Heritage Press: The Arabian Nights Entertainments – The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night (1962)
June 26, 2011 § 2 Comments
The Arabian Nights Entertainments – The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night (1962)
Sandglass Number 30R
Artwork: Illustrations by Valenti Angelo
Introduced, Annotated and Translated by Sir Richard F. Burton
Heritage Press Reprint of LEC #59/5th Series, V. 12 in 1934.
Click images for larger views.
Front Binding – The Arabian Nights Entertainments, aka The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night, were exquisitely rendered as a LEC in 1934, featuring 1001 separate illustrations from Valenti Angelo. This was his very first LEC project, and what a way to start! His simplistic yet graceful drawings give this book a wonderfully memorable cover. For more on Angelo, visit my post on Salome.
As for Sir Richard Burton, his translations of Arabic classics saw a fair amount of print from the George Macy Company. The Kasidah of Haji Abdu El-Yazdi followed this in 1937, with Angelo returning to decorate it. The Arabian Nights Entertainments was redone in 1954 with the marvelous Arthur Szyk giving it his artistic touch. Presumably the two Arabian Nights are one and the same in terms of content, but I’m not quite sure. The Heritage Press re-released Angelo’s spin on The Arabian Nights in 1962, smashing six volumes into three. Szyk’s was also re-released, condensed from four volumes to two. Szyk’s is not all of the Arabian Nights Entertainments. Django6924 was kind enough to pass along this information:
It is in 2 volumes rather than 4 as the LEC, and the ornamentation on the binding is in silver, rather than gold.
This set is really all about Szyk, as it only contains 65 of the stories–the ones told by Scheherazade–without all the other tales that were attached to the framework (including most of the famous ones: Sindbad, Ali Baba, etc.).
I have not seen the LEC edition of this work, but I suspect the illustrations will have slightly more saturated colors than my Heritage edition. Incidentally, since Szyk died before publication, the LEC edition is not signed. Those are the principle differences.
According to my Sandglass, Macy had originally wanted Szyk to do the illustrations for the Arabian Nights, but Szyk was too busy with other work–especially propaganda for the war, and felt he couldn’t do it, so Angelo illustrated the complete tales. When Szyk had a heart attack in 1945 and told Macy he wanted to do the Arabian Nights, Macy decided to commission him to do the most popular tales, and include Taylor’s notes in addition to some of Burton’s. It was a race against time and Szyk died before the book was published. It was a hugely expensive undertaking because of the elaborate printing required for the illustrations and the Heritage reprint was essential to recoup the costs.
The Heritage reprint here reproduces the Angelo LEC page by page through lithography. Unfortunately, the Sandglass omits any further production details! I can ramble about the board design or the reasoning for the thin paper, but I’ll refrain and let the Sandglass do that for me.
Title Page – Burton’s “plain and literal” translation was a big deal for a long time, perhaps to this day. His annotations are as vital as the tales themselves, according to the Sandglass. Burton’s introduction is also included.
Page 2657 – Angelo’s art works quite well for the Arabian Nights, if I may say so. Both of the in-book illustrations are from the final volume.
Personal Notes – Originally this post came from a library checkout, but thanks to the 50 book haul I made, I snagged up this lovely set for $3 complete. Alas, they are not perfect. They have been opened often and the endpapers are splitting away from the book. Also, the spines feel like they have been sunned and seem flimsy. They have a cushy feeling when you touch them, which suggests that these books may not last for too long without some delicate care. Still, they’re lovely editions, and I’m happy to have them.
Updated 5/29/2012 – JF