Telling 1001 tales

The Thousand and one Nights (Alf laylah wa-laylah , الف ليلة وليلة)
Egypt?, undated (eighteenth century?)

The opening of the first volume of The Arabian Nights contains a ‘framing story’ for the tales which follow. The Persian King Shah Zaman is preparing his journey to visit his brother Shahriyar. Before leaving the city he returns to his palace to fetch a forgotten item, where he finds his wife on the carpet betraying him with a black slave. He kills them both instantly and continues his journey filled with grief.

This page is from a complete manuscript version of the Nights in four volumes, written in ‘Middle Arabic’. It was bequeathed to Library by John Lewis Burckhardt (1784–1817), who acquired it on his travels in Egypt. It has been grouped with other complete versions of the Nights as ‘Zotenberg’s Egyptian Recension’, providing the sources for the first Arabic printed edition. The text has been written on European paper with the Tre Lune water mark.

The origins of The Arabian Nights are unknown, but this celebrated collection of stories became well-known in the West through the eighteenth-century French translation of Antione Galland (1646–1715).

MS Qq. 106

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