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BECKFORD, William.

[Vathek.] An Arabian Tale, from an unpublished manuscript:

with Notes Critical and Explanatory.

London: for J. Johnson, 1786 Stock Code: 128808
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Byron's favourite oriental fantasy

First edition. Beckford's Gothic oriental novel Vathek, was written in French between January and May 1782. This English translation by the literary scholar Samuel Henley was published first in June 1786, despite Beckford's express wish that the French edition should precede it. The latter was published in Lausanne in December 1786 (postdated 1787), with signs of hasty reconstruction from an earlier draft. Though angered by the piracy, Beckford appreciated Henley's expertise as an orientalist and retained his notes in later editions.

Vathek remains a classic of British Gothic fiction, alongside Walpole's The Castle of Otranto, Ann Radcliffe's Mysteries of Udolpho, and M. G. Lewis's The Monk. It was the favourite book of Byron, who described himself as "a strenuous and public admirer" of the book. It was an evident influence on his "Turkish Tales", The Giaour, The Bride of Abydos, The Corsair, Lara, The Siege of Corinth, and Parisina, poems that consolidated Byron's fame after the publication of the first two cantos of Childe Harold in March 1812. His dramatic poem, Manfred, is thoroughly influenced by it and that indebtedness extends into his unfinished masterpiece, Don Juan.

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Octavo (197 x 117 mm). Early 19th-century red straight-grain morocco, smooth spine divided into compartments by single gilt rules either side of a dotted rule, lettered in gilt and placed and dated at foot, sides with a thicker gilt rule all round and circlets at corners, single gilt rule to board edges, gilt roll to turn-ins, Gloster pattern marbled endpapers, gilt edges.


Discreet book label of Sir Robert and Diana Abdy. Extremities a little rubbed, an excellent copy, the binding unsigned but noticeably quality work.


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