1888 dates of the true first editions at the base of the spines. Penzer, pp. 125-6.
Interiors fine, spines uniformly sunned to a rich reddish-brown, a few joints with expert repairs. A lovely production of this important limited-edition illustrated set.