A Plain and Literal Translation of the Arabian Nights Entertainments, now entituled The Book of The Thousand Nights and a Night
Author: Richard Francis Burton (1821-1890)
Publisher: The Burton Club for subscribers only
Place: London and Boston
17 volumes with frontispieces, illustrations and indexes. Royal octavo (9 3/4"" x 6 1/2") bound in original publisher's light green cloth with labels to spine. and gilt head end pages with deckled edges. Bassorah edition, number 129 limited to 1000 copies.
Burton's translation was one of two unabridged and unexpurgated English translations done in the 1880s; the first was by John Payne, under the title The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night (1882–1884, nine volumes). Burton's ten volume version was published almost immediately afterward with a slightly different title. This, along with the fact that Burton closely advised Payne and partially based his books on Payne's, led later to charges of plagiarism. Owing to the sexual imagery in the source texts (which Burton made a special study of, adding extensive footnotes and appendices on "Oriental" sexual mores) and to the strict Victorian laws on obscene material, both translations were printed as private editions for subscribers only, rather than being published in the usual manner. Burton's original ten volumes were followed by a further seven entitled The Supplemental Nights to the Thousand Nights and a Night (1886–1888).
The electros from the "Burton Society" edition were acquired by the "Burton Club" — “the nom de plume of a certain Boston publisher”, according to N.C. Penzer. This very successful series of editions probably began in 1903 (none of the volumes bear dates) and continued for many decades. There are 114 illustrations by various (at least 13) English and French artists. Many of these are uncredited and many are from other (some pre-Burton) editions of the Nights, some even having nothing to do with the Nights or even the Middle East. (All of Letchford's works from the Nichols/Smithers edition are there, except the portrait of Burton.). Penzer's bibliography lists nine different Burton Club editions; after about 1905 each was named after a city (Benares, Mecca, Medinah, Aden, Baghdad, Samara, Bassorah, Shammar, and Luristan), a new one appearing about every two years. Penzer called these the "Catch Word" editions and there are known to be at least 6 others (Teheran, Baroda, Bombay, etc). These editions were made semi-surreptitiously up through the 1920s and many may have been printed in the US, but bound in the UK. There exists no definitive list of all "Burton Club" editions or their sequence. According to Penzer, the "Illustrated Benares" edition was the first.
Some soiling to the binding, corners and edges bumped and rubbed, Volume one with broken upper hinge, some with cracked inner hinges, some rubbing, labels sunned and faded with some chips else a good set. Due to the size and number of volumes this may require additional postage.