The Book of Sindbad (in Persian Sendbad-name), also known in the West as The Seven Sages (of Rome), is an ancient "Oriental" collection of tales that through its numerous translations into a variety of Near Eastern and Western languages since the Middle Ages has become part of world literature. Essentially, the book consists of a frame tale involving alleged illicit sexual advances and subsequent calumniation, such as told in an exemplary manner in the biblical tale of Joseph and Potiphar's wife. Embedded in this frame are shorter tales that are narrated either by the king's viziers in defense of the prince who is [End Page 376] being wrongly accused of having attempted to rape the king's favorite, or by the young woman who fears that her own unlawful conduct might lead to severe consequences. Against this backdrop, the collection's various versions primarily contain differing numbers of tales belonging to the "wiles of women" genre as well as tales about faithlessness and deceit. Many of these tales have become part of an international narrative tradition up to the point of being included in major reference works for the discipline of folkloristics (see Bea Lundt, "Sieben weise Meister" in Enzyklopädie des Märchens, vol. 12., 2007: cols. 654-60).
Considering various arguments suggesting ancient Indian, Greek, and Iranian antecedents of the collection or specific parts thereof, for a long time researchers have discussed the book's ultimate origin. Meanwhile, it is commonly agreed that the earliest unambiguously datable textual version preserved is the Persian one compiled by Mohammad 'Ali Zahiri Samarqandi around the middle of the twelfth century, thus this version deserves particular attention. Although it has been translated into Rus sian (1960) and French (1975), the Sendbad-name's only available En glish version today remains the one published in William Alexander Clouston's often quoted Book of Sindibad; or, The Story of the King, His Son, the Damsel, and the Seven Vazirs (Glasgow 1884). That version in turn relies on the rather vague and fanciful translation of a Persian versified version dating to the fourteenth century that was prepared by Forbes Falconer in 1841. Adequate translations can be prepared only from a reliable source text, thus the importance of Mohammad Baqer Kamaloddini's new edition of Samarqandi's book, which the present review aims to present to En glish-reading audiences. At the same time, the review points to how this book supplements the available bibliographical documentation on the Sendbad-name's Persian (and Arabic) versions, currently supplied by the analytical bibliography on The Seven Sages of Rome and The Book of Sendbad prepared by Hans R. Runte and others (1984) and its updates on the Internet (see http://myweb.dal.ca/hrunte/ABSupp.html and http://myweb.dal.ca/hrunte/ABSupp2.html, accessed 29 August 2011).
Besides a detailed introduction, Kamaloddini's new edition comprises the full text of Samarqandi's version (with comparative notes on the text) and a number of appendixes: explanatory notes, mainly referring to the book's Arabic sentences and Persian verses, words that might not be comprehensible to the modern reader, and an extensive bibliography that lists mostly Persian-language publications and translations but also takes into account a number of important En glish-language publications, such as B. E. Perry's essay "The Origin of the Book of Sindbad" (1959).
The editor's introduction is a learned and highly conscious survey of virtually all of the relevant previous statements concerning the origin and history of the Sendbad-name, ranging from tenth-century Arabic historical literature to the studies of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Western and Iranian scholars [End Page 377] such as Hermann Ethé, Theodor Nöldeke, Jan Rypka, Mojtaba Minovi, and Mohammad Ja'far Mahjub. Rightfully dismissing the Sendbad-name's at times proposed Indian origin in favor of its credibly documented Iranian provenance, the author proceeds to discuss the book's various Persian-language versions. Unfortunately, most of those versions have not been preserved, yet there is sufficient...