Kitab Alf layla wa-layla. [One Thousand and One Nights.]
Kitab Alf layla wa-layla. [One Thousand and One Nights.]
Kitab Alf layla wa-layla. [One Thousand and One Nights.]
Kitab Alf layla wa-layla. [One Thousand and One Nights.]
Kitab Alf layla wa-layla. [One Thousand and One Nights.]
The First Complete and Definitive Arabic Edition of the Arabian Nights

Kitab Alf layla wa-layla. [One Thousand and One Nights.]

Bulaq [al-Qāhira]: al-Matba'ah al-kubra, 1251 AH [1835 AD]. First edition. Printed in Arabic. Each page framed by double rules. Large woodcut vignettes on the opening pages of both volumes. Two volumes. In somewhat later half leather. Spine with five raised bands. Title, volume number, and edition lettered gilt on spine. Cardboard panels covered with marbled paper. Double endpapers, a marbled and a simple. 710; 620 p. 19th-century bibliographical notes on a typed vignette mounted on the inner marbled endpapers of each volume. Bibliographical notes in pencil on the first volume’s inner marbled endpaper. Barbier de Meynard’s ownership inscriptions on simple endpapers of each volume (and donation inscription only in the first volume). Barbier de Meynard’s collection stamp on opening and finishing pages of each volume. Loose, handwritten sheets of content added to both volumes, probably in Barbier de Meynard’s hand in ink and pencil. A few marginal notes in Arabic and French written in pen and pencil throughout. A tiny hole throughout, at the upper inner corner of the framing rules. Pages very slightly yellowed due to aging. Occasional spotting. Volume 1: Two small holes at the gutter of sign. ١٥٧ [157]2 (pp. ٦٢٧–٦٢٨ [627–628]). A tiny damage to the upper edge of the last nine leaves. Rear inner marbled endpaper creased. Spine rubbed, the upper compartment is missing. Volume 2: A larger light stain to the margin of sign. ٤ [4]1 (pp. ١٣–١٤ [13–14]), moderately touches the text area with no effect on legibility. Small wormholes to the lower margin of the first ten leaves, no effect on the text. Spine rubbed, artistically restored at the joint to front panel. Inside both volumes are clean and firm, overall in very good condition. Housed in a custom-made, modern, half-cloth folder.

The vulgate text in Arabic of Alf layla wa-layla, or the Arabian Nights, one of the greatest Arabic, Middle Eastern, and Islamic contributions to world literature (Salhi, 2017).

The present, 1251/1835 Bulaq edition is the most significant and influential of the four earliest, nineteenth-century Arabic editions of the text, and considered today as the standard or vulgate of the Arabian Nights in Arabic (Sallis, pp. 30–31.; Mahdi, 1995, p. 88.). Besides being the first to be printed in an Arabic country and by non-European, this edition is the only one which was based upon a single manuscript. It is known as the first, definitive, complete, printed edition in Arabic, whose publication put an end to the development of the corpus of the Arabic text (Grotzfed in Marzolph, 2007, p. 51.) and served as the basis for most of the 19th and 20th century edition and principal translations (Salhi, 2017).

Apart from the Bulaq edition, three important Arabic editions of the Nights were published in the 19th century. The earliest among them, the so-called Calcutta I was printed in India in 1229–33/1814–18, which was a partial edition of two-hundred stories, published as textbook for teaching Arabic to the officers of the East India Company, basically to serve the British colonial policy (Rastegar, 2005, p. 278.). About three decades later a complete edition appeared also in Calcutta, named by the scholars as Calcutta II (1255–58/1839–42) which is a compendium from different sources, it is expanded from Calcutta I and the Bulaq edition, furthermore used some parts from the first European complete edition which was party published by then in Breslau (1239–59/1824–43), and whose authenticity and accuracy has been questioned almost immediately and later shown to be false (Rastegar, 2005, p. 277; Mahdi, 1995, p. 96.).

This two-volume edition, which contains one thousand and one nights, was issued by the first Muslim printing press in the Arab world, the Egyptian Government Press, established by Muhammed Ali in Bulaq, then a suburb of Cairo, in 1821 (Kent, 1978, pp. 62–63.). It was one of its early books, and belonged to the small number of fictional works published for the entertainment of the ruling elite and for export. Scholars suggest that the usual run was a thousand copies and give the price of the two volumes as 100 piaster (Mahdi, 1995, p. 240.).

An utmost rarity on the market, just as in institutional holdings.

Provenance: “Bibliothéque de Mr Barbier de Meynard” (stamp and ownership inscriptions in each volumes). Charles Barbier de Meynard (1826–1906) was a French orientalist, member of the Société Asiatique. Translator and author of several books and articles, co-translator of the nine-volume Masʿūdī’s [Al-Masudi] Morūj al-ḏahab (Les prairies d’or; Paris, 1861–77), editor of Dictionnaire Géographique de la Perse. “Donne par A. Dantan” (Given/Presented by A. Dantan) inscription in the first volume, most likely refers to Antoine Dantan, member of the renown French dragoman dynasty.

Bibliography: Mahdi, M. S.: The Thousand and One Nights. Leiden, New York, Köln: E. J. Brill, 1995.; Sallis, E.: Sheherazade Through the Looking Glass. The Metamorphosis of the Thousand and One Nights. London: Routledge, 2010.; Grotzfeld, H.: Creativity, Random Selection, and pia fraus: Observations on Compilation and Transmission of the Arabian Nights. in: Marzolph, U.: The Arabian Nights in Transnational Perspective. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2007. pp. 51–63.; Salhi, M. (2017, October 26). A Thousand and One Nights: Arabian Story-telling in World Literature. Available at: https://blogs.loc.gov/international-collections/2017/10/a-thousand-and-one-nights-arabian-story-telling-in-world-literature/#comment-4995 [Accessed: 2017, December 19),; Rastegar, K.: The Changing Value of "Alf Laylah wa Laylah" for Nineteenth-Century Arabic, Persian, and English Readerships. Journal of Arabic Literature, Vol. 36, No. 3, The Thousand and One Nights (2005), pp. 269–287.; Kent, A., et al.: Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science. Volume 24. New York, Basel: Marcel Dekker, Inc., 1978.

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Price: €260,000.00

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