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The Hundred and One Nights: A Recently Discovered Old Manuscript

Pages 299 - 316



In the year 2005, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture has acquired a manuscript of the Hundred and One Nights, a work that constitutes a sibling to the Book of the Stories of the Thousand and One Nights, better known in English as the Arabian Nights. The manuscript is bound together with a copy of the Book of Geography (Kitāb al-Jughrāfiya) compiled by Muḥammad b. Abū Bakr az-Zuhrī, an author who lived in the Spanish city of Granada, then under Muslim domination, at the beginning of the twelfth century. The calligrapher's colophon dates the completion of his copy of the Book of Geography to Rabīʿ II 632 (commenced December 24, 1234). Both books are written in a fairly similar Maghrebi hand, and the paper of both books appears to be the same. Considering the fact that the oldest unambiguously dated manuscript of the Hundred and One Nights known so far dates from 1190/1776, and that the oldest preserved manuscript of the Thousand and One Nights dates from the fifteenth century, the recently discovery manuscript deserves particular attention. While a comprehensive evaluation of the manuscript's importance will only be possible after detailed scrutiny, the present short essay serves to present the manuscript to international research.



1 Editorial remark: The article has two parts that are written in English and French. U. Marzolph is author of part one (“The Historical Context of the Hundred and One Nights”); A. Chraïbi is author of part two (“Comparaison des récits-cadres des trois textes”).

2 For recent scholarly assessments of the Thousand and One Nights see H. and S. Grotzfeld: Die Erzählungen aus ‚Tausendundeiner Nacht’. Darmstadt 1984; W. Walther: Tausendundeine Nacht. Eine Einführung. München/Zürich 1987; R. Irwin: The Arabian Nights: A Companion. London 1994; U. Marzolph/R. van Leeuwen: The Arabian Nights Encyclopedia 1–2. Santa Barbara 1994; A. Chraïbi: Les Mille et une nuits. Histoire du texte et Classification des contes. Paris 2008. I would like to thank Aboubakr Chraïbi for his diligent reading of a draft version of the present essay as well as for a number of valuable suggestions.

3 See, most recently, S. Makdisi/F. Nussbaum (eds.): The Arabian Nights in Historical Context: Between East and West. Oxford 2008; D. Jullien: Les Amoureux de Schéhérazade. Variations modernes sur les Mille et Une Nuits. Geneva 2009.

4 H. Sugita: “The Arabian Nights in Modern Japan: A Brief Historical Sketch.” In: Y. Yamanaka/T. Nishio (eds.): The Arabian Nights and Orientalism: Perspectives from East and West. London 2005, pp. 116–153; T. Geider: “Alfu Lela Ulela: The Thousand and One Nights in Swahili-speaking East Africa.” In: U. Marzolph (ed.): The Arabian Nights in Transnational Perspective. Detroit 2007, pp. 183–200.

5 V. Chauvin: Bibliographie des ouvrages arabes ou relatifs aux arabes. Vols. 4–7, 8. Liège 1901–1903, 1904, at vol. 4, pp. 121–122, nos. 307–311; M. Gaudefroy-Demombynes: “Notes sur les ‘Mille et une Nuits’ (1).” In: Revue des Traditions Populaires 22 (1907), pp. 193–198, at pp. 195–197; E. Cosquin: “Le Prologue cadre des Mille et une nuits, les légendes perses et le livre d'Esther.” In: Revue Biblique 6 (1909), pp. 7–49 (also in id.: Études folkloriques. Paris 1922, pp. 265–347); G. Ferrand: “Note sur le livre des 101 Nuits.” In: JA 10th series, 17 (1911), pp. 309–318.

6 Chraïbi 2008, pp. 90–92 and pass.; A. Chraïbi: “Des hommes dans le harem.” In: F. Bauden/A. Chraïbi/A. Ghersetti (eds.): Le Répertoire narratif arabe médiéval. Transmission et ouverture. Geneva 2008, pp. 37–46. See also C. Bremond: “En deçá et au-delá d'un Conte: le devenir des thèmes.” In: J. Bencheikh/C. Bremond/A. Miquel: Mille et un contes de la nuit. Paris 1991, pp. 79–258, at pp. 112–123, 153–155.

7 H. Grotzfeld: “Neglected Conclusions of the Arabian Nights: Gleanings in Forgotten and Overlooked Recensions.” In: Journal of Arabic Literature 16 (1985), pp. 73–87.

8 See the detailed classification in Chraïbi 2008.

9 Marzolph/van Leeuwen 1994, vol. 1, pp. 687 f.; Chraïbi 2008, pp. 89–116.

10 D. Pinault: Story-Telling Techniques in the Arabian Nights. Leiden 1992, pp. 152–157, 226–227.

11 Marzolph/van Leeuwen 1994, vol. 2, pp. 597–580, 640–641.

12 H. Grotzfeld: “The Age of the Galland Manuscript of the Nights: Numismatic Evidence for Dating a Manuscript?” In: Journal of Arabic and Islamic Studies 1 (1996–1997), pp. 50–64.

13 Marzolph/van Leeuwen 1994, vol. 2, pp. 635–637.

14 For previously known manuscripts of the Hundred and One Nights see M. Gaudefroy-Demombynes: Les Cent et Une Nuits. Présentées et traduites de l'arabe. Paris 1911 (new edition Paris 1982), pass.; M. Ṭbarshūna (ed.): Mi'at layla wa-layla. Tunis 1984 (revised [in fact, shortened] edition Cologne 2005), pp. 7–13; al-Ḥājj al-Bāhī al-Būnī: Mi'at layla wa-layla … wa-ḥikāyāt ukhrā. ed. Sh. A. Shuraybiṭ. Algiers 2005, pp. 13–27

15 Cf. Chraïbi 2008, p. 58.

16 [Ḥājjī Khalīfa: 1850. Kashf al-zunūn ‘an asāmī 'l-kutub wa-'l-funūn] Lexicon bibliographicum et encyclopaedicum. Ed. G. Flügel. Vol. 5. Leipzig 1850, p. 356, no. 11289.

17 Ṭbarshūna 1984, p. 67.

18 See F. De Blois: Burzōy's Voyage to India and the Origin of the Book of Kalīlah wa Dimnah. London 1990.

19 See above, note 13.

20 D. B. MacDonald: “The Earlier History of the Arabian Nights.” In: JRAS (1924), pp. 353–397, at pp. 355–357.

21 Quoted apud Ṭbarshūna 1984, p. 19.

22 C. Bremond: “Préhistoire de Schéhérazade.” In: J.-L. Joly/A. Kilito (eds.): Les Mille et Une Nuits: Du texte au mythe. Rabat 2005, pp. 19–42.

23 E. Chavannes: Cinq cents Contes et apologues du Tripitaka chinois. Paris 1910, vol. 1, no. 107.

24 K. Horalek: “Frau im Schrein.” In: Enzyklopädie des Märchens. Vol. 5. Berlin/New York 1987, cols. 186–192.

25 Marzolph/van Leeuwen 1994, vol. 2, pp. 483–484.

26 A. Solymossy: “A szép ember meséje” (The Tale of the Beautiful Man). In: Ethnographia 27 (1916), pp. 257–275; L. Dégh: Märchen, Erzähler und Erzählgemeinschaft. Berlin 1961, pp. 298–299, no. 66; A. Kovács: Ungarische Volksmärchen. Düsseldorf 1982, pp. 87–90, 337, no. 18.

27 L. G. Barag: Belorussische Volksmärchen. Berlin 1968, pp. 392–297, no. 62.

28 Grotzfeld 1984, pp. 139–143.

29 I would like to thank Mr. Benoît Junod, Director of the Aga Khan Museum, for making the newly acquired manuscript available to me in a most cordial manner.

30 See the detailed evaluation by the Atelier de Restauration Florence Dabre, prepared at the order of Mr. Benoît Junod, in summer 2010.

31 For the following discussion see Marzolph/van Leeuwen 1994, vol. 1, pp. 160–161; vol. 2, pp. 703–704; Chraïbi 2008, pp. 170–191.

32 W.A. Clouston: The Book of Sindibād. Glasgow, pp. 17–21.

33 See H.-J. Uther: The Types of International Folktales. A Classification and Bibliography. Based on the System of Antti Aarne and Stith Thompson. Vols. 1–3. Helsinki 2004, nos. 2036, 1515, 178 A, and 750 A.

34 See Marzolph/van Leeuwen 1994.

35 Chauvin 1904.

36 See U. Marzolph: Arabia ridens. Die humoristische Kurzprosa der frühen adab-Literatur im internationalen Traditionsgeflecht. Vol. 1–2. Frankfurt 1992, vol. 2, pp. 117–118, no. 468.


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