Arabian Nights

The history of Arabian Nights is both long and complex, and to try to actually compare the many translations is more than we can manage. Our goal for this page is to introduce a selection of excellent English retellings, primarily for children. To that end, we're compiling a list of both editors/retellers and illustrators, some of whose illustrations have been reused in various places.

The stories have gone by various names, but One Thousand and One Nights is closer to original Arabic title of Alf Layla wa-Layla. Since there are, truly, at least 1,001 tales, retellings are of necessity selections, so it's important to evaluate which tales are included. Interestingly, some of the stories most commonly associated with the Arabian Nights—particularly "Aladdin's Wonderful Lamp" and "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves"—weren't part of the collection in its original Arabic versions. They were added in Frenchman Antoine Galland's first European version (1709-1717) after he heard them from the Syrian Maronite Christian storyteller Hanna Diab during Diab's visit to Paris. Other stories, such as "The Seven Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor", also had an independent existence before being added to the collection.

Modern translations (Source: Wikipedia)

Main article: Translations of One Thousand and One Nights

Sindbad the Sailor and Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves by William Strang, 1896

The first European version (1704–1717) was translated into French by Antoine Galland from an Arabic text of the Syrian recension and other sources. This 12-volume work, Les Mille et une nuits, contes arabes traduits en français ('The Thousand and one nights, Arab stories translated into French'), included stories that were not in the original Arabic manuscript. "Aladdin's Lamp", and "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves" (as well as several other lesser-known tales) appeared first in Galland's translation and cannot be found in any of the original manuscripts. He wrote that he heard them from the Christian Maronite storyteller Hanna Diab during Diab's visit to Paris. Galland's version of the Nights was immensely popular throughout Europe, and later versions were issued by Galland's publisher using Galland's name without his consent.

As scholars were looking for the presumed "complete" and "original" form of the Nights, they naturally turned to the more voluminous texts of the Egyptian recension, which soon came to be viewed as the "standard version". The first translations of this kind, such as that of Edward Lane's One Thousand and One Nights (1840, revised in 1859, illustrations by Joseph Smith), were bowdlerized. Unabridged and unexpurgated translations were made, first by John Payne, under the title The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night (1882, nine volumes), and then in 1885 by Sir Richard Francis Burton, entitled The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night (1001 stories in ten volumes, plus six supplemental volumes)—the latter was, according to some assessments, partially based on the former, leading to charges of plagiarism.

In view of the sexual imagery in the source texts (which Burton emphasized even further, especially by adding extensive footnotes and appendices on Oriental sexual mores) and the strict Victorian laws on obscene material, both of these translations were printed as private editions for subscribers only, rather than published in the usual manner. Burton's original 10 volumes were followed by a further six (seven in the Baghdad Edition and perhaps others) entitled The Supplemental Nights to the Thousand Nights and a Night, which were printed between 1886 and 1888. It has, however, been criticized for its "archaic language and extravagant idiom" and "obsessive focus on sexuality" (and has even been called an "eccentric ego-trip" and a "highly personal reworking of the text").

Later versions of the Nights include that of the French doctor J.C. Mardrus, issued from 1898 to 1904. It was translated into English by Powys Mathers, and issued in 1923. Like Payne's and Burton's texts, it is based on the Egyptian recension and retains the erotic material, indeed expanding on it, but it has been criticized for inaccuracy.

Muhsin Mahdi's 1984 Leiden edition, based on the Galland Manuscript, was rendered into English by Husain Haddawy (1990). This translation has been praised as "very readable" and "strongly recommended for anyone who wishes to taste the authentic flavour of those tales." An additional second volume of Arabian nights translated by Haddawy, composed of popular tales not present in the Leiden edition, was published in 1995. Both volumes were the basis for a single-volume reprint of selected tales of Haddawy's translations.

In 2008 a new English translation was published by Penguin Classics in three volumes. It is translated by Malcolm C. Lyons and Ursula Lyons with introduction and annotations by Robert Irwin. This is the first complete translation of the Macnaghten or Calcutta II edition (Egyptian recension) since Burton's. It contains, in addition to the standard text of 1001 Nights, the so-called "orphan stories" of Aladdin and Ali Baba as well as an alternative ending to The seventh journey of Sindbad from Antoine Galland's original French. As the translator himself notes in his preface to the three volumes, "[N]o attempt has been made to superimpose on the translation changes that would be needed to 'rectify' ... accretions, ... repetitions, non sequiturs and confusions that mark the present text," and the work is a "representation of what is primarily oral literature, appealing to the ear rather than the eye." The Lyons translation includes all the poetry (in plain prose paraphrase) but does not attempt to reproduce in English the internal rhyming of some prose sections of the original Arabic. Moreover, it streamlines somewhat and has cuts. In this sense it is not, as claimed, a complete translation.

In 2021 yet another translation by Yasmine Seale was published by Liveright Publishing Corp (a division of W. W. Norton). This Annotated Arabian Nights is far less complete, but offers a great deal of information written by Paulo Lemos Horta, and an afterword by the aforementioned Robert Irwin. The stories are taken from the original Arabic, from the French, and from the Hanna Diyab tales. It also delves into the history of translations and retellings, offering a snapshot of the influence this book has had on such diverse authors and poets as Charles Dickens, Christina Rosetti, Edgar Allan Poe, O. Henry, and H.P. Lovecraft.

RETELLINGS WE'RE WORKING TO COMPARE:

1899: Arabian Nights Entertainments, by William Heath Robinson, Helen Stratton, A.D. McCormick (illustrated by A.L. Davis & A.E. Norbury)

1898: Arabian Nights Entertainments, by Andrew Lang (first illustrated by H. J. Ford, later by Vera Bock)

1907: Stories from the Arabian Nights, retold by Laurence Housman (originally illustrated by Edmund Dulac; later, in 1955, by Girard Goodenow for the Junior Deluxe Library)

1907: Aladdin and Other Tales from the Arabian Nights (illustrated by William Heath Robinson)

1909: The Arabian Nights: Their Best Known Tales, edited by Kate Douglas Wiggin & Nora A. Smith (illustrated by Maxfield Parrish)

1911: The Arabian Nights, by WHD Rouse (illustrated by Walter Paget)

1914: Arabian Nights, anonymous (illustrated by Milo Winter)

1916: Arabian Nights Entertainments, by Louis Rhead (also illustrated)

1917: The Arabian Nights, Rene Bull (illustrator)

1919: Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp in Rhyme, by Arthur Ransome (illustrated by Thomas Mackenzie)

1923: The Arabian Nights: Tales of Wonder and Magnificence, retold by Padraic Colum (illustrated first by Eric Pape and later by Lynd Ward)

1925: Arabian Nights, by Orton Lowe (illustrated by Adeline H. Bolton)

1941: Tales from the Arabian Nights, adapted by Frances Jenkins Olcott (illustrated by Joseph Smith)

1946: Arabian Nights (Illustrated Junior Library) Earle Goodenow (illustrator) Series 1 | Series 2 | Series 3 | Series 4

1949: Seven Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor, from the 1898-1904 French text by J. C. Mardus, translated in 1923 by Powys Mathers (introduced by C. S. Forster and illustrated by Edward A. Wilson)

1951: Fairy Tales from the Arabian Nights, retold by E. Dixon (illustrated by Joan Kiddell-Monroe)

1957: Arabian Nights, retold by Amabel Williams-Ellis (illustrated by Pauline Baynes)

1957: Tenggren's Golden Tales from the Arabian Nights, retold by Margaret Seifer and Irving Shapiro (illustrated by Gustaf Tenggren)

1962: Lion and the Carpenter and Other Tales from the Arabian Nights, retold by Jean Stafford (illustrated by Sandro Nardini)

1963: Arabian Nights (Companion Library) (illustrated by Mamoru Funai)

1977: Tales from the Thousand and One Nights, by N.J. Dawood (illustrated by William Harvey)

1980s: Arabian Nights, retold by Brian Alderson (illustrated by Michael Foreman)

1982: One Thousand and One Arabian Nights, retold by Geraldine McCaughrean (originally illustrated by Stephen Lavis)

1985: Tales from the Arabian Nights, retold by James Riordan (illustrated by Victor G. Ambrus)

1987: Stories from the Arabian Nights, retold by Naomi Lewis (illustrated by Anton Pieck)

1988: Tales from 1001 Nights, adapted by Peter Oilver (illustrated by Tessa Hamilton)

1995: Arabian Nights: Three Tales, by Deborah Nourse Lattimore (reteller & illustrator)

2013: Tales from the Arabian Nights, by Val Biro (reteller & illustrator)

2021: Annotated Arabian Nights, Paulo Lemos Horta, translated by Yasmine Seale

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Various editions of Arabian Nights
68 Items found Print
Aladdin
by Jean Lee Latham, illustrated by Pablo Ramirez
from Bobbs-Merril Co
for Kindergarten-2nd grade
in Vintage Picture Books (Location: VIN-PIC)
$5.60 (1 in stock)
Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp, in Rhyme
by Arthur Ransome, illustrated by Thomas Mackenzie
from Dover Publications
for 3rd-6th grade
Aladdin and Other Favorite Arabian Nights Stories
Dover Children's Thrift Classics
by Philip Smith, editor
from Dover Publications
Eastern Fairy Tales for 3rd-6th grade
$2.55 $1.60 (2 in stock)
Aladdin and Other Tales from the Arabian Nights
Puffin Classics
by N.J. Dawood, illustrated by William Harvey
from Puffin Books
Fairy Tales for 2nd-6th grade
$6.79
Aladdin and Other Tales from the Arabian Nights
by Anonymous, illustrated by William Heath Robinson
from Everyman's Library
for 6th-9th grade
$15.26 $8.00 (2 in stock)
Alex O'Donnell and the 40 CyberThieves
by Regina Doman
from Chesterton Press
for 7th-10th grade
Annotated Arabian Nights
by Paulo Lemos Horta (editor), translated by Yasmine Seale
from W. W. Norton and Co.
for 10th-Adult
in Medieval Literature (Location: LIT2-MED)
$38.25
Arabian Nights
Illustrated Junior Library Series 4
by Earle Goodenow, illustrator
from Grosset & Dunlap
Eastern Fairy Tales for 4th-8th grade
Arabian Nights
by Sir Richard Burton, trans.
from Bracken Books
for 10th-Adult
in Medieval Literature (Location: LIT2-MED)
Arabian Nights
Illustrated Junior Library Series 2
by Earle Goodenow, illustrator
from Grosset & Dunlap
Eastern Fairy Tales for 4th-8th grade
Arabian Nights
Companion Library
by Anonymous, illustrated by Mamoru Funai
from Grosset & Dunlap
for 3rd-6th grade
Arabian Nights
Scribner Illustrated Classics
by Kate Douglas Wiggin and Nora A. Smith, editors, illustrated by Maxfield Parrish
from Charles Scribner's Sons
Eastern Fairy Tales for 9th-Adult
in Medieval Literature (Location: LIT2-MED)
Arabian Nights
International Collectors Library
by Sir Richard Burton, illustrated by Steele Savage
from International Collectors Library
for 9th-Adult
in Medieval Literature (Location: LIT2-MED)
Arabian Nights
Illustrated Junior Library Series 1
by Earle Goodenow, illustrator
from Grosset & Dunlap
Eastern Fairy Tales for 4th-8th grade
Arabian Nights
Calla Editions
by Rene Bull (Illustrator)
Reprint from Dover Publications
for 4th-9th grade
Arabian Nights
by Orton Lowe
from John C. Winston
for 3rd-6th grade
in Vintage Fiction & Literature (Location: VIN-FIC)
Arabian Nights
Children's Classics
by Rene Bull, illustrator
from Dilithium Press, Ltd.
for 4th-9th grade
Arabian Nights
Scribner Illustrated Classics
by Kate Douglas Wiggin and Nora A. Smith, editors, illustrated by Maxfield Parrish
from Charles Scribner's Sons
Eastern Fairy Tales for 9th-Adult
in Scribner Illustrated Classics (Location: FIC-SCRIB)
$29.99
Arabian Nights
by Richard Burton
from Canterbury Classics
for 10th-Adult
in Medieval Literature (Location: LIT2-MED)
Arabian Nights
by Sir Richard Burton, trans.
from Book League of America
for 10th-Adult
in Medieval Literature (Location: LIT2-MED)
Arabian Nights
by Padraic Colum
from Aladdin Paperbacks
for 4th-8th grade
$9.34
Arabian Nights
Illustrated Junior Library Series 3
by Earle Goodenow, illustrator
from Grosset & Dunlap
Eastern Fairy Tales for 4th-8th grade
Arabian Nights
Books of Wonder
by Brian Alderson, illustrated by Michael Foreman
from HarperCollins
for 4th-8th grade
Arabian Nights
Illustrated Junior Library Series 2
by Earle Goodenow, illustrator
from Grosset & Dunlap
Eastern Fairy Tales for 4th-8th grade
Arabian Nights
by Amabel Williams-Ellis, illustrated by Pauline Baynes
from Blackie & Son LTD.
for 9th-Adult
Arabian Nights
by Kate Douglas Wiggin and Nora A. Smith, editors, illustrated by Maxfield Parrish
from Book-of-the-Month Club
Eastern Fairy Tales for 9th-Adult
Arabian Nights
Windermere Series 4
by Milo Winter, illustrator
from Rand McNally
in Vintage Fiction & Literature (Location: VIN-FIC)
Arabian Nights
by Wafa' Tarnowska
from Barefoot Books
for 3rd-6th grade
$5.20 (1 in stock)
Arabian Nights
by W. H. D. Rouse, illustrated by Walter Paget
from E.P. Dutton & Co.
for 7th-Adult
in Vintage Fiction & Literature (Location: VIN-FIC)
Arabian Nights
by Padraic Colum, illustrated by Lynd Ward
for 4th-8th grade
Arabian Nights
Windermere Readers #13
by Milo Winter, illustrator
1954 Edition from Rand McNally
in Vintage Fiction & Literature (Location: VIN-FIC)
$8.00 (1 in stock)
Arabian Nights
Windermere Series 1
by Milo Winter, illustrator
from Rand McNally
in Vintage Fiction & Literature (Location: VIN-FIC)
Arabian Nights
Windermere Series 2
by Milo Winter, illustrator
from Rand McNally
in Vintage Fiction & Literature (Location: VIN-FIC)
Arabian Nights
Windermere Series 3
by Milo Winter, illustrator
from Rand McNally
in Vintage Fiction & Literature (Location: VIN-FIC)
Arabian Nights - Audiobook
by Jim Weiss
from Well-Trained Mind Press
for 3rd-8th grade
in Greathall Storyteller CDs (Location: CD-WEISS)
Arabian Nights - Coloring Book
Dover Coloring Books
by John Green
from Dover Publications
for 2nd-6th grade
in Literary & Fantasy Coloring Books (Location: COL-LIT)
$3.95
Arabian Nights - Two Volume Set
by Sir Richard Burton (translator), illustrated by Arthur Szyk
from Heritage Press
for 10th-Adult
in Vintage Fiction & Literature (Location: VIN-FIC)
Arabian Nights / Aesop's Fables
by Mamoru Funai, Aesop
from Grosset & Dunlap
for 4th-7th grade
in Companion Library (Location: VIN-FIC)
Arabian Nights Entertainment
by Andrew Lang
from Living Book Press
for 3rd-5th grade
Arabian Nights Entertainments
by Andrew Lang
from Dover Publications
for 3rd-5th grade
$12.71
Arabian Nights Entertainments
by Louis Rhead
from Harper & Brothers
for 9th-Adult
in Vintage Fiction & Literature (Location: VIN-FIC)
Arabian Nights I
Signet Classics
by Richard Burton (Translator), Jack Zipes (Adapter)
from Signet Classics
Eastern Fairy Tales for 9th-Adult
in Medieval Literature (Location: LIT2-MED)
$8.46
Arabian Nights II
Signet Classics
by Anonymous, Sir Richard Burton (Translator), Jack Zipes (Adapter)
from Signet Classics
Eastern Fairy Tales for 9th-Adult
in Medieval Literature (Location: LIT2-MED)
$7.61
Arabian Nights: Three Tales
by Deborah Nourse Lattimore
from HarperCollins
for Preschool-2nd grade
ECL: Arabian Nights (abridged)
Educator Classic Library #8
by Andrew Lang (selections and edits), illustrated by William Dempster
from Classic Press
in Educator Classic Library (Location: VIN-ECL)
Fairy Tales from the Arabian Nights
Dent & Dutton Illustrated Series
by E. Dixon, illustrated by Joan Kiddell-Monroe
from E.P. Dutton & Co.
for 9th-Adult
in Vintage Fiction & Literature (Location: VIN-FIC)
First Book of Tales of Ancient Araby
First Books
by Charles Mozley
from Franklin Watts
for 1st-4th grade
in Vintage Picture Books (Location: VIN-PIC)
Lion and the Carpenter
by Jean Stafford
from Macmillan
for 1st-3rd grade
in Vintage Picture Books (Location: VIN-PIC)
Medieval History - Senior Guide
by Rebecca Manor & Rea Berg
from Beautiful Feet Books
for 9th-12th grade
in Beautiful Feet Books (Location: HISCUR-BFB)
$27.95
One Thousand and One Arabian Nights
by Geraldine McCaughrean
from Oxford University
for 11th-Adult
$12.71
Selected Tales from the Arabian Nights
from Peter Lunn
for 5th-8th grade
in Vintage Fiction & Literature (Location: VIN-FIC)
Seven Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor
by J. C. Mardrus (French rendering from the Arabic), translated by E. Powys Mathers and illustrated by Edward A. Wilson
from Heritage Press
for 3rd-6th grade
in Vintage Fiction & Literature (Location: VIN-FIC)
Seven Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor
by John Yeoman (reteller), illustrated by Quentin Blake
from Margaret K. McElderry Books
for 3rd-6th grade
$6.40 (1 in stock)
Shadow Spinner
by Susan Fletcher
from Aladdin Paperbacks
for 5th-8th grade
$6.79
Sinbad the Sailor
by Edmund Dulac, Illustrator
from Crescent Books
for Kindergarten-6th grade
in Picture Books (Location: PICTURE)
Sindbad
by Ludmila Zeman
from Tundra Books (NY)
in Picture Books (Location: PICTURE)
Sindbad in the Land of the Giants
by Ludmila Zeman
from Tundra Books (NY)
in Picture Books (Location: PICTURE)
Sindbad's Secret
by Ludmila Zeman
from Tundra Books (NY)
in Picture Books (Location: PICTURE)
Stories from the Arabian Nights
Junior Deluxe Editions
by Retold by A.E. Housman, illustrated by Girard Goodenow
from Grosset & Dunlap
for 4th-9th grade
Stories from the Arabian Nights
by Laurence Housman, illustrated by Edmund Dulac
from George H. Doran Company
for 9th-Adult
Stories from the Arabian Nights
by Naomi Lewis (reteller), illustrated by Anton Pieck
from Methuen
for 4th-9th grade
Stories from the Arabian Nights
Junior Deluxe Editions
by A.E. Housman (reteller), illustrated by Edmund Dulac
from Grosset & Dunlap
for 4th-9th grade
Tales from 1001 Nights
by Peter Oliver (adapter), illustrated by Tessa Hamilton
from Brimax Books
for 3rd-6th grade
Tales from Arabian Nights
by Scheherazade
from Whitman Publishing Company
for 4th-8th grade
Tales from the Arabian Nights
Reader's Digest World's Best Reading
by Andrew Lang, with Edmund Dulac illustrations
from Reader's Digest
for 4th-9th grade
in 19th Century Literature (Location: LIT6-19)
Tales from the Arabian Nights
by Val Biro (reteller and illustrator)
from Award Publications, Limited
for 3rd-5th grade
in Fantasy Fiction (Location: FIC-FAN)
Tales from the Arabian Nights
by James Riordan, illustrated by Victor Ambrus
from Children's Press
for 4th-8th grade
Tenggren's Golden Tales from the Arabian Nights
by Gustaf Tenggren
from Golden Books
for 1st-6th grade