Detail map of Lebutala, Bowbazar, Kolkata, West Bengal, India,Cairo Governorate, Egypt

A: Lebutala, Bowbazar, Kolkata, West Bengal, India, B: Cairo Governorate, Egypt

al-Matba'ah al kubra Publishes the First Complete Printed Edition in Arabic of the Thousand and One Nights


The first complete printed edition of the Thousand and One Nights in the original Arabic, Kitab Alf layla wa-layla, was produced in Bulaq (Boulaq) Egypt, a district of Cairo, by Matba‘ah al-kubra in 2 volumes in 1251  AH, or 1835. This was also the first edition printed in an Arabic country by a non-European. It served as the basis for most later 19th and 20th century editions and translations.

The opening page was decorated with woodcuts, and the entire text was framed by double rules. The edition was printed by letterpress. It was preceded by the 1814-1818 Arabic edition issued in Calcutta (Kolkata), India by the British East India Company with an English title page. That edition contained only the first 200 "Nights."  

The first description of 1835 edition that I ever saw was item No. 50 in A Selection of Books, Autographs and Manuscripts, Jointly offered for sale by Antiquariat Inlibris and Kotte Autographs in 2012.  They indicated that OCLC listed eight copies in institutions and that no copy had appeared at auction within the past 50 years. In August 2019 I found a copy offered by for 260,000 Euros. It was unclear whether or not this ws the same copy as had been offered in 2012. The images are from the copy offered in 2019.

Timeline Themes