One Thousand Nights and a Night


By Richard Burton

cover image of One Thousand Nights and a Night

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The subtitle for Sir Richard Francis Burton's Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night, is "A plain and literal translation of the Arabian Nights' Entertainments," however, given the tendencies of its translator, it is anything but plain. Burton wasn't some crotchety old scholar lucubrating his way through the Arabic in far away England; he had lived all over the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, and spoke 29 languages to boot. The Book of the Thousand Nights contains the larger story of Scheherazade, who supposedly told each tale to her murderous husband over the course of the night so she might keep her head. Burton's translation of the Arabian Nights is in 16 volumes, and at the end of each are his footnotes. Be sure not to skip these, as they're a wealth of anthropological and cultural info written by a most frank and sometimes libidinous author. The collection itself can be traced by back thousands of years and comes from sources such as Arabic, Persian, Indian, Egyptian, and Mesopotamian.

One Thousand Nights and a Night