Edward William Lane’s Arabian Nights Entertainments


This weekend’s book purchase looks like an expensive volume but was actually pretty reasonably-priced for a book that’s 126 years old. This is no. III of a three-volume set of the Thousand and One Nights translated by Edward William Lane, published by Chatto & Windus in 1883. I bought it mainly for the copious wood engraving illustrations by William Harvey although the book itself is a beautiful, if battered, work of art: gold edging on the boards, marbled endpapers (something we did at Savoy for Lucy Swan’s novel) and marbling on the paper edges (Lucy’s book had gold edging). Like many fine old books the heavy boards and thick paper stock means it’s very heavy and it’s these quality materials which have helped it survive this long.

I wasn’t going to put this through the flatbed scanner so a few photo snaps follow.




Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The illustrators archive
The etching and engraving archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Adventures of Little Lou

10 thoughts on “Edward William Lane’s Arabian Nights Entertainments”

  1. Congratulations on your beautiful acquisition. I would love to get my hands on a nice illustrated set of Arabian Nights (antique/rare status not required), but I haven’t found anything that looks right. I’m a completist, so no selections or abridgments for me — but of course finding the “real” or “complete” edition is no simple matter.

  2. Bluewyvern: the translations by Sir Richard Burton used to be the ones to get but there have been many others since, of course. Burton’s collection is ten volumes to Lane’s three and Burton’s pioneering interest in sex and the Arab world mean that he didn’t censor anything unlike Lane and others. There’s a PDF version available.

    Nathalie: this was a lone volume, unfortunately. The illustrations are so profuse–and quite odd in places–I wouldn’t mind having a full set.

  3. Burton was never a man to mince words and he gives us his appraisal of the Lane edition in the introduction to his own translation. This goes some way to telling you why Burton’s version of the stories has been held in such high regard; he looked at the competition and found it wanting.

    That amiable and devoted Arabist, the late Edward William Lane does not score a success in his “New Translation of the Tales of a Thousand and One Nights” (London: Charles Knight and Co., MDCCCXXXIX.) of which there have been four English editions, besides American, two edited by E. S. Poole. He chose the abbreviating Bulak Edition; and, of its two hundred tales, he has omitted about half and by far the more characteristic half: the work was intended for “the drawing-room table;” and, consequently, the workman was compelled to avoid the “objectionable” and aught “approaching to licentiousness.” He converts the Arabian Nights into the Arabian Chapters, arbitrarily changing the division and, worse still, he converts some chapters into notes. He renders poetry by prose and apologises for not omitting it altogether: he neglects assonance and he is at once too Oriental and not Oriental enough. He had small store of Arabic at the time–Lane of the Nights is not Lane of the Dictionary–and his pages are disfigured by many childish mistakes. Worst of all, the three handsome volumes are rendered unreadable as Sale’s Koran by their anglicised Latin, their sesquipedalian un-English words, and the stiff and stilted style of half a century ago when our prose was, perhaps, the worst in Europe. Their cargo of Moslem learning was most valuable to the student, but utterly out of place for readers of “The Nights;” re-published, as these notes have been separately (London, Chatto, 1883), they are an ethnological text-book.

  4. Hi there,
    I’ve come across Volume I of EW Lane’s Arabian Nights (1850) in a Charity Shop. I am still considering whether to buy it or not (it’s not cheap and the first few pages are torn). Is it worth acquiring? Grateful for advice.

  5. I have 1 through 4 volumes of The Arabian Nighs Entertainments. Published by Hearsts Copyright 1914. Not illistrated. In very good shape.These books are called ‘the new national edition’. If anyone knows anything about them or if they are worth anything, please let me know

  6. I recently acquired a complete Lane Translation of the Arabian Nights – 1927..is there a market for these?

  7. Once again I have to shut down a comments thread because people are only interested in asking the value of books they’ve found. This is not a bookselling site.

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