This is a beautifully produced new Folio Society Limited Edition (#335 of 750 copies) exquisitely illustrated by Salvador Dali.
The One Thousand and One Nights – the collection of Middle Eastern and South Asian folk tales compiled in Arabic during the Islamic Golden Age of the 8th to the 13th century – has enthralled European audiences ever since the first translations appeared in the early 18th century. With their jinn and sorcerers, ghouls and monsters, their evocative, semi-legendary locations and pervasive erotic charge, the Nights have fired the imagination of artists in all media – from the writings of Poe, Flaubert and others to the operas by Weber and Rimsky-Korsakov and, later, countless adaptations in film and television.
The rich visual potential of the Nights has inspired a broader range of illustrators than almost any other text. Edmund Dulac, William Heath Robinson and Arthur Rackham all produced fine work for children’s editions of the Nights, while more sophisticated and painterly approaches were offered by artists as diverse as Kay Nielsen, Marc Chagall and Kees van Dongen. Yet the richest and most nuanced response of all came from one of art’s most distinctive and controversial visionaries, Salvador Dalí.
Dalí appears to have engineered The One Thousand and One Nights commission himself. Giuseppe and Mara Albaretto, a wealthy Italian couple who became enthusiasts and collectors of Dalí’s work, arranged for him to illustrate a series of books for Turin-based publisher Rizzoli. The first of these was the Bible in 1963, but Dalí, who did not share Giuseppe’s deeply committed Catholicism, insisted that the book he wanted to illustrate was The One Thousand and One Nights.
Everything about Dalí seemed peculiarly suited to the Nights – his fascination with the Arab world (improbably, he claimed Moorish descent), his indomitable and tortured obsession with the erotic, even his improvised approach to composition, which mirrored that of the tales’ narrator, Shahrazad. Yet above all it is his imaginative power, his ability not merely to transport his readers to an exotic other world, but to take them on an exhilarating sensory and psychological journey, that makes him one of the great interpreters of this collection of stories. Executed in a blaze of vivid colours, his illustrations abound with figures – humans, animals, curious monsters – which shift between the familiar and the disorientating, and include deliberate anachronism and motifs recognisable from Dalí’s other works. At once rooted in the tales and departing from them, Dalí’s watercolours have an almost hallucinatory effect.
- Plates Volume
- 112 pages with 50 full-page colour plates
- Printed on Modigliani paper
- Plates protected with translucent overlays
- Typeset in Abril
- Quarter-bound in calfskin with sides covered in Tsarina Crush
- Blocked in gold
- Gilded top edge
- 18” x 13½”
- Text Volume
- 512 pages typeset in Fournier on Abbey Wove paper
- Bound in cloth inset with title label
- Ribbon marker
- 9¼” x 6”
- Solander Presentation Box
- Bound in cloth and blocked with a design by Ged Palmer in gold and cream foil
***All descriptions and images come from directly from the Folio Society website***