Translations of ''One Thousand and One Nights''

The translations of One Thousand and One Nights have been made into virtually every major language of the world.[1] They began with the French translation by Antoine Galland (titled Les mille et une nuits, finished in 1717). Galland's translation was essentially an adapted Arabic manuscript of Syrian origins and oral tales recorded by him in Paris from a Maronite Arab from Aleppo named Youhenna Diab or Hanna Diab.[2]

The first English translation appeared in 1706 and was made from Galland's version; being anonymous, it is known as the Grub Street edition. It exists in two known copies kept in the Bodleian Library and in the Princeton University Library.[3] Since then several English reissues appeared simultaneously in 1708. As early as the end of the 18th century the English translation based on Galland was brought to Halifax, Montreal, Philadelphia, New York and Sydney.[3] Galland-based English translations were superseded by that made by Edward William Lane in 1839–41. In the 1880s an unexpurgated and complete English translation, The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night, was made by Richard Francis Burton.

The original scattered Arabic texts were collected in four corpuses: the so-called Calcutta I or the Shirwanee Edition (1814–18, 2 volumes), Bulaq or the Cairo Edition (1835, 2 volumes), Breslau Edition (1825–38, 8 volumes) and Calcutta II or the W.H. Macnaghten Edition (1839–42, 4 volumes). Some translations starting from Galland were censored due to lewd content.[4]

French translations


Galland based his translation on a three- or four-volume manuscript from the 14th or 15th century.[5] Three volumes of that manuscript were placed in the National Library of France.[5] Galland's translation altered the style, tone and content of the Arabic text. Designed to appeal, it omitted sophisticated or dark elements while enhancing exotic and magical elements and became the basis of most children's versions of One Thousand and One Nights.[6]


In 1926–1932 a lavishly decorated 12-volume edition of J. C. Mardrus' translation, titled Le livre des mille nuits et une nuit, appeared. Soviet and Russian scholar Isaak Filshtinsky, however, considered Mardrus' translation inferior to others due to presence of chunks of text, which Mardrus conceived himself to satisfy the tastes of his time.[7] According to Robert Irwin, "Mardrus took elements which were there in the original Arabic and worked them up, exaggerating and inventing, reshaping the Nights in such a manner that the stories appear at times to have been written by Oscar Wilde or Stéphane Mallarmé".[8] In response to criticism of his translation by academic Arabists, Mardrus promised to produce a tome of learned commentary and justificatory pieces which he, however, failed to do.[9]

English translations

Unlike the Grub Street version, Jonathan Scott made the first literal translation of Galland. Titled The Arabian Nights Entertainments, it appeared in 1811. Then Henry Torrens translated the first fifty nights from Calcutta II, which were published in 1838. Having heard that Edward William Lane began his own translation, Torrens abandoned his work.[10] Lane translated from the Bulaq corpus.[10] He declared that "Galland has excessively perverted the work".[11] According to Lane, Galland's "acquaintance with Arab manners and customs was insufficient to preserve him always from errors of the grossest description".[11] Working with the Bulaq corpus, Lane occasionally cross-checked against Calcutta I and Breslau corpus.[12] His translation, however, became incomplete.[12] In 1923 a translation by Edward Powys Mathers based on the French translation by J. C. Mardrus appeared.

Another translation attempt was made by John Payne (The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night, 1882–84). He, however, printed just 500 copies for private circulation and ceded the work to Richard Francis Burton. Burton's translation (The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night, 1885–88) enjoyed a huge public success, but at the same time was criticized for its reportedly archaic language and excessive erotic details.[13] As of 2004, Burton's translation remains the most complete version of One Thousand and One Nights in English.[13] It is also generally considered as one of the finest unexpurgated translations from Calcutta II.[14] It stood as the only complete translation of the Macnaghten or Calcutta II edition (Egyptian recension) until the Malcolm C. and Ursula Lyons translation in 2008.

German translations

In 1825 a Galland-based translation was made by Maximilian Habicht. Later, however, Duncan Black MacDonald showed that the Tunisian provenance of a manuscript Habicht claimed to use during the translation was a forgery which Habicht committed himself.[15] In 1839–42 One Thousand and One Nights were translated into German by Gustav Weil. In 1895–97 Max Henning published another German translation in 24 small volumes; the first seven volumes were based on the Bulaq edition, while volumes 18–24 were largely translated from Richard Francis Burton. In 1912–13 another translation was made by Felix Paul Greve.

In 1921–28 Enno Littmann produced a six-volume translation of the whole One Thousand and One Nights on the basis of Calcutta II into German, including the poetry. At the same time he translated one lewd portion into Latin, not German. Nonetheless, Isaak Filshtinsky considered Littmann's translation to be "the most complete and accomplished".[7] Robert Irwin called it "the best German translation".[16]

Dutch translations

There have been several Dutch translations made from the French editions of Galland and Mardrus.[17] In 1999 the final volume of "De vertellingen van duizend-en-één nacht" was published; the first an so far only Dutch translation from the Arabic texts by Dr. Richard van Leeuwen. For his translation Van Leeuwen used the Bulaq-edition (Cairo 1835), the Calcutta-edition (1842) and the edition by Mahdi (Leiden 1984).[18]

Italian translation

In 1949 Arabist Francesco Gabrieli, who headed the team of anonymous translators, produced the four-volume Italian translation, based on Bulaq collated with Calcutta II.

Russian translations

Unpublished portion about erection and sexual intercourse from the Russian translation. This text, concerning night 584, was omitted in the 5th volume of One Thousand and One Nights published by Academia in 1933. There are 150 copies of this separate addendum.

The first Russian translation of One Thousand and One Nights was made by Alexey Filatyev in 1763–1774.[7] It was based on Galland's translation and consisted of 12 volumes.[7] Later Russian translations were also based on European translations. For instance, a three-volume translation by Yulia Doppelmayr (1889–1890) was based on Galland, the six-volume translation by Lyudmila Shelgunova (1894) was based on that by Edward William Lane and an anonymous translation (1902–1903) was based on Mardrus.[7]

The first Russian translation directly from the Arabic source (from Calcutta II) was made by Mikhail Salye[7] and published in eight volumes by Academia in 1929–1939. Salye also translated into Russian seven tales not contained in Calcutta II (from the manuscript in the National Library of Russia).[7]

Spanish translations

The stories about Sinbad the Sailor were translated into Spanish already in 1253.[19] Old Spanish translations were made particularly by Pedro Pedraza (from Galland), Vicente Blasco Ibáñez (from Mardrus), Eugenio Sanz del Valle, and Luis Aguirre Prado, Alfredo Domínguez (from Mardrus). More accurate translations were made by the Arabists Juan Vernet and Rafael Cansinos Asséns.

Chinese translations

A selection of stories from One Thousand and One Nights, titled Yi Qian Lin Yi Ye appeared in 1900.[20] In 1906 a four-volume translation was made by Xi Rou, published in Shanghai.

In the 1930 new translations, primarily from Bulaq, appeared under the title Yi Qian Lin Yi Ye.[20] In that period a five-volume translation by Na Xun was made. In the 1950s Na Xun produced another, three-volume translation titled Yi Qian Lin Yi Ye.

In 1982 a six-volume Beijing edition of Na Xun was published. It became the source of the 1980s two-volume translation titled Tian Fang Ye Tan, which appeared in Taipei.[20]

Japanese translations

One Thousand and One Nights appeared in Japanese in as early as 1875 – the two-volume translation, made by Hideki Nagamine (永峰秀樹), was titled Arabiya monogatari : Kaikan kyōki (暴夜物語 : 開巻驚奇) and published by Nihon Hyōronsha (日本評論社) in Tokyo. In the preface Nagamine wrote that he used G. F. Townsend's The Arabian Nights's Entertainments, which was based on Jonathan Scott's English translation of Galland. Nagamine also used Edward William Lane's English translation as a supplement. The second Japanese translation by Inoue Tsutomu, titled Zensekai ichidai kisho (The Most Curious Book in the Whole World), appeared in 1883 and became more popular than Nagamine's.[21]

Subsequently other Japanese translations were made, but the first complete Japanese translation from Arabic was published in 1976–92 by Shinji Maejima and Ikeda Osamu, in nineteen volumes (titled Arabian Naito).

Hebrew translations

In the years 1947-1971 Arabist Yosef-Yoel Rivlin produced a 32-volume Hebrew translation, based mainly on Bulaq. A selection of stories, translated by Hanna Amit-Kohavi, appeared in two volumes, in the years 2008 and 2011, under the title Leylot Arav.


  1. Wen-chin Ouyang, Geert Jan van Gelder, eds. (2014). New Perspectives on Arabian Nights. Routledge. p. ix. ISBN 1317983939.
  2. Zipes 2007, p. 53
  3. 1 2 Nishio & Yamanaka 2006, p. 222
  4. Marzolph 2004, p. 516
  5. 1 2 Irwin 2004, p. 16
  6. Sallis, Eva (2013). Sheherazade Through the Looking Glass: The Metamorphosis of the 'Thousand and One Nights'. Routledge. p. 49. ISBN 1136817522.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Isaak Filshtinsky. О переводах '1001 ночи'. Тысяча и одна ночь. Избранные сказки (in Russian). Retrieved 17 Aug 2014.
  8. Irwin 2004, p. 37
  9. Irwin 2004, p. 39
  10. 1 2 Irwin 2004, p. 23
  11. 1 2 Irwin 2004, p. 24
  12. 1 2 Irwin 2004, p. 25
  13. 1 2 Marzolph 2004, p. 507
  14. Zipes 2007, p. 57
  15. Ulrich Marzolph, ed. (2007). The Arabian Nights in Transnational Perspective. Wayne State University Press. p. 60. ISBN 0814332870.
  16. Irwin 2004, p. 13
  17. Richard van Leeuwen (1999). De wereld van Sjahrazaad. ISBN 9054602155.
  18. Accessed 16 May 2017.
  19. Irwin 2004, p. 94
  20. 1 2 3 Wen-chin Ouyang. "The Arabian Nights in English and Chinese Translations: Differing Patterns of Cultural Encounter" (PDF). SOAS, University of London. Retrieved 20 Aug 2014.
  21. Nishio & Yamanaka 2006, p. 120


  • Zipes, Jack (2007). When Dreams Came True: Classical Fairy Tales and Their Tradition. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 0415980062. 
  • Marzolph, Ulrich (2004). The Arabian Nights Encyclopedia. 1. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 1576072045. 
  • Irwin, Robert (2004). The Arabian Nights: A Companion. Tauris Parke Paperbacks. ISBN 1860649831. 
  • Nishio, Tetsuo; Yamanaka, Yuriko (2006). Arabian Nights and Orientalism: Perspectives from East and West. I.B.Tauris. ISBN 0857710508. 
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