London: H.S. Nichols, 1897. Large Octavo. Item #027413
The translation by Sir. R.F. Burton, with seventy-one original illustrations which are from the original oils painted by Albert Letchford. Housed in the original casket with the Arabic title gilt-stamped [Alf Laylah wa Laylah, English transliteration which translates: Thousand Nights and a Night], measuring 23" x 12" known as the casket case with the key and among the most elusive of the collectible sets. There were only 500 sets issued in a leather casket case with the original key, (Penzer, An Annotated Bibliography of Sir Richard Francis Burton, p. 120-121.) Originally published in 1881, it has become the pre-eminent English translation of the Middle Eastern classic. It is the keystone of Burton's literary reputation. It is, of course, the unbridled eroticism that horrified Victorian readers. Virtually, every chapter is a case of seduction such as the case of King Shahrye where the young prince has always been free to relieve the young women of their maidenhood but here he forces himself on one that was forbidden, the accompanying image by Letchford shows the servant girls who were supposed to protect her fleeing when they saw their young master "go in unto the damsel". The original first edition deleted 215 pages which were restored in this special Library Edition making it the most complete edition ever published. In Volume I, the translator shows his scholarly attention to detail but notes that the Near Eastern attention to sexual detail is different to the English audience. In the case of the latter, the newly married couple as presented in the 19th century adjourns to their marriage bed in quiet. The Near Eastern mind details the procedures though the translation does not use the terms which even in the 21st century are often considered coarse in polite society. From the beginning, the king laments that even he has been cuckolded as the passion of the women reigns supreme. While the stories are the most complete ever presented on the customs of the Near East, it is largely about relationships in dining, joking, and devotion through the reality of sex is never far away. A superb set with limited foxing not extending to the illustrations where each tissue guard describes the scene in the painting. This set will not be shipped outside the United States. Bound in 3/4 brown pebble-grained morocco over olive green cloth, raised bands with compartments lettered and decorated in gilt, marbled endpapers, top edges gilt, spines have evenly changed to a reddish-brown, upper joint of volume one strengthened. (Penzler, p. 144.}.