“ONCE UPON A TIME THERE LIVED A PRINCE WHO WAS A WIDOWER, AND HE POSSESSED AN ONLY DAUGHTER”: SIR RICHARD BURTON’S TRANSLATION OF IL PENTAMERONE, THE FIRST FULL ENGLISH TRANSLATION
(BURTON, Richard F., translator) ABBATTUTIS, Gian Alessio. Il Pentamerone; or, the Tale of Tales. London: Henry and Co., 1893. Two volumes. Octavo, original black publisher’s cloth.
First edition of the first complete English translation of this collection of some of the world’s best-known folk and fairy tales.
Written by Giambattista Basile under the pen name Gian Alessio Abbattutis, these folk stories were first published in 1634-36, predating the tales of Charles Perrault by 50 years and those of the Brothers Grimm by 200. The Grimms would note that Basile’s work was “for a long time the best and richest [collection of fairy tales] that had been found by any nation.” Many of the tales found in Il Pentamerone resemble other famous fairy stories, such as “Rapunzel,” “Snow White,” “Cinderella” and “Sleeping Beauty.” Originally written in Neapolitan dialect, the “Tale of Tales” came to be known as Il Pentamerone because it told 50 tales over five evenings in a setting similar to Boccaccio’s Decameron. A partial English translation by John Edward Taylor appeared in 1847; Burton’s was the first complete English translation. At Burton’s death in 1890, his widow Isabel burned a large quantity of his diaries and manuscripts. “Fortunately, still other manuscripts—innocuous in character to Isabel—escaped the flames, along with some small notebooks and a few other fragments… Among the surviving material were quite a number of books in manuscript form,” including Burton’s translation of Il Pentamerone, which Lady Burton published posthumously without the extensive footnotes that Burton usually included with his translations (Rice, 480). Also issued in a large-paper edition limited to 165 copies. Penzer, 155-56. Spink 94.
Interiors fine, cloth bindings lightly rubbed with wear to spine ends. A near-fine copy.