The very first book I ever bought with my own money (insofar as a grade-schooler can be said to have his own money) was A Thousand and One Nights, more commonly known as The Arabian Nights. I bought it at a yard sale in Cinco, West Virginia. I can still remember the spare illustrations, and the leathery texture of the cornflower blue cover.
Several of the tales that would eventually be incorporated into the Nights were originally published in the 10th century as Tales of the Marvellous and News of the Strange, the earliest anthology of Arabic short stories. The Guardian recently featured a review of the first English translation of Tales:
The variety of the tales – a mix of comedy, fantasy and derring-do – is instantly appealing, as is their headlong narrative drive. Unlike the stories of the Arabian Nights (in which Scheherazade’s talking for her life is the thread on which the collection is hung) they have no unifying frame, and profess no didactic purpose. If there is a common element to them it is that they are almost all concerned to a greater or lesser degree with sexual or romantic love. They seem sensual, capriciously violent…
Check out the rest here!
For my frame-story pointers referencing A Thousand and One Nights, go here.