One of the first countries to challenge Thousand and One Nights was in England in 1857. England established the Obscene Publications Act which purpose was to suppress sexualy, explicit material and is allowed to persecute anyone who is guilty of lewd and immoral practices. Burton took precautions in publishing his translation in order to avoid persecution. He did not expurgate his work but he did modify the way it was published. To circumvent the censors, Burton’s translation was officially published for the restricted audience of the Kama Shastra Society in 1885.
Later on, the Obscene Publications Act was repealed in 1995. Even though Burton made quite a profit from his Arabian Nights translation, the English Literary Community was outraged. They believed that Burton’s translation, “he defamiliarised the Arab text that had been virtually adopted by English culture as its own. His translation violently disrupted the English cultural presentation of the Arabian Nights — to such an extent that it was branded “pornographic.”(Colligan 33). Meaning, that famous tales from the Arabian Nights which are to children are tainted with sexual scenes. Since Burton’s translation was “as the Arab would have written in English”, Burton was able to translate tales of lust, sedomy, lesbianism, and sex-mutiliations all of them being red flags to the community. They labeled Burton’s work as pornographic.
However, despite some protests in Britain, Burton’s translation met with no substantial difficulties. After Burton’s death, his wife, Isabel, burned all of his notes and manuscripts of Thousand and One Nights. She even told William Coote to burn any remaining “indecencies” after her death. After Burton’s death, his translation of the book remained unavailable to the public in the United States. The U.
S. Customs Services banned Burton’s unexpurgated translation and other literary books due to them being obscene and lewd. It wasn’t until 1930, when the Tariff Act removed the ban on acknowledged literary classics. In 1873, the Comstock Law was established under the name of Anthony Comstock to suppress any explicit material. Comstock goal was to outlaw the mailing, printing or distribution of any material that was considered obscene, lewd or lustful within the United States.
The Comstock Law banned many literary classics including the Thousand and One Nights. Today, though, many of the books are still on the Comstock Law but is not as enforced like the past. Even though Burton’s translation was able to get through in the United States, Payne and Mardrus’s version of the book did not. In 1894 New York Society for the Suppression of Vice made an effort to censor Payne’s translation of the Thousand and One Nights for supposed indecency.
And in 1927, the New York Society prevented the importation of at least 500 sets of the English translation of the Thousand and One Nights version by Mardrus for the same reason. This prohibition was maintained even after the ban on Burton’s translation was removed.