The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night

The Translator’s Foreword.

The peculiar proceedings of the Curators, Bodleian Library, 1 Oxford, of which full particulars shall be given in due time, have dislocated the order of my volumes. The Prospectus had promised that Tome III. should contain detached extracts from the MS. known as the Wortley-Montague, and that No. IV. and part of No. V. should comprise a reproduction of the ten Tales (or eleven, including “The Princess of Daryábár”), which have so long been generally attributed to Professor Galland. Circumstances, however, wholly beyond my control have now compelled me to devote the whole of this volume to the Frenchman’s stories.

It will hardly be doubted that for a complete recueil of The Nights a retranslation of the Gallandian histoires is necessary. The learned Professor Gustav Weil introduced them all, Germanised literally from the French, into the Dritter Band of his well-known version — Tausend und eine Nacht; and not a few readers of Mr. John Payne’s admirable translation (the Villon) complained that they had bought it in order to see Ali Baba, Aladdin, and others translated into classical English and that they much regretted the absence of their old favourites.

But the modus operandi was my prime difficulty. I disliked the idea of an unartistic break or change in the style, ever

“Tâchnat de rendre mien cet air d’antiquité,”

and I aimed at offering to my readers a homogeneous sequel. My first thought for securing uniformity of treatment was to tender the French text into Arabic, and then to retranslate it into English. This process, however, when tried was found wanting; so I made inquiries in all directions for versions of the Gallandian histories which might have been published in Persian, Turkish, or Hindustani. Though assisted by the Prince of London Bibliopoles, Bernard Quaritch, I long failed to find my want: the vernaculars in Persian and Turkish are translated direct from the Arabic texts, and all ignore the French stories. At last a friend, Cameron McDowell, himself well known to the world of letters, sent me from Bombay a quaint lithograph with quainter illustrations which contained all I required. This was a version of Totárám Sháyán (No. III.), which introduced the whole of the Gallandian Tales: better still, these were sufficiently orientalised and divested of their inordinate Gallicism, especially their lonesome dialogue, by being converted into Hindustani, the Urdu Zabán (camp or court language) of Upper India and the Lingua Franca of the whole Peninsula.

During one of my sundry visits to the British Museum, I was introduced by Mr. Alexander G. Ellis to Mr. James F. Blumhardt, of Cambridge, who pointed out to me two other independent versions, one partly rhymed and partly in prose.

Thus far my work was done for me. Mr. Blumhardt, a practical Orientalist and teacher of the modem Prakrit tongues, kindly undertook, at my request, to English the Hindustani, collating at the same time, the rival versions; and thus, at a moment when my health was at its worst, he saved me all trouble and labour except that of impressing the manner with my own sign manual, and of illustrating the text, where required, with notes anthropological and other.

Meanwhile, part of my plan was modified by a visit to Paris in early 1887. At the Bibliothèque Nationale I had the pleasure of meeting M. Hermann Zotenberg, keeper of Eastern manuscripts, an Orientalist of high and varied talents, and especially famous for his admirable Chronique de Tabari. Happily for me, he had lately purchased for the National Library, from a vendor who was utterly ignorant of its history, a MS. copy of The Nights, containing the Arabic originals of Zayn al-Asnam and Alaeddin. The two volumes folio are numbered and docketed Supplément Arabe, Nos. 2522-23;” they measure 31 cent. by 20; Vol. i. contains 411 folios (822 pages) and Vol. ii. 402 (pp. 804); each page numbers fifteen lines, and each folio has its catchword. The paper is French, English and Dutch, with four to five different marks, such as G. Gautier; D. and C. Blaew; Pro Patrâ and others. The highly characteristic writing, which is the same throughout the two folios, is easily recognised as that of Michel (Mikhaíl) Sabbágh, the Syrian, author of the Colombe Messagère, published in Paris A.D. 1805, and accompanied by a translation by the celebrated Silvestre de Sacy (Chrestomathie iii. 365). This scribe also copied, about 1810, for the same Orientalist, the Ikhwán al-Safá.

I need say nothing more concerning this MS., which M. Zotenberg purposes to describe bibliographically in volume xxviii. of Notices et extraits des Manuscrits de la Bibliothèque rationale publiés par l’Academie des inscriptions et belles lettres. And there will be a tirage à part of 200-300 copies entitled Histoire d’ ‘Alá al-Dîn ou La Lampe Merveilleuse, Texte Arabe, publié par H. Zotenberg, Paris, Imprimerie Nationale, 1888; including a most important contribution:—Sur quelques Manuscrits des Mille et une Nuits et la traduction de Galland.1

The learned and genial author has favoured me with proof sheets of his labours: it would be unfair to disclose the discoveries, such as the Manuscript Journals in the Bibliothèque Nationale (Nos. 15277 to 15280), which the illustrious Garland kept regularly till the end of his life, and his conversations with “M. Hanna, Maronite d’Halep,” alias Jean Dipi (Dippy, a corruption of Diab): suffice it to say that they cast a clear and wholly original light upon the provenance of eight of the Gallandian histories. I can, however, promise to all “Aladdinists” a rich harvest of facts which wholly displace those hitherto assumed to be factual. But for the satisfaction of my readers I am compelled to quote the colophon of M. Zotenberg’s great “find” (vol. ii.), as it bears upon a highly important question.

“And the finishing thereof was during the first decade of Jamádi the Second, of the one thousand and one hundred and fifteenth year of the Hegirah (= A.D. 1703) by the transcription of the neediest of His slaves unto Almighty Allah, Ahmad bin Mohammed al-Tarádí, in Baghdad City: he was a Sháfi’í of school, and a Mosuli by birth, and a Baghdadi by residence, and he wrote it for his own use, and upon it he imprinted his signet. So Allah save our lord Mohammed and His Kin and Companions and assain them! Kabíkaj.”2

Now as this date corresponds with A.D. 1703, whereas Galland did begin publishing until 1705-1705 the original MS. of Ahmad al-Tarádí could not have been translated or adapted from the French; and although the transcription by Mikhail Sabbagh, writing in 1805-10, may have introduced modification borrowed from Galland, yet the scrupulous fidelity of his copy, shown by sundry marginal and other notes, lays the suspicion that changes of importance have been introduced by him. Remains now only to find the original codex of Al-Tarádí.

I have noticed in my translation sundry passages which appear to betray the Christian hand; but these are mostly of scanty consequence in no wise affecting the genuineness of the text.

The history of Zayn al Asnam was copied from the Sabbágh MS. and sent to me by M. Houdas, Professeur d’Arabe vulgaire a l’Ecole des langues orientales vivantes; an Arabist, whose name is favourably quoted in the French Colonies of Northern Africa M. Zotenberg kindly lent me his own transcription of Alaeddin before sending it to print; and I can only regret that the dilatory proceedings of the Imprimerie Nationale, an establishment supported by the State, and therefore ignoring the trammels of private industry, have prevented my revising the version now submitted to the public. This volume then begins with the two Gallandian Tales, “Zeyn Alasnam” and “Aladdin,” whose Arabic original was discovered by M. Zotenberg during the last year: although separated in the French version, I have brought them together for the sake of uniformity. The other eight (or nine, including the Princess of Daryabar), entitled History of Khudadad and his Brothers, and the Princess of Daryabar;

History of Khudadad and his Brothers, and the Princess of Daryabar;

History of the Blind Man, Baba Abdullah;

History of Sidi Nu’uman;

History of Khwajah Hasan al-Habbal;

History of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves;

History of Ali Khwajah and the Merchant of Baghdad;

History of Prince Ahmad and the Fairy Peri-banu;

History of the two Sisters who envied their Cadette,

are borrowed mainly from the Indian version of Totárám Sháyán.

And here I must quote the bibliographical notices concerning the sundry versions into Urdu or Hindustani which have been drawn up with great diligence by Mr. Blumhardt.

“The earliest attempt to translate the Arabian Nights was made by Munshi Shams al-Dín Ahmad Shirwáni. A prose version of the first two hundred Nights made by him ‘for the use of the College at Fort St. George’ was lithographed at Madras in the year A.H. 1252 (A.D. 1836) and published in 8vo volumes (pp. 517, 426) under the title ‘Hikayat ool jaleeah’3 (Hikáyát al-jalílah). The translation was made from an Arabic original but it does not appear what edition was made use of. The translator had intended to bring out a version of the entire work, but states in his preface that, being unable to procure the Arabic of the other Nights, he could not proceed with the translation, and had to be content to publish only two hundred Nights. This version does not appear to have become popular, for no other edition seems to have been published. And the author must not be confounded with Shaykh Ahmad Shirwáni, who, in A.D. 1814, printed an Arabic edition of the Arabian Nights Entertainments (Calcutta, Pereira) which also stopped at No. CC.

“The next translation was made by Munshi al-Karím, likewise in prose. From the preface and colophon to this work it appears that ‘Abd al-Karím obtained a copy of Edward Foster’s English version of the Arabian Nights, and after two years’ labour completed a translation of the whole work in A.H. 1258 (A.D. 1842). It was lithographed at the Mustafai Press at Kanpúr (Cawnpore) in the year A.H. 1263 (A.D. 1847) and published in four vols., in two royal 8vos, lithographed; each containing two Jilds (or parts, pp. 276, 274; 214 and 195).

“A second edition appeared from the same press in A.H. 1270 (A.D. 1853) also in two vols. 8vo of two Jilds each (pp. 249, 245; 192, 176). Since then several other editions have been published at Cawnpore, at Lakhnau4 and also at Bombay. This translation is written in an easy fluent style, omitting all coarseness of expression or objectionable passages, in language easily understood, and at the same time in good and elegant Hindustani. It is therefore extremely popular, and selections from the 4th Jild have been taken as text books for the Indian Civil Service examinations. A Romanised Urdu version of the first two Jilds according to Duncan Forbes’ system of transliteration, was made ‘under the superintendence of T. W. H. Tolbort,’ and published under the editorship of F. Pincott in London, by W. H. Allen and Co. in 1882.5 There has been no attempt to divide this translation into Nights: there are headings to the several tales and nothing more. To supply this want, and also to furnish the public with a translation closer to the original, and one more intelligible to Eastern readers, and in accordance with Oriental thought and feeling, a third translation was taken in hand by Totárám Sháyán, at the instance of Nawal Kishore, the well-known bookseller and publisher of Lucknow. The first edition of this translation was lithographed at Lucknow in the year A.H. 1284 (A.D. 1868) and published in a 4to vol. of 1,080 pages under the title of Hazár Dastán.6 Totárám Sháyán has followed ‘Abd al-Karim’s arrangement of the whole work into four Jilds, each of which has a separate pagination (pp. 304; 320, 232, and 224.) The third Jild has 251 Nights: the other three 250 each. The translation is virtually in prose, but it abounds in snatches of poetry, songs and couplets taken from the writings of Persian poets, and here and there a verse-rendering of bits of the story. This translation, though substantially agreeing in the main with that of ‘Abd al-Karim, yet differs widely from it in the treatment. It is full of flowery metaphors and is written in a rich, ornate style full of Persian and Arabic words and idioms, which renders it far less easy to understand than the simple language of ‘Abd al-Karim. Some passages have been considerably enlarged and sometimes contain quite different reading from that of ‘Abd al-Karim with occasional additional matter. In other places descriptions have been much curtailed so that although the thread of the story may be the same in both translations it is hard to believe that the two translators worked from the same version. Unfortunately Totárám Sháyán makes no mention at Ali the source whence he made his translation whether English or Arabic. This translation reached its fourth edition in 1883, and has been published with the addition of several badly executed full-page illustrations evidently taken from English prints.

“Yet another translation of The Nights has been made into Hindustani, and this a versified paraphrase, the work of three authors whose takhallus or noms de plume, were as follows: “Nasím” (Muhammad Asghar Ali Khán), translator of the first Jild, “Sháyán” (Totárám Sháyán), who undertook the second and third Jilds, and “Chaman” (Shádí Lál) by whom the fourth and last Jild was translated. The work is complete in 1,244 pages 4to, and was lithographed at Lucknow; Jilds i.-iii. in A.H. 1278 (A.D. 1862) and Jild iv. in 1285 (A.D. 1869). This translation is also divided into Nights, differing slightly from the prose translation of Totárám Sháyán, as the first Jild has 251 Nights and the others 250 each.”

And now I have only to end this necessarily diffuse Foreword with my sincerest thanks to Mr. Clouston, the Storiologist, who has brought his wide experience of Folk-lore to bear upon the tales included in my Third Supplemental Volume; and to Dr. Steingass, who during my absence from England kindly passed my proofs through the press.

RICHARD F. BURTON.

Sauerbrunn-Rohitsch, Styria.

September 15, ‘87.

When it was the Four Hundred and Ninety-seventh Night,

7

Quoth Dunyázád, “O sister mine, an thou be other than sleepy, tell us one of thy fair tales, so therewith we may cut short the waking hours of this our night;” and Shahrázád replied, “With love and good will! I will relate to you

1 M. Zotenberg empowered me to offer his “Aladdin” to an “Oriental” publishing-house well-known in London, and the result was the “no-public” reply. The mortifying fact is that Oriental studies are now at their nadir in Great Britain, which is beginning to show so small in the Eastern World.

2 P.N. of a Jinni who rules the insect-kingdom and who is invoked by scribes to protect their labours from the worm.

3 Both name and number suggest the “Calc. Edit.” of 1814. See “Translator’s Foreword” vol. i., x)x.-xx. There is another version of the first two hundred Nights, from the “Calc. Edit.” into Urdu by one Haydar Ali 1 vol. roy. 8vo lithog. Calc. 1263 (1846). — R.F.B.

4 “Alf Leilah” in Hindostani 4 vols. in 2, royal 8vo, lithographed, Lakhnau, 1263 (1846). — R. F. B.

5 This is the “Alif” (!) Leila, Tarjuma-i Alif (!) Laila ba-Zuban-i-Urdu (Do Jild, baharfát-i-Yurop), an Urdu translation of the Arabian Nights, printed entirely in the Roman character, etc., etc. — R.F.B.

6 i.e., The Thousand Tales.

7 From the MS, in the Bibliochèque Nationale (Supplement Arab. No. 2523) vol. ii., p. 82, verso to p. 94, verso. The Sisters are called Dínárzád and Shahrázád, a style which I have not adopted.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/b/burton/richard/b97b/v13foreword.html

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