BACON, Francis

Fables of the Ancients, in Philosophy, Morality, and Civil Policy; Illustrated and Explained. A New Edition, With Notes Critical and Explanatory, by Dr. Shaw.

London, Thomas Tegg and J. Dick, 1813.


8vo., pp. (ix) 10-44. Roman letter, undecorated. Twelve spirited woodcut plates illustrating the text. A little yellowing and the odd mark. A good clean copy in its original paper boards, publisher’s advertisement on rear cover, very old cloth re-back.



Tou agiou patrow hmon Epifaniou. Ad physiologum. Eiusdem in die festo Palmarum Sermo.

Antwerp, Christopher Plantin, 1588.


Two parts in one. 8vo. pp. (xvi) 124 (xii). Roman, Italic and Greek letter. Nearly full-page engraved portrait of St. Epiphanius by Joannes Adolus Leucosiensis after an icon at the monastery of Sula, and 25 further 2/3 page engravings, probably by Pieter van der Borcht, featuring animals in rural and domestic landscapes. Light age yellowing, a very good and clean copy in late 19th-century speckled calf, rubbed at joints and corners. Bookplate of John Landwehr on upper pastedown, a.e.r.

Second edition, edited by Consalus Ponce de Leon (following the Rome edition of the year before), an attractive and popular emblem book from the Plantin press. Mainly consisting of 25 chapters of the ‘Physiologus’, a study on animals and their behaviour, each chapter with an illustration, the work was tremendously popular in the Middle Ages, and was translated from Greek into Latin and many vernacular languages. “With the Physiologus starts the series of medieval bestiaries” (Voet). The Physiologus was not, however, a work of Natural History. Rather, it was a deeply moralising work, aiming to present Christian doctrine in its allegorical moral tales of animals.

“Physiologus was never intended to be a treatise on natural history. Nor did the word ever mean simply “the naturalist” as we understand the term, but one who interpreted metaphysically, morally, and, finally, mystically the transcendent significance of the natural world.” (Curley, Physiologus, 1979, p. xv). This made the Physiologus an ideal text for emblem books, which were very popular in the 16th and 17th-centuries (first appearing in the 1530s), especially in the Low Countries, combining as they did an apparently mysterious image with an aphorism and a section of explanatory text (usually in rhyme), which carried a moralistic message and were all three unintelligible without looking at the other two.

The text is most likely to have been composed in the second century and later falsely attributed to Epiphanius. It is followed by an eleven page Homily on the feast of Palm Sunday in parallel Greek and Latin. Epiphanus was born c. 315 in Judea and was Archbishop of Constantia (Cyprus) from 367 until his death at sea in 403. Ponce de Leon was a Spanish theologian living in Rome, whose careful editing of the text saw him consult three manuscripts to ensure textual accuracy. The attractive and interesting half-page illustrations were based on the woodcuts used for the Rome edition and are attributed to Borcht on the basis of style. They are here in very fine, clear, impression.

Landwehr, Low Countries, 230, this copy; Voet 1126; Praz, p. 328; Adams E-248; not in BM STC Dutch.


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Dialogus Creaturarum Moralizatus.

Strasbourg, Jan van Doesborch, c. 1528.


4to, ff. 153 (of 164) (lacks *1, A2-3, B1-3, F and TT4). Gothic letter, more than 100 charming and clearly-impressed 1/3, 1/2 and 2/3 page woodcut illustrations, elaborate 8-line white-on-black woodcut initials, a few contemporary pencil drawings, copying motifs from the illustrations. 11 leaves reinforced at margin, marginal tear to first few leaves affecting last line on three, a few ink spots, marginal finger-soiling to a few leaves, light age yellowing throughout, a few leaves dusty. A good copy in 18th C half-calf with comb-patterned marbled paper boards, spine gilt in compartments with floral motif, red morocco lettering-piece. 19th C armorial bookplate of the Earl of Macclesfield on front pastedown, Shirburn Castle blind stamp to first two leaves.

Early English language edition of this copiously illustrated quintessential book of fables, first printed in Gouda in 1480. Composed in Northern Italy in the late 14th C, the text is a collection of 123 illustrated fables divided into seven themes. Beginning with celestial bodies: Of Saturn and the clowde; the Evyn sterre; hevyn and erthe, it moves on the elements: ayre and the wynde; the se bankys and the see, gemstones and metals: Golde and Sylver; the precyows Topazyon, plants: the Mandrake and the defyios woman; the hyghe Cedre tre, aqueous creatures: the Dolphyn and the Ele; a fysshe or beaste callyd Sturgyon, birds: the owle that wolde hatte had lordeshippe ovyr all byrdes; the Solytari Pellican, and animals: the Tyrant Gryfon; the steere which was a good Cooke. In common with Aesop and Bidpai, each fable relates the interactions of the protagonists pointing to a concluding moral or lesson, charmingly rendered in verse for easy memorizing.

The longevity and popularity of the Dialogus can be attributed primarily to Dutch printer Gerard Leeu, on whose editions both the text and the exceptional woodcuts of this edition are substantially based. While the name of the artist has fallen into obscurity, the iconographic influence of his illustrative cycle of the first edition is clearly apparent in these humorous cuts, which contain many of the same images, with a contemporary and naturalistic twist.

A very attractive recreational reading book and a very rare example of popular illustrated English language text of such an early date. Rare on the market, the work is fascinating artistically and textually.

STC 6815 recording only 5 copies in the UK, two imperfect, and only 5 in north America, one imperfect. Gregory Kratzmann and Elizabeth Gee (editors), The Dialoges of Creatures Moralysed: a critical edition (Leiden, 1988); Carmen Cardelle de Hartmann, Lateinische Dialoge 1200-1400 (Leiden, 2007).


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[TABOUROT, Étienne]

Les Bigarrures, et Touches du Seigneur des Accords…; Le Quatriesme des Bigarrures du Seigneur des Accords; Les Touches du Seigneur des Accords; Les Contes Faceciuex du Sieur Gaulard; Les Escraignes Dijonnaises.

Rouen, David Geuffroy, 1616-1621


12mo, 5 parts in one. ff. [xii] 181 [i]; [iv] 50; [i] 64; 56 [i]; 59. Roman letter, a few lines of Greek. Printer’s woodcut device on titles, portrait of the author aged 35 (repeated), and of Sieur Gaulard by Nicolas Hoey (fl. 1590-1611), 16 emblematic medallions in the text, musical notation and astrological symbols, and curious smaller illustrations (including two skulls singing), ornate headpieces and initials. Small tear to outer margin of title to pt. II, and upper corner of final leaf (repaired), without loss.In near-contemporary French mottled sheep, flat spine gilt in five compartments with central fleurons, speckled edges, recased. Unobtrusive repairs to corners and head of spine, joints a little cracked.

An early edition of this compilation of the complete works of the ‘Rabelais of Bourgogne’, which “eut un grand success, qu’il dut surtout à l’originalité de son auteur, incarnation vigeureuse de la gaieté franche et de la naïveté maliciuese du vieil esprit gaulois”. Tabourot (known as Le Seigneur des Accords), a talented lawyer, friend of Montaigne and Pasquier, and ‘juge châtelain de la baronnie de Verdun en Bourgogne’, spent ten years before his appointment broadening his mind at the University in Paris and in traveling. He published a number of works, among them a revised edition of his uncle Jehan Le Fèvre’s works. He started work early on the present collection of works, a playful smorgasbord of popular folk-tales and fables, satirical pieces, rhymes, basic numerology and codemaking, sorcerers and impostors, the invetion of many anagrams and above all amusing nothings, which at the same time are frequently instructive, but also include “des obscenités grossières et immondes”. However, unlike most surviving works of the period, it provides us with a rare view of the literature of the people and the tastes of ordinary readers, especially of Dijon and Burgogne.
The first edition of this collection of Tabourot’s works was J. Richer’s in Paris in 1603 (on which the present edition is based). However, some of the works had been published separately in the 16th century, most notably the Touches (first published 1585-88 – “les exemplaires complets des editions originales de cet ouvrage sont si rare qu’on chercherait vainement”), which suffered at the hands of 16th-century editors, and are conventionally much reduced in collected editions. Nevertheless, what remains is an amusing and unusual testimony to the playful side of the post-Renaissance, afforded a signal charm by the naïf woodcuts illustrating the text.

Brunet V, 629; Tchemerzine V, 835; Graesse VII, 6; BM French (Goldsmith), p. 133; one copy in France, at Besançon.


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Vita & Fabulae…cum interpretatione Latina (and other works).

Venice, Apud Aldum, October, 1505.


FIRST EDITIONS (in parts) Folio. 150 ll. A8 a8 B10 b8 C8 c8 D10 d8 e-h8 i6 k-_8, o4. Greek and Roman letter, mostly on alternating ll. partly double column, printer’s dolphin and anchor device on t.p. and larger on verso of last. T.p. very slightly dusty, a very handsome, clean, large, thick paper copy in English late C18 straight grained red morocco, a.e.g. C18 armorial bookplate of Wilmot, 3rd Viscount Listburne on front pastedown, C20 of William Davignon on ffep.

One of the rarest and most sought after editions of the early Aldine press and in practice the earliest obtainable of the author’s original text. The volume comprises the Aesopian Fables in Latin and Greek, together with a life of the author, similarly the 34 fables of Gabrias, Phurnutus on the ‘nature of the Gods’, Palaephatus on disbelieving histories, Heraclides on the allegories of Homer, the hieroglyphs of Horapollo, a collection of proverbs drawn from Tarraeus and Didymus, Aphthonius and Philostratus’ de fabula in Latin and Greek, those of Hermogenes translated by Priscian, and finally an Apologia for Aesop ‘de Cassita apud Gellium’. Almost all of these, apart from the Aesop, are in their first edition or editio princeps, Praz p. 373 particularly notices the Horapollo.

Aesop is the traditional composer of the oldest and most important collection of Greek Fables, which are probably the earliest examples of popular and maybe children’s literature still extant. Herodotus, writing in the fifth century BC already knew of Aesop as an author from the past. Aesop’s life has been overlaid by many romantic fictions but it is fairly certain that he was a Thracian, a house slave and likely a family tutor on the island of Samos at the beginning of the 6th century BC. His Fables are one of the most enduring works of European literature, of which the earliest written compilation probably dates from three centuries later and is now lost. The earliest surviving version is Roman, made by Babrius, tutor to the children of Alexander Severus in the 3rd century AD, though stories from other, especially oriental sources, were probably added. The collection we now recognise was compiled and edited by Maximus Planudes and from which the popular fables of modern Europe have been derived. Whatever their exact origin they have constituted a delightful source of amusement and instruction for children of all ages since they were popularised by the printed editions of the C16, of which none is more important than this printed and edited by Aldus.

BM STC It p 8. Renouard 49: 6,7. “Dans cette rare et belle édition, la version latine des Fables est iutercalée dans le grec”. Brunet I 84 “Belle édit. très-recherchée, et dont les exempl. bien conservés ne se trouvent pas facilement”. Dibden I p247 “This edition may be considered among the rarer and more beautiful productions of the Aldine Press”.


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