Selections from the Alf Laylah for the High Proficiency Examination in Arabic for Officers in the Military & Civil Services.


Book ID: 16441


8vo. 396 pp., of Arabic text printed in naskh, title pages in Arabic and English, modern boards, original yellow printed wrappers preserved, a manuscript index of the tales verso Arabic title, previous owner’s initials pencilled on Arabic title, English annotations in pencil throughout, damp stain on inner margin of pages 236-255 not affecting text, otherwise copy in good condition, printed by Mawlawi Kabir Ud Din Ahmad at the Urdoo Guide Press, Calcutta, 1881.


The Arabian Nights, or the One Thousand and One Nights (Alf Layla wa Layla in Arabic) has multiple origins in several cultures, and a long history of collection, publication, translation and scholarship. Its deepest roots lie in the oral tradition of storytelling in Asia. Frame tales and moral stories from India, Persian stories of magic and the world of unseen creatures, and other tales of unknown origins came together and were translated into Arabic language from about the eighth century. The stories were added to and embellished over the centuries both in print and orally. The first eighteenth century French translation of The Arabian Nights began a tradition of the work’s publication in Europe and also globally.
The first edition of the “One Thousand and One Nights” appeared in two volumes in Calcutta between 1814 and 1818, while the second edition appeared also in Calcutta, in four volumes between 1839 and 1842.
This work is a selection of tales from the “One Thousand and One Nights”, prepared from the second Calcutta edition (1839-1842), by Major Henry Sullivan (1839-1919), an army officer and orientalist, for the use of military candidates in Government language examinations. Jarrett seems to have recognised the appeal of popular Arabic tales to British language students; he also prepared an edition of Hariri’s “Maqamat” (Calcutta, 1882). The tales selected vary considerably in length, with the shortest only few pages, and the longest almost thirty pages.
The manuscript index keys the text to Burton’s English translation of the tales (London, 1885-1888); the English notes are in another hand, and largely supply translations or transliterations of Arabic, and suggest an engaged, diligent contemporary reader.
Copac lists only one copy at SOAS Library, London and outside the UK in Cleveland Public Library, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, and USC only.

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