AESOP. Fabellae Graece et Latine

Venice, heirs of Giovanni Varisco, 1593


16mo, pp. 449 (vii). Roman letter, woodcut printer’s device and small image of a unicorn holding a shield to t-p, many charming 1/3-page woodcuts illustrating Aesop’s fables. Intermittent very slight age yellowing, small ink stain to lower fore-edge of a few initial gatherings, small light oil splash to outer blank margin of last two gatherings, minor browning to two leaves, t-p woodcuts, title and two initials with early colouring. A very good copy, crisp and clean in contemporary limp vellum, early ms. title to spine, faded mss. to lower cover, a.e.r. Traces of sealing wax and bookplate of the Italian editor Mario Spagnol (1930-1999) and his wife and writer Elena (1930-2020) to front pastedown.

Charming Venetian edition of Aesop’s fables in Latin and Greek, beautifully illustrated with many lovely woodcuts in a rustic style. The volume also comprises: the famous life of Aesop by Planude, the 34 fables of Gabria, a series of short treatises on the fable as a genre and on Aesop by Aphtonius, Philostratus, Hermogenes and Macrobius, an apology for Aesop by Gellius, Pseudo Homer’s Batrachomyomachia (a parody of the Iliad), ‘de Ero et Leandro’ by Musaeus, Agapetus’ ‘Scheda ad Iustinianum’, the Hippocratic oath and ‘Galeomyomachia’, a mock-heroic poem by the 12th century Greek monk Theodorus Prodromus.


This edition reproduces the structure and contents of Froben’s edition of 1518 and Farri’s edition of 1542, with the addition of a few texts that first appeared in Aldus’ edition of 1505. However, all these were not illustrated – the addition the woodcuts to this particular compilation seems to be an innovative idea of Varisco’s printing shop. This set of images, unsigned, appears identical in another collection of Aesop’s fables printed the year before by Niccolò Polo.


Aesop is the traditional composer of the oldest and most important collection of Greek Fables. 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. From the Renaissance onwards, collections of Aesop’s fables and other texts – as the present one – were used as school textbooks.

USTC 807917; EDIT16 CNCE409. Not Adams, Brunet, Graesse, Dibdin, BM STC It., Harvard it.
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