London: Charles Knight and Co., 1839-1841. First Thus. Three large octavo volumes (247 x 157 mm) bound circa 1920 in three-quarter red morocco over cloth boards ruled in gilt. Spines with five raised bands, decoratively tooled and lettered in gilt in compartments, marbled end-papers, top edges gilt. With the engraved bookplate of William John Watson on each front paste-down. Collating xxxii, [1, translators advertisement, verso blank], 618, [1, printer’s imprint], [1, blank]; xii, 643, [1, printer’s imprint]; xii, 763, [1, printers device]. Numerous wood- engraved text illustrations throughout. Volume I complete with the translator's Advertisement giving the spelling and pronunciation of various Arabic words. A fine set and the first translation by Edward William Lane. Originally issued from 1838-41 in thirty-two parts and with copious notes, this is the original appearance in book form of what is generally acknowledged to be the first accurate translation into English of the classic story of Scheherazade.
The Arabian Nights’ Entertainments is “a collection of ancient Persian-Indian-Arabian tales, originally in Arabic, arranged in its present form about 1450, probably in Cairo. The collection is also known as A Thousand and One Nights. Although the stories are discrete in plot, they are unified by Scheherazade, the supposed teller; she postpones her execution by telling her husband Schahriah, a story night after night, without revealing the climax until the following session. The first European translation, into French, was Antoine Galland’s twelve-volume (1704-17) free rendering of the oldest known manuscript, that of 1548. In 1840 E.W. Lane published a new scholarly English translation (3 vols); John Payne’s translation appeared in nine volumes, 1882-84; and Sir Richard Burton’s monumental version (10 vols) was issued only to subscribers by the Kamashastra Society of Benares in 1885-86. Among the more recent editions is a four-volume edition by Powys Mathers, completed in 1937” (Benét’s Reader’s Encyclopedia). The most popular stories include Aladdin, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, and Sinbad the Sailor. (Item #3556)