Arabian Nights Ephemera, Part 1

Almost anything available has an Arabian Nights theme version.  As a result, I limit my collecting of Arabian Nights to items on paper. One of those items is Reward Cards. Reward cards were issued by the London County Council (LCC) and the London School Board (SBL) from around 1880 to 1920. They were issued mainly as a reward for school attendance and occasionally as a prize for high marks. (At some schools, books were given as prizes. I sometimes come across books from different schools with school prize stickers in them, and on rare occasions, books bound with the school crest embossed on the cover.) Attendance cards were issued for monthly and quarterly attendance. Good conduct and passing exams could also garner the student a reward card. That sure beats the gold stars awarded in my long gone school days.

For my purpose here, the London County Council issued two Arabian Nights theme reward cards: The Forty Thieves and Sindbad the Sailor. They are from the Children’s Stories series. This set contains cards depicting scenes from various fairy tales, such as Cinderella, Hansel & Grettel, Little Red Riding Hood and Peter Pan, to name a few. Twelve cards are identified as being part of this set.

The Forty Thieves

The Forty Thieves









The Forty Thieves card has a illustration of Morgiana, Ali Baba’s slave, killing the remaining thieves, who are hiding in large jars, by pouring boiling oil over them. This rather gruesome scene is a popular one for illustrators. The depiction of this scene is often quite striking because of the ordinariness of it and the calm demeanour of Morgiana as she goes about her business. In this case, Morgiana’s face seems quite serene as she pours the oil over one of the thieves. If you didn’t know the story, there would be nothing in the illustration to indicate that something quite horrific was taking place.

Personally, after the first couple of deaths, where the thieves must have howled in agony, you would think that even the stupidest of thieves would begin to wonder what was going on and check out the situation. Not this bunch. The remaining 36 of them wait quietly for their turn to be smothered in boiling oil. (And lets not begin to question where Morgiana got sufficient boiling oil to french fry 37 fully grown men.)

Sindbad the Sailor

Sindbad the Sailor








The Sindbad illustration is not a scene usually chosen by illustrators. It is rather generic and without the title on the back of the card, it would be difficult to identify it as being from Sindbad. Despite what the back of the indicates, I suspect that this illustration comes from the end of the fourth voyage, because of the treasure that sits on the shore beside Sindbad and the mouth of a cave that is visible on the left. If it is from the fourth voyage, the illustrator has chosen what is probably the most grim of the Sindbad voyages to illustrate. Sindbad, after a series of adventures, ends up imprisoned in a cave with his dead wife. He survives until he escapes by killing others who are, from time to time, placed in the same position that he is in, and steals their supplies to eat. While never hinted at, given the length of time he is captive in the cave one must wonder if Sindbad ever resorted to cannibalism to survive. In this card, a fit and quite well dressed Sindbad is depicted flagging down a ship. A large quantity of treasure lies at his feet.  It is evident that the time sealed in the cave has not been all that distressing for our unlucky merchant.

Neither of the illustrations is signed. Nor could I find any information about who the artist might be (although I didn’t look that hard.) The style of illustration, to my eyes, resembles that of Maurice Detmold.

Information on Reward Cards was obtained from the here. The site includes facsimiles of may SBL and LCC reward cards.

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3 Responses to Arabian Nights Ephemera, Part 1

  1. Kendall Smiley says:


    I’ve been reading the English translation of Galland’s Nights. For my own amusement, I’ve been making my best guesses for when a night ended in these stories, and I’ve been using your series on Galland’s Nights as a reference. Since Galland stopped including the nights after Volume 6 and Night 235, that means he’d have 766 nights to go in his 6 remaining volumes. 766/6=127 nights with 4 nights remaining. So in the last 6 volumes, there’d be 4 volumes with 128 nights and 2 volumes with 127 nights. What I’d like from you, if it’s not too much trouble, is to just tell me which stories are in which volumes. To make things easier for you, I’ll list the remaining contents here (the stories in parenthesies are, of course, stories-within-a-story):

    The History of Ganem, Son to Abou Ayoub, and known by the surname of Love’s Slave

    The History of Prince Zeyn Alasnam, and the King of Genii

    The History of Codedad and his Brothers
    (The History of the Princess of Dreyabar)

    The Story of the Sleeper Awakened

    The Story of Aladdin; or the Wonderful Lamp

    The Adventures of the Caliph Haroun Alraschid
    (The Story of the Blind Man, Baba Abdalla)
    (The Story of Sidi Nonman)
    (The Story of Cogia Hassan Alhabbal)

    The Story of Ali Baba, nad the forty Thieves Destroyed by a Slave

    The Story of Ali Cogia, a Merchant of Bagdad

    The Story of the Enchanted Horse

    The Story of Prince Ahmed and the Fairy Pari Banou

    The Story of the Two Sisters Who Envied Their Younger Sister

    Ic you could tell me which volumes have which contents, I’d deeply appreciate it.

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