Antoine Galland and ... 1001 Nights

The question of the origin and development of “1001 Nights” has not been fully clarified to date. Attempts to find the ancestral home of this collection in India, made by its first researchers, did not receive sufficient justification. According to M. A. Salier, the first written information about the Arabic collection of fairy tales framed by the story of Shahriyar and Shahrazad called “One Thousand Nights” or “One Thousand and One Nights” is mentioned in the writings of 10th-century Baghdad writers - the historian al-Masoudi and the bibliographer an-Nadim.



These authors wrote about the collection as a long and well-known work. The Arabic text was based on the translation of the Persian collection Hezar Afsane “A Thousand Stories”, “A Thousand Tales”, or “A Thousand Legends” from Persian words “Hezar”.


This translation called the "Thousand Nights" or "Thousand and One Nights," was very popular in the capital of the eastern caliphate, in Baghdad. Various stories were inserted at different times, sometimes whole cycles of stories, such as The Tale of the Hunchback, The Porter and Three Girls, and others. Separate tales of the collection, before being included in the written text, often existed independently.


It can be reasonably assumed that the first editors of the text of fairy tales were professional storytellers who borrowed their material directly from oral sources. Under the dictation of the storytellers, fairy tales were written by booksellers.


“A Thousand and One Nights” is not a collection of Arabian tales only. Many peoples of the East took part in the creation of this grandiose project, although it acquired its final form in the Arabic language and firmly entered the history of Arabic folk literature. The parts included in the collection were created by the peoples of India, Iran, Mesopotamia and Egypt.


But today we are going to tell you about the story surrounding the book itself, and its European destiny.


The first European version (1704–1717) was translated into French bya French orientalist and archaeologist Antoine Galland from an Arabic text of the Syrian recension and other sources. This 12-volume work, “Les Mille et une nuits, contes arabes traduits en français” ("The Thousand and One Nights, Arab stories translated into French"), included stories that were not in the original Arabic manuscript. "Aladdin's Lamp", and "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves" (as well as several other lesser-known tales) appeared first in Galland's translation and cannot be found in any of the original manuscripts.



He wrote that he heard them from a Syrian Christian storyteller from Aleppo, a Maronite scholar whom he called "Hanna Diab." It is also known today that he invented the “flying carpet” element adding it to the original story about Aladdin. The Egyptian sources are talking about the main character using a simple camel.

Galland's version of the Nights was immensely popular throughout Europe, and later versions were issued by Galland's publisher using Galland's name without his consent.



But his translation is far from literal; it is a treatment according to the tastes of the court of Louis XIV. Gallan's work was continued by Jacques Casotte and Shavis (1784-1793) in the same spirit, and taken as the base for other translations in English and German. This is why some tales and story elements remain in worldwide translations till now.

Of modest origin, Antoine Galland was gifted in letters: at fifteen years, he is already "secretary in Latin" and "scholar in oriental languages". As secretary, he accompanied the French ambassador, the Marquis de Nointel, to Constantinople in 1670. This first stay lasted five years, as evidenced by the first years of the Journal (1672-1673). Returning to Paris in 1675, he left for a second four-year trip to the Levant. In 1679, hired by the company of the East Indies, he travelled again to the East, accumulating medals, coins and manuscripts for the library of Colbert and the Cabinet of the King.

At forty-two, he returned to Paris, before leaving for Normandy, where he was responsible for enriching and cataloguing the collections of the Councilor of State N.-J. Foucault. It was during this period that he devoted himself to translating the Arabian tales of the Arabian Nights. Back in Paris, he was appointed in 1709 to the chair of Arabic at the Royal College. Galland multiplies the translations, including that of the Koran, the memoirs.


Muhsin Mahdi's 1984 Leiden edition, based on the Galland Manuscript, was rendered into English by Husain Haddawy (1990). This translation has been praised as "very readable" and "strongly recommended for anyone who wishes to taste the authentic flavour of those tales". An additional second volume of Arabian nights translated by Haddawy, composed of popular tales not present in the Leiden edition, was published in 1995.


In 2008 a new English translation was published by Penguin Classics in three volumes. It is translated by Malcolm C. Lyons and Ursula Lyons with introduction and annotations by Robert Irwin. This is the first complete translation of the Macnaghten or Calcutta II edition (Egyptian recension) since Burton's. It contains, in addition to the standard text of 1001 Nights, the so-called "orphan stories" of Aladdin and Ali Baba as well as an alternative ending to The seventh journey of Sindbad from Antoine Galland's original French.



"A Thousand and One Day"

The success and fame of the publication of Gallan inspired François Petit de la Croix (1653-1713) to publish in the years 1710-1712 a collection of oriental tales "A Thousand and One Day" (“Les Mille et un Jours”). The anthology was received with great interest and translated into some European languages. It was believed that this collection, like "A Thousand and One Nights," represented part of the treasury of fairy tales of the East. However, from the very beginning doubts were expressed regarding the authenticity of the stories and the role of Petit de la Croix himself in their publication.

In the introduction to his publication, Petit de la Croix assured that the original Persian manuscript was given to him by the Isfahan dervish Mokles (Moclès, or Mokhlis Mukhlis) in 1675. The manuscript was called “A Thousand and One Day” (Hezar yek ruz, Hezar yek ruz) and contained translations of Indian tales.

All this was later recognized as a hoax.


The philological analysis showed that Petit de la Croix adapted stories from various sources. The main source was the Turkish version of the manuscript al-Faraj ba‘d al-shidda, representing a collection of pictorial tales, which was originally compiled by the Arab author al-Tanuhi (al-Tanûkhî; d. 995).


On such grounds, it was concluded that “A Thousand and One Day” cannot be regarded as a translation of some original oriental text, but is a compilation of stories created on the material of oriental origin. In fact, it was an attempt to imitate the publication of Gallan, whose success, according to some critics, Petit de la Croix was envious. Following the example of “One Thousand and One Nights,” the “One Thousand and One Days” uses a framing story told by Princess Sutlumemé to Princess Farrukhnaz.

François Petit de la Croix did not get the same success as Galland. Gallard’s version of the tales exerted a significant influence on subsequent European literature and attitudes to the Islamic world.

Besides a number of archaeological works, especially in the department of numismatics, Galland published in 1694 a compilation from the Arabic, Persian, and Turkish, entitled “Paroles remarquables, bons mots et maximes des orientaux”, and in 1699 a translation from an Arabic manuscript, “De l'origine et du progrès du café”. The former of these works appeared in an English translation in 1795. His “Contes et fables indiennes de Bidpai et de Lokrnan” was published posthumously in 1724. Among his numerous manuscripts are a translation of the Qur'an and “Histoire générale des empereurs Turcs”. His journal was published by Charles Schefer in 1881.


Mystery still surrounds the origins of some of the most famous tales. For instance, there are no Arabic manuscripts of Aladdin and Ali Baba, the so-called "orphan tales", which pre-date Galland's translation. This has led some scholars to conclude that Galland invented them himself and the Arabic versions are merely later renderings of his original French.



Galland also adapted his translation to the taste of the time. The immediate success the tales enjoyed was partly due to the vogue for fairy stories, which had been started in France in the 1690s by his friend Charles Perrault. Galland was also eager to conform to the literary canons of the era. He cut many of the erotic passages as well as all of the poetry.

Another fact is undeniable. The most famous and eloquent encomiums of The Thousand and One Nights—by Coleridge, Thomas de Quincey, Stendhal, Tennyson, Edgar Allan Poe, Newman—are from readers of Galland's translation. Two hundred years and ten better translations have passed, but the man in Europe or the Americas who thinks of the Thousand and One Nights thinks, invariably, of this first translation.