Publishers of The Arabian Nights, part I

Lippincott 1867

The J.B. Lippincott publishing company was founded in 1836 in Pennsylvania.  In 1849 in acquired the Grigg, Elliot & Co. Grigg, Elliot was a large book distribution company.  With this acquisition, Lippincott became one of the largest publishers in the U.S.  In the 1850’s the company operated under the name of Lippincott, Grambo & Co., before taking on the name J. B. Lippincott & Co. In 1978 Lippincott was sold to Harper & Row and in 1990 it was acquired by Wolters Kluwer.  In 1998 it was then merged with Raven Publisher and later with Williams & Wilkins to form Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.[1]  Today Lippincott Williams & Wilkins only publishes health information for the profession.

Lippincott 1879

According to the Lippincott Williams & Wilkins web site[2], the Lippincott company can trace its history back to a small book stall operating in 1792.  From that modest beginning the present company grew.  It apparently became “one of the largest publishers in the English-speaking world.”

The earliest version of The Arabian Nights published by Lippincott is from 1855 by Lippincott, Grambo & Co.  This is a large book, at 716 pages and illustrated with a large number of engravings.

Lippincott 1881

J.B. Lippincott & Co. produced at least a dozen printings of the Nights, starting in 1858.  These vary in quality, size and illustrations.  The early printings contained the same number of pages and illustrations as the Lippincott, Grambo edition.  In later printings the page count dropped to 516 pages.  Illustrations were drastically reduced to none or just a few tipped in colour ones. The text is the standard anonymous 19th century text which based on the original 18th century printing.  There were hundreds of this version produced by different American and British publishers.  They had the great advantage in that no pesky authors were around to demand a share of the profits.  The last Lippincott printing that I know about was 1883.

Lippincott 1883

Unlike most of the other publishers, Lippincott usually put a date on the title page.

[1]    J.B. Lippincott Company Records 1851-1958, finding aid. Pennsylvania: The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 2007. Accessed 20110718


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2 Responses to Publishers of The Arabian Nights, part I

  1. S. Donohue says:

    I have another J.B. Lippincott Edition. I can send you photos if you’re interested. I can’t find any information on it. There is a page at the front saying “entered by act of congress 1852.” There are 536 pages. The cover is red, and the front art uses the image of the man next to a smoking lamp. Other than the “entere by Act of Congress” page, I can’t find any information on the year of printing, though the title page says “A New Edition”

    • Wollamshram says:

      It sounds interesting. I would like to see some photos of it. The earliest Lippincott that I know of is dated 1855. Usually the dates are on the title page. That said, it was not unusual for reprint publishers of the time to leave off a date. Many 19th century US publishers of the Arabian Nights did not include a date. For the most part they were simply reprinting the 18th century English translation of the French text.

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