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Arabian Tale [Vathek] - BECKFORD William - 1786. 
1786 - [BECKFORD, William]. An Arabian Tale, from an Unpublished Manuscript: with Notes Critical and Explanatory [Vathek]. London: J. Johnson, 1786. Octavo, contemporary full tan speckled calf rebacked in calf-gilt, red morocco spine label. $4000.First edition of Beckford's one-of-a-kind Gothic/Orientalist fantasy Vathek, with a check signed by Beckford tipped to the front free endpaper.Beckford, known in his day as the wealthiest commoner in England with a penchant for collecting art and building extravagant follies such as Fonthill Abbey and Lansdown Tower, originally composed this tale in French in 1782. His friend, the Reverend Samuel Henley, translated the manuscript into English and contributed the more than 100 pages of scholarly endnotes. Though Beckford desired his French original to be published before the English version, Henley's translation appeared first. This was followed, strangely enough, by two very different French editions in 1787, one at Lausanne and the other at Paris, one or both of these possibly retranslated from this published English edition, as Henley may have had the original French manuscript in his possession, leaving Beckford without a copy for himself. This English edition was published anonymously, and the Preface suggests that it was translated from an Arabic manuscript. "Vathek is undoubtedly the finest European imitation of the Arabian Nights. No one else has been able to create the bizarre detail, the curious blend of the ludicrous and the horrible, the tongue-in-cheek wryness of Vathek. It is still very much worth reading" (Sullivan, Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural, 26-7). "A work of great beauty, ingenuity, and imaginative perception, Beckford's Vathek is a milestone of Romantic art and a tower to be climbed by all who wish to discover the outer limits of fantasy" (Survey of Modern Fantasy Literature IV, 2023-28). Issued simultaneously with a large-paper issue, this copy is on ordinary paper. Bound without half title and without final blank, as often. Rothschild 352, 354. Morocco bookplate. Beckford's check, dated 1826, instructs the recipient to pay the bearer 150 pounds.Faint foxing to preliminary leaves, including title page; text generally quite clean. Extremely good in contemporary calf. [Attributes: First Edition; Signed Copy; Hard Cover]
[Bookseller: Bauman Rare Books]
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