Tales in oral circulation among Arab storytellers from the 10th century, probably having their roots in India. They are also known as The Thousand and One Nights and include ‘Ali Baba’, ‘Aladdin’, ‘Sinbad the Sailor’, and ‘The Old Man of the Sea’.
They were supposed to have been told to the sultan by his bride Scheherazade to avoid the fate of her predecessors, who were all executed following the wedding night to prevent their infidelity. She began a new tale each evening, which she would only agree to finish on the following night. Eventually the “sentence” was rescinded.
The earliest complete Arabic version dates from 1814–18, over 100 years later than the first European translation in 12 volumes 1704–08, by French writer Antoine Galland (1646–1715), which made the work famous. Some of the most famous episodes, such as Aladdin and Ali Baba, have no earlier source than Galland, who may have actually written the tales.
The earliest version in English dates from 1708; translations were also made by E W Lane 1838–40 and Richard Burton, who published a complete version 1885–88.