The book of The Thousand and One Nights was brought to the attention of Western Europe by the French archaeologist, Antoine Galland (1646-1715), in the early 18th century. Born in Rollot, he studied Greek and Latin in Paris. Galland travelled extensively, and during his prolonged residences abroad, he acquired a thorough knowledge of Arabic, Turkish, and Persian languages and literature. When he finally returned to France, he rendered valuable assistance to the Keeper of the Royal Library and d’Herbelot, an orientalist.


In 1701, he published his translation of Sinbad the Sailor. Its success, and the rage for fairy tales (contes de fees), popularised by writers such as Charles Perrault, led him to translate a 14th century Syrian manuscript of tales from The Thousand and One Nights, which he published in twelve volumes, starting in 1704, under the title Les mille et une nuits. The first volumes of his work were solely based on the manuscript, the latter volumes were not, and mystery surrounds the origin of these tales, which include some of the most famous, such as Aladdin and Ali Baba.


There are no Arabic manuscripts that pre-date Galland which contain these so-called ‘Orphan Tales.’ In addition, Galland makes mention of a Syrian writer and storyteller, Youhenna Diab (Hanna Diyab), who recounted fourteen tales to him from memory, seven of which he included, amongst them are Aladdin and Ali Baba.


Scholars remain divided, but what cannot be denied is the enduring popularity of the stories that came to be collectively known in English as the ‘Arabian Nights.’

Available Titles by Antoine Galland and Hanna Diyab: