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Aesop: Five Centuries of Illustrated Fables…

Aesop: Five Centuries of Illustrated Fables

by John J. McKendry

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With my Aesop project, begun this past December, drawing to a close, and only a few more titles on my to-be-read list, I think it rather fitting that this collection - illustrated with prints taken from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art - should come towards the end of the process. The forty fables presented here - along with their accompanying woodcuts, etchings, engravings, metal cuts, drawings, and linoleum cuts - are taken from a diverse range of editions, from the William Caxton translation of 1484, to that done by Marianne Moore in 1954. Arranged chronologically, they provide a succinct history of Aesop in English, and trace the evolution of book illustration after the adoption of the printing press.

Aesop: Five Centuries of Illustrated Fables highlights the fact that these short tales have been popular in every age, and have been presented in many guises. It also points to the reality that despite the ubiquity of his fables, there is no such person as "Aesop the author," as "his" stories come to us through the work of others. Finally, as McKendry rightly notes in his introduction, the fables are fixed in neither time nor place, and therefore lend themselves to endless retelling and reinterpretation.

I enjoyed this collection, even when I didn't particularly relish the archaic English of some of the selections, and finished it with a renewed determination to read the poetry of Babrius and Phaedrus - two classical authors whose works constitute some of the earliest extant adaptations of that master (and semi-apocryphal) fabulist known as Aesop. ( )
  AbigailAdams26 | Jul 15, 2013 |
Once there was a LT user who came across a book of Aesop's fables at a garage sale. She thought it looked interesting and bought it, despite its stained appearance. When she read it, she learned about many of the different translations of Aesop's tales, how they were influenced by the culture of the retellers, and about the woodcuts and illustrations used for the fables. The reader was enlightened by the book, and it added to her knowledge, even though she found some of the fables a bit difficult to understand, due to the antiquated English translation.

Moral: Don't judge a book by its cover. Sometimes, your hunches are correct. ( )
1 vote Mialro | Aug 30, 2009 |
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