2020 to 2024

2020

2020 Aesop's Fables.  Texts from V.S. Vernon Jones and others.  Illustrations by Agnes Miller Parker.  Introductory essay by Samuel Fanous.  Hardbound.  Oxford, England: Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.  $50 from Barnes and Noble, Feb., '21.

This beautiful book is a re-presentation of the outstanding  work of Agnes Miller Parker for the Gregynog Press in 1931.  Her 37 wood engravings are here presented beautifully.  Among those that I found particularly arresting on this reading are FK (59); "Androcles and the Lion" (81); "The Young Man and the Harlot" (93); "The Horse and the Stag" (123); and OR (139).  The opening essay by Samuel Fanous on the character, history, and illustration of fables is accurate and wide-reaching.  It is only a shame that he calls the Jesuits "monks" who brought fables to Japan in the sixteenth century.  Fanous also explains well the -- to us -- surprising choice of Caxton's translations for Parker's wood engravings.  This copy offers those rather of V.S. Vernon Jones and, where Jones does not have a fable illustrated by Parker, of others.  The text version chosen for "I am king of the beasts" on 29 with its hunting party of two does not correspond with the image and its party of four.  Several fables appear here in a form that seems different from the traditional texts or else combines two traditional texts, like "The Lion, the Wolf, and the Fox" (156) and "The Wolf and the Hungry Dog" (`168).  There is an AI at the end.

2020 Aesop's Fables for Children.  Valdemar Paulsen (NA).  Pictures by Milo Winter.  Paperbound.  Mineola, NY: Dover Pictorial Archive Series: Dover Publications.  $14.99 from Amazon, Oct., '20.

We have this book in many forms, including some from Dover.  What is new about this edition is the link to an mp3 download of some 43 fables.  Otherwise Dover acknowledges it as a reprint of its 2008 edition, also in our collection.  Though mention of this as "Green Edition" seems to have disappeared, the book still belongs to the "Dover Pictorial Archive Series."  Its Amazon price is up to $14.99.  With the advent of the mp3 link, the attached CD has disappeared.  So this is another fine reprint of the classic "The Aesop for Children" published in 1919 by Rand McNally.  It does a fine job of reproducing the exquisite Milo Winter illustrations.  It reproduces the 112 pages of the original faithfully.  All the illustrations are colored.  As I mention in commenting on the original version, these stories have a steady eye on correct children's behavior.  The stories' actions are carefully motivated, sometimes even over-motivated.  In fact, the stories have a tendency to overkill.  There are good statements from the characters, made to themselves when talk with others would be inappropriate.  There are some double morals.  I picked up this copy for the collection when I found out that all five duplicates in the collection have been lent out to people!

2020 Aesop's Fables for Little Children.  Retold by Susanna Davidson.  Illustrated by John Joven.  Hardbound.  London: Usborne.  $18.97 from Thinktonight through Amazon, July, ‘21.  

Might this be our first book printed in the UAE?  As the beginning T of C shows, there are six stories here: TH; LM; FC; GA; FS; and TMCM.  Stories are told and illustrated expansively here.  TH takes 26 pages!  Joven uses a stylized, colorful approach to the cartoon illustrations.  Morals are given on each title-page.  Davidson takes a fresh approach to each fable and finds pleasant alternatives to traditional phases.  The little mouse gets lost on the way home and climbs a hill to get a better view.  The mouse's frightened squeak wakes the lion up.  Even her mice friends laugh at her promise to save the lion back.  At the end of FC, crow goes off and finds a mouse with a piece of cheese and tells how much he would love to hear the mouse talk….  GA's moral is "Prepare for winter before it comes."  The ant finds the freezing grasshopper and brings him into her home.  He promises to work next summer, and she offers to sing!  FS features balancing pairs of pages showing the frustrated efforts of first guest stork and then guest fox to eat what is offered.  At the end, fox arrives with a gift to invite stork to his house for lunch.  Town Mouse plays with his band, "Town Mouse and the Rat-a-tat-tats."  He arrives in the country to step in a cow splat and then to come face to face with a cow.  Not an interrupted feast but loud music, nighttime traffic noise, and after-effects of blue cheese convince the Country Mouse to head home.  "We're each better in our own homes," he says as he departs.

2020 Aesop's Fables: The Cruelty of the Gods.  Carlo Gébler.  Illustrations by Gavin Weston.  Apparent first printing.  Paperbound.  London: Head of Zeus, Ltd.  $5.96 from Amazon, June, '20.

This is the paperbound version of the hardbound book first printed in 2019.  As I wrote there, here is a serious new entry in the library of translations of Aesop's fables.  The 190 fables offered here are rewritten, based on Chambry's 1927 edition and the Penguin translation by Olivia and Robert Temple in 1998.  Not all who work with fables these days would applaud those decisions.  Some would have thought rather of Perry and Gibbs, respectively.  Let me offer a word about the book's divisions, its overall viewpoint, the individual texts, and the illustrations.  The ten divisions make sense and help the book to take shape as more than an endless round of stories.  Because they characterize the book well, I recount them here: "1. Caprice, Arrogance and the Exercise of Arbitrary Power"; "2. Irreconcilability, Conflict and Vengeance"; "3. Self-Deception, Stupidity and Idiocy"; "4. Ambition, Overweening and Overreach"; "5. Selfishness, Self-Interest and Self-Love"; "6. Gloating and Heartlessness"; "7. Jealousy, Covetousness and Greed"; "8. Cunning, Guile and Insight"; "9. Bitter Words, Rebukes, Barbs and Savageries"; and "10. Last Griefs or a Series of Epilogues."  Those titles indicate well, I think, the tone of the book's approach to the fables.  "Broadly speaking, Aesop has two subjects – the exercise of power and the experience of the powerless who endure life and all that it inflicts on them.  In his fables, the gods and goddesses who exercise power tend to be capricious, willful, thoughtless and unforgiving, while the powerless, the mortals (many of whom are animals) who endure life and all that it inflicts on them tend to be blind, deluded, foolish, and careless.  The discrepancy between the powerful and the powerless is a source of humour but it is also the basis of Aesop's critique.  The human world, as Aesop has it, is a place of rough, justice, deep hurt, epic cruelty and unstinting monstrousness" (7-8).  This view, it seems to me, works for a good number of fables, and its "critique" comes clear here in the way individual stories are shaped.  I see two things in the overall picture a little differently.  I find the gods rather unimportant in Aesop's view.  Greeks since Homer knew that they are capricious and immoral.  I think Aesop's eye is on the ironies of life, not on its divine background or causality.  The book's subtitle here may be distracting.  And I think there is more fun here than Gébler's viewpoint might allow.  Is it not part of the Aesopic experience to be teased into laughing at ourselves?  The individual versions, as I say, are well rewritten, expanded to express strong viewpoints, sharpened contrasts and bitter ironies.  The illustrations have the same bite.  Two good examples might be "The Champion Hen and the Widow" (247) and "The Dolphin and the Monkey" (267).  The detail of the frogs' king in action is a great choice for the front cover!  At the book's end, there are lists of correlations with Chambry and the book's 42 illustrations.

2020 Animalia Humorosum: Aesop's animal fables made more believable with a modern twist.  Ólafia L. Óla (V. Subhash).  Paperbound.  Roseburg, OR: V. Subhash.  $13.31 from Prepbooks through Ebay, April, ‘21.  

There is much that is unusual about this 8½” square booklet of 28 pages followed by two pages of advertisements for other books by Óla.  For starters, the pages are purple with light-colored typeface and cutout colored characters in partial-page illustrations.  The T of C uses superscript to indicate page numbers for the twelve fables.  That same page clarifies that Ólafia L. Óla is a pseudonym for V. Subhash.  In TH, the hare, not the tortoise, challenges to a race upon no provocation.  The author turns this tale into the more usual “Rabbit Races the Hedgehog,” famous among Grimm’s fairytales.  Every one of the species looks the same to the superficial hare.  In LM, after the mouse frees the lion, the hungry lion eats the mouse.  “Steer clear of known dangers.”  DW is told just as in the tradition.  “Better die on your feet than live on your knees.”  In TB, the second traveler takes off his socks; the smell of them revolts the bear, who departs.  What did the bear whisper to him?  “Tell that fellow that trees offer no safety because bears are good climbers.”  The ox makes up a snake friend to worry the dog out of his manger.  A passing hunter saves the shepherd boy attacked by a real wolf.  The mice do manage to get a bell around the cat’s neck by having it ready around their hole when the cat pokes in its head.  Two foxes jump for grapes.  One reacts according to the tradition.  The other says the effort has been stupid.  “We are foxes.  We don’t eat grapes.  Let’s go and catch some rabbits.”  One of two crows suggests the traditional pebble approach.  The other says that will take too much time and too many pebbles and will dirty the water.  He manages to knock over the pitcher and they can drink both from the water spilled and the water still in the overturned pitcher.  The owner of the golden goose eventually stops reading his mail, misses paying taxes, loses his property, and has to give up the goose as compensation for the unpaid taxes.  The wolf escapes the lambskin and never comes back.  The crow removes the doughnut from his mouth and tells the fox to move along.

2020 Baby's First Aesop's Fables.  Ashley Lee.  First edition, first printing.  Paperbound.  Vancouver: A Newborn Black & White Book:  Engage Books.  $9.47 from Bargain Book Stores through Ebay, March, ‘21.  

Here is a booklet of 46 pages offering 21 fables, each with a pair of simple silhouette black-and-white illustrations.  Only the last fable, SW, gets three pages instead of two.  Many of these illustrations are featured in small form on the back cover.  For some reason, the verso of the title-page speaks of 22 fables.  That page more than once also speaks of verses, but these fables are told in prose.  It also seems to speak of them in terms of nursery rhymes.  The book attempts to accommodate fables to the very young, as the back cover explains.  The best design, in my opinion, is the mouse on 33, the front cover, and the title-page.  For some reason, the early T of C skips "The Dog and the Oyster" (24).

2020 Fabelbruk I svensk tidigmodernitet: en genrehistorisk studie.  Erik Zillén.  Hardbound.  Goteborg and Stockholm: Makadam Förlag.  Gift of Erik Zillén., Dec., '20.

"Usage of Fable in Swedish Early Modernity: A Genre History."  Erik was good enough to send me this copy from his Lunds University.  What a mammoth and serious scholarly work!  My first recommendation to a non-Swedish reader is to go straight to the "Summary" section for English, German, or French (585-99).  These foreign-language summaries track the work very nicely as it examines the usage of fable between 1500 and 1800. Zillén describes the movement in general as from a "Lutheran humanist culture, via a mainly French-influenced aesthetical as well as pragmatical reorientation of the usage of fable during the Enlightenment, to a crisis that hit the fable around 1800, caused by the paradigmatic shifts of modernity, wherein a new literary understanding led to the questioning of the very idea of literature usage" (585).  The study pursues the "newly coined concept of the usage arena."  Three principles have governed the usage of fable: a chrestomathy principle, a vehicle principle, and an analogy principle."  Chrestomathy, I learned here, is the usage of select passages useful (Greek chrestos) for learning a language, specifically in this case Latin and Greek.  The fable was also used then in the vernacular for moral edification.  One example in this era and usage, I was curious to learn, was a Swedish selection of L'Estrange's 1692 version, with the Catholic reflections removed and Luther's foreword of 1530 substituted for L'Estrange's preface!  This usage is capable of "turning the fables into carriers of widely differing views and ideologies."  The third great usage has fables being the source and analogue of exempla stories.  This usage allows the fable to penetrate into different cultural contexts.  This monograph goes on then to examine the figure of Aesop.  A further chapter examines the modernizing of fable as a genre in the seventeenth century through La Fontaine and LaMotte and in the eighteenth through Gay, Gellert, and Lessing.  Fables in the late eighteenth century found their way heavily into newspapers, and were also used to create a popular first book for aspiring writers.  Zillén sees four causes for the seeming "used-upness" of fable in modernity's undermining of "the virtue ethical way of thinking, exemplum-based rhetoric, the anthropomorphizing view of the animal world, and the poetological principle combining business with pleasure."  He finds the genre alive in language teaching within schools; in quotations, allusions, and parodies; and in literature for children.  It was a delight to track this study, if only in its English summary!

2020 Fabel-haft: 10 Fabeln nach Aesop in Versen, Bildern und Liedern: Hochdeutsche Ausgabe.  Jens Jacobsen.  Aquarelle von Ulrike Brokoph.  Paperbound.  Oldenburg: Isensee Verlag.  $21.86 from GreatBookPrices through ABE, Feb., '21.

This is a large-format (8¼" x 11⅞") paperback featuring lovely developments of ten fables.  These "developments" take us in three directions.  First, these texts are in Hochdeutsch but highly colloquial.  They tested my Umgangsprache!  Secondly, they offer songs for each fable, nicely rhymed.  Third, they offer good, large colored illustrations for each fable.  The "Etwas vorweg" preface wishes readers "Viel Freude dabei!"  That is a good sign!  Each fable has several small pictures besides the full-page illustration.  Maybe the best of these large illustrations is that of the mouse sniffing around the sleeping lion's nose (18).  Not a good idea!  Another excellent illustration is that for "Eagle and Tortoise" (35).  There are three moments of "Suchspiel" along the way and appendices on Aesop and on the material on FG too long to put at its place in the book.  Do not miss the identical book done in "Plattdeutsch" at the same time by the same people.

2020 Famous Animal Fables.  Carol Huey-Gatewood.  Various artists.  Paperbound.  Huntington Beach, CA: Teacher Created Materials.  $10.48 from Bargain Book Stores through Ebay, Feb., '20.

This 7" x 9" pamphlet offers seven fables, illustrated by various artists.  The cover shows a human and several monkeys waving to several other monkeys suspended from vines.  The first fable is new to me: the king of all the birds, a swan, has a daughter who wants to marry the most beautiful bird.  She chooses the peacock, but then he shows off in so shameful a manner that he is rejected and shunned.  Pride comes before a fall.  In the second, a greedy fox finds a hunter's lunch in a tree and, famished and skinny, climbs in.  After eating lots of the hunter's food, he cannot get out.  Luckily, snow confuses the hunter and the fox is not found out.  He emerges wiser.  In the third story, four different animals claim that a tree is theirs but soon learn to share the tree: elephant, monkey, hare, and partridge.  The fourth fable is CP.  The fifth fable substitutes a horse for the usual donkey who seems to learn successful behavior from a pet dog.  The sixth story is the most surprising to me.  A hatmaker falls asleep and finds that monkeys have stolen his hats.  After all sorts of attempts, he angrily throws his own hat to the ground, and all the monkeys do the same.  Success!  He gets his hats back.  His grandson undergoes the same adventure and throws his hat to the ground without the same effect among the monkeys.  "You are not the only one with a grandfather who tells stories!"  The last story is the traditional "Lion and Rabbit" from Panchatantra.  This is a lively recent book!

2020 Les Fables de la Fontaine, Livres I-IV.  Paperbound.  Algeria: Best Classics:  Dar Beni Mezghana.  $12.99 from Amazon, May, ‘21.

Here is the latest in print-on-demand books.  This paperback features GA on its cover.  Along the way there are full-page computer graphics, unfortunately only in black-and-white.  Among the best of them is "The Lion in Love" on 168: this lion is clawless and almost toothless!  Unfortunately, the illustration for a fable often comes only after one has turned the page on the text of the fable.  There are helpful vocabulary notes at the page bottom.  The back cover has a statement all too true for French schools, but not for American: "Ces fables sont un incontournable de l'école."  I had to look up "incontournable."  It means "unavoidable!"  Too true!  In French schools, you cannot avoid La Fontaine's fables!  218 pages.

2020 Les fables de La Fontaine Illustrées 1.  Paperbound.  Algiers, Algeria: Dar Beni Mezghana Jeunesse.  $16.75 from rarewaves-usa on Ebay, April, '21.

This may be our first book from a publisher in Algeria.  It is a print-on-demand 8½" x ll" book of 40 pages featuring 18 fables, as the back cover says, "dans ce premier tome."  I will be curious to see if other volumes follow.  The front cover and title-page repeat an excellent full-page illustration for FC, in which the fox waits patiently with eyes pleasantly closed for the cheese that is falling into a basket outfitted with a typical French checkerboard cloth.  I am surprised by the first sentence of the "Présentation": "On ne présente plus les fables de Jean de La Fontaine."  I collect multiple editions every year!  The general pattern here is that La Fontaine's verse is on the left-hand page, with unusual vocabulary explained at the bottom of the page.  The right-hand page has a full-page colored illustration, done in the style, I would say, of contemporary computer-generated art.  A typical illustration is that for "The Ass and the Lapdog" on 35.  After long fables, the editor finds a place in the illustration for the vocabulary help.  There is a T of C at the end.

2020 Les Fables de la Fontanel: A quoi riment nos vies sexuelles?.  Sophie Fontanel.  Paperbound.  Paris: Robert Laffont, SAS.  $16.82 from Stars and Stripes Bookstore, through Amazon, Sept., '20.

As far as I can tell, this is a rather racy book of rhyming verse texts.  They all deal with the "rhyming" of sexual lives.  Someone in the presence of the author one day asked the subtitle's question.  Her answer: "Our sexual lives rhyme.  That's not nothing."  I believe that there is a good deal of wit and wisdom here, but the colloquial French and the subject area do not belong to my "professional expertise"!  I enjoyed two short poems that I tried.  The first is "La fable du producteur qui croyait vraiment tout possible" (25).  I believe a film producer asks a wannabe starlet to perform a sexual act and she puts him down with two words: "Sucer quoi?"  "Sometimes two words are enough to take the hump off the camel."  The other is "La fable de l'homme qui se trompait sur les femmes" (67).  He thinks girls are all whores.  But maybe it's not a matter of money.  Maybe none of them wants to have anything to do with "sa flȗte"!

2020 Les Fables X - En passant par La Fontaine.  Juliette Clément.  Paperbound.  Paris: Édition BoD - Books on Demand.  $10.97 from Juliette Clément through Etsy, Dec., ‘20.  

This book is cleverly done.  GA takes a new and creative turn when La Fontaine’s “bise” becomes Clément’s “bite.”  Her black-and-white cartoon for each fable adds to the sauciness.  The frog explodes here for quite a different reason than in La Fontaine’s fable (13).  Perrette is thinking of other things than chickens and pigs (97).  Enough!  I will let adults seek further.  I do note that, in thanking me for investing in her little book, Juliette Clément wrote perceptively “I am a little surprised, but so delighted, with your interest in French naughty culture.”  My interest in La Fontaine takes me and this collection into many places!

2020 Les Plus Belles Fables de La Fontaine 2.  Illustrated by Muriel Gestin.  Paperbound.  Quebec: Chouetteditions, com.  $17.5 from Amazon, Jan., ‘21.  

This 8½" square unpaginated paperback booklet offers eight fables in full color, as did its first – though unnumbered – volume in 2019.  Each fable receives about six pages.  The colored illustrations cover whole pages, into which several verses are inserted per page.  The art may well be computer generated.  Each fable has a prose moral added.  Gestin has fun with the load of stuff tied to the back of the ass and then, with the dead ass, to the back of the horse.  A great illustration is that of the dying worker in the dark with his children.  Also presented here are AD; “Lion and Gnat”; LM; DW; “Little Fish and Angler”; and 2P.  At the end is again a helpful lexicon of unusual vocabulary, arranged by fable.  The two covers together present a scene with La Fontaine and these fables' characters.  The front cover pictures animals running fast together from left to right, with the dove above doing the same.

2020 Oi mythoi tou Aisopou me Playmobil.  Nikos Giannopoulos.  Ekdoseis Papadopoulos.  Paperbound. Playmobil.  $1 from happy*sheriff through Ebay, July, ‘21.  

Here is the booklet that accompanies the Playmobil set of Aesop's fables.  The artistry involves a clever combination of the photographed Playmobil figures -- of course! -- and computer generated colored scenes.

2020 Once Upon a Time: Rare Children's Literature from Justin G. Schiller, Ltd.  Heritage Rare Books Auction.  Paperbound.  Dallas: Heritage Rare Books.  $10 from an unknown source, Oct., ‘20. 

As always with Justin Schiller, it is a pleasure to see the beautiful things he and his staff have gathered.  Here is an impressive auction catalogue, slightly under 8½" x 11", 187 + 7 pages long.  The booklet is full of gorgeous photography and extensive background for each offered publication or item.  There are a number of lovely fable books offered here: #s 45013; 45034; 45043; 45072; 45127; 45256; 45358; 45359; and 45450.

2020 The ESmith Short Tales: Fables and Stories from Fairytale Land.  GranRan.  Illustrations by NuSaga Press.  Paperbound.  NuSaga Press.  $10.06 from grandeagleretail through Ebay, July, '20.

This 100-page paperback, printed upon demand, offers fifteen short stories based generally on traditional Aesopic fables but transformed into short stories.  eSmith is a fox cub who gets into adventures and learns of adventures from his tailless father and his "brash vixen" mother.  I read the first five, which includes a story new to me about a fox meeting his shadow for the first time.  eSmith's father lost his tail not in but on the ice.  "The Eagle and the Fox revisited" follows the fable carefully.  eSmith is the very cub stolen by the eagle, and his mother is the one who brings fire to the tree.  In this version, she burns down the whole tree after her son's release.  There is about one grayscale illustration per story.

2020 The Fabled Life of Aesop.  Ian Lendler.  Illustrations by Pamela Zagarenski.  First edition, first printing.  Dust-jacket.  Hardbound.  Boston/NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  $14.39 from Amazon, Nov., '20.

Every couple of years a new book of fables comes out and I find myself cheering and saying "Yes, that's the idea!  Keep it fresh and engaging!"  This new version does just that.  It focuses early and late on Aesop's life and fits the fables into the framework created by that lens.  A climactic fable is thus DW, through which Aesop clever asks for his freedom from his owner "Jadon."  A number of features of this book echo the lovely approach to him, his life, and his stories.  Thus the dust-jacket does not simply echo the cover.  It pulls together key symbols in its own way.  Clever decorations show up in unexpected places, as when the fox gets the grapes on the colophon page.  The lion of other fables shows up with a blowing mane in SW and elsewhere, as does the same lovely Greek vase.  The stories show the same freshness.  Thus the wolf in BW eats the boy for dessert!  The donkey trying to be a lapdog breaks dishes.  TMCM gets a prize from me for both the creative hiding-place of the mice and then for the country mouse's good-bye wave.  The climactic double-page spreads between 52 and 57 are veritable feasts of illustration and morals.  Two questions arise for me from the book's interpretation.  Should we understand that Aesop started his storytelling career as a boy?  And was his story common knowledge at the time that his stories became widespread?

2020 The Magic of Aesop.  Robert Martel.  Foreword by James Hazlerig.  First printing.  Paperbound. Positive Results Hypnosis.  $12.95 from Amazon, July, ‘21.  

"How to Use the Wisdom of Aesop's Fables to Spark Your Transformational Change."  While his audience includes anyone open to enjoying a story, Martel’s special focus is on counselors, hypnotists, teachers, and parents.  He writes to help people in these helping professions to use stories and to use them effectively.  He hopes that readers will ”learn how to apply and modify the morals of Aesop’s Fables to client situations….”  He hopes to lead them to create their own fables.  “Decide to take action and apply the Magic of Aesop!”  We are not surprised that Martel, as a professional hypnotist, finds that “All good stories are hypnotic” (22).  Martel quotes a variety of translations and refers to a variety of sources.  The book reads like a self-help manual, with an experienced teacher coaching along the conversational way.  Thus there are friendly tips and maxims like “Your Client Owns the Progress, You Own the Process!” (81).  I am happy to know of this fellow Aesop enthusiast!

2020 The Panchatantra: Teaching Tales of Old India.  Narindar Uberoi Kelly.  Illustrated by Meagen Jenigen.  Paperbound.  Gurgaon, India: Hachette India Children's Books.  $12.15 from Amazon, Feb., '20.

This version has two great features.  First, it illustrates each story.  The colored illustrations range from part-page -- like the crocodile on viii -- to full-page -- like Sharma telling stories to the three young men on 7.  They help as one makes one way through a long work.  Secondly, the original feature of this 348-page edition is that the frame story is told on colored pages, while the individual stories filling in along the way are told on white pages.  A reader can let the subsidiary stories go in order to follow the frame story.  This clever arrangement can keep a reader on track as we descend through fables within fables.  Also, each of the five books has a list of its stories.  Again, one has help to know where one is along the way.  I would love to have a chance to teach this Panchatantra in a course!

end

2021

2021 Aesop's Fables: The Complete Collection.  Anthony Vanzelli.  Paperbound.  ©Anthony Vanzelli.  $27.36 from Barnes & Noble, May, ‘21.  

“5 Minute Bedtime Stories for Kids.  More Than 100 Classic Fables and Short Fairy Tales to Help Children & Toddlers Relax and Fall Asleep Fast.”  This book, despite its rather high price, is a disappointment.  It offers prose narratives of fables in twelve well organized chapters on standard 8½” x 11” paper.  There are partial-page colored computer generated cartoons every few fables.  Why is it disappointing?  For starters, in what sense is it “complete”?  Perry’s compendium of Aesop’s fables numbers in the 700’s.  The very first fable has the wrong title, confusing “The Tortoise and the Hare” with “The Tortoise and the Eagle.”  The subtitle makes reference to fairy tales: Why?  Fairy tales and fables are quite distinct, and Aesop belongs generally, I would even say almost exclusively, to the latter.  Little problems plague this text.  On 63, a picture covers the last part of a sentence.  The same page has both mice and rats engaging the lion.  Which is it?  108 adds a confusing plus sign in the midst of its prose.  125 refers to “doublons” rather than “doubloons.”  Aesop deserves better!

2021 Jean de La Fontaine: Das Grosse Fabel-Buch.  Übersetzung von Ernst Dohm.  Bebildert von Jan Peter Tripp.  Hardbound.  Boxed.  Leipzig, Germany: Faber & Faber.  €36 from Froehlich & Kaufmann, Berlin, March, '21.

I find this a strange book.  It takes itself seriously: boxed and beautifully executed, complete with a place-marking ribbon.  I tried the first four or five translations and found them good.  Perhaps that is the strength of the book; I cannot say that I know German translations of La Fontaine well.  The surprising and -- to me -- disappointing feature of the book lies in its illustrations.  There is a gorgeous humanized fox on both front and back of the lovely box, and there is a strange and fascinating human in a dead forest on the cover of the book.  Good so far!  Inside the text however, there is a strange array of art.  Each book gets a two-page title-page, with an object, perhaps a brush, a leaf, or a feather, before a Jackson Pollack like background.  I, poor soul, seek a narrative connection and find none, and I am not too sure where to turn.  Each book has from zero to three or four illustrations along the way, facing a blank page.  Many of these are like Grandville's animal-head-with-human-body caricatures in "La Vie privée et publique des animaux."  Good examples are the book's first two illustrations, one a black-and-white rendition of the fox from the cover of the box (15) and the other a dog in a party dress (25).  These are for me the most engaging art of the book, and among the best are the old bird pouring champagne (99) and the human toucan (115).  The placement of these has its own mystique, since the characters seem at least not to be connected to nearby fables.  Then there are paintings, one of a tapir at rest (65), another of a strange beach scene (134-35), and one of a giant lobster near a human (164-65).  Perhaps the most engaging illustration of the book is a scene of intimacy between a human male and a Sphinx (217).  I will keep watching for the insight that unlocks the mystique of this book!

2021 Tierfabeln von Äsop bis La Fontaine in Gemäldeserien seit 1600.  Lisanne Wepler.  Various artists.  Hardbound.  Petersberg: Studien zur Internationalen Architektur- und Kunstgeschichte 182: Michael Imhoff Verlag.  €69 from Frölich und Kaufmann, April, ‘21. 

Every now and then a serious and expensive volume appears, on which people have worked hard to bring together a significant array of art and insight.  This tome is one of those.  Its 300 large-format (9½” x 12”) pages are filled with image and information.  Maybe start with 292, just before the "Literaturverzeichnis": it looks like a bookshelf of mine.  Variants of this motif appear elsewhere in the volume.  In each of the five principal chapters, a century forms the backdrop for a set of some six or eight visual stops or even tours.  The first of these takes us “Auf den Spuren der Fabeltiere.”  We get used to enjoying one beautiful and well-presented image after another.  The second chapter begins with a strong full-page detail of Franz Snyder’s painting of the stork’s revenge-meal in a vase, complete with the eel and two swimming frogs.  Along the way here, I am glad to see illustrations by Sadeler and many by Gheeraerts.  The particular focus here is on Flemish images in Spanish possession in the seventeenth century.  Do not miss Paul de Vos’ DS on 37; a detail appears on the book’s front cover.  Chapter 3 is all about Oudry and his influence in the 18th century.  Chapter 4 is “Bunte Vielfalt in England im 19. Jahrhundert.”  Among the many pictured here are Crane, Robinson, Detmold, Rae, Rackham, Folkard, Grandville, Doré, Griset, and then back to Barlow, Kirkall, and Bewick.  An important painter in this chapter is John Bucknell Russel and an important place is Castell Coch.  The last substantive chapter, far shorter than the others, traces painted series into the twentieth century.  The sixth chapter catalogues the illustrations and offers a text for each fable, with a reference to the multiple appearances of that fable.  There is so much here! 

end