[With this post I continue a series dedicated to photographs in an “Orientalist” mode. In addition to Reading Orientalism (which is also the title of my last book), the creation of an imagined Orient is very much a pictorial voyeuristic voyage. In this series I focus on Western images of the Middle East and North Africa, both those that perpetuate stereotypes and those that chip away at the bias. Readers of the blog are welcome to send in images they have found and want to share.]

I continue with images from a 1933 edition of Richards Cyclopedia, with 24 volumes published in New York by J. A. Richards, Inc and edited by Ernest Hunter Wright and Mary Heritage Wright. This is an unusual encyclopedia, arranged by topics in a more or less arbitrary order but replete with images. One of the articles is called “The Mtchless Story-Teller” (vol 18, pp. 4433-4448) and retells several of the more famous tales from the Arabian Nights. In the story of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves the plot to learn the secret of the cave from Ali Baba unfolds with a slave girl named Morgiana pouring hot oil in the vats where a number of robbers were hiding. But the reader is assured in the caption that it was a “happy thought” to so dispense with the troublemakers. Ah, how Orientalist to assume this part of the world has oil to burn…

to be continued