Aesopus - Vita et Fabulae

Aesopus - Vita et Fabulae

Ulm (Germany) — 1476

One of the earliest prints in book history: famous fables with style-forming, colored woodcuts

  1. Aesop's Fables established the highly popular literary genre of moralizing tales

  2. The woodcuts of this early print from 1476 were style-forming for the following epochs

  3. The text is presented in both Latin and German by Heinrich Steinhöwel (1412–1482/3)

Aesopus - Vita et Fabulae

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (2)
Description
Aesopus - Vita et Fabulae

The so-called Ulm Aesop belongs among the most significant specimens of the fables by the ancient author Aesop in the history of book art. Published ca. 1476 by the Ulm humanist and translator Heinrich Steinhöwel, the book contains 190+ colored woodcuts across 550 pages. These are ascribed to Jörg Syrlin d. Ä., the famous Master of the Choir Stalls in the Ulm Minster. The Ulm Aesop was printed by Johann Zainer in the Ulmer Offizin and contains all of the Aesop’s Fables that were known at that time along with an entertaining biography of Aesop.

Aesopus - Vita et Fabulae

The so-called Ulm Aesop belongs among the most significant specimens of the fables by the ancient author Aesop in the history of book art. Published ca. 1476 by the Ulm humanist and translator Heinrich Steinhöwel, the book contains 190+ colored woodcuts across 550 pages. These are ascribed to Jörg Syrlin d. Ä., the famous Master of the Choir Stalls in the Ulm Minster. The Ulm Aesop was printed by Johann Zainer in the Ulmer Offizin and contains all of the Aesop’s Fables that were known at that time along with an entertaining biography of Aesop.

The Trendsetting Aesop Specimen

The entertaining and instructive animal fables by Aesop (ca. 620–560 B.C.E) still have meaning today. They founded the literary genre of moralizing fables. The stories have enjoyed great popularity and were handed down in numerous manuscripts and translations from Greek since antiquity and throughout the Middle Ages. With the invention of the printing press, Aesop’s Fables enjoyed a renewed heyday. The moralizing stories were illustrated with woodcuts in many editions. The most famous of these editions is the Ulm Aesop. The humanist and translator Heinrich Steinhöwel (1412–1482/3) published it in 1476 with Latin text and the German translation. In this way, he made the fables comprehensible for everyone. In his edition of Aesop, Steinhöwel assembled all of the known fables by Aesop at that time and an entertaining biography of Aesop, the author of the moralizing stories. Additionally, Steinhöwel attached a few tales by Poccio Bracciolini, a famous Italian Renaissance humanist, to his Aesop edition. The Ulm Aesop, printed by Johann Zainer, was style-forming for the following epochs. The Ulm Aesop was reprinted across all of Europe, though the impressive woodcuts of the original specimen from Ulm remain unparalleled.

Impressive Illustrations by a Great Master

Alongside the text by Heinrich Steinhöwel, the Ulm Aesop is impressive above all because of its artistic design. This is ascribed to Jörg Syrlin d. Ä. (ca. 1425–1491), the master of the Ulm Minster’s famous choir stalls. Over 190 woodcuts accompany the text. Both the plasticity and spatiality of the scenery as well as the design of the figures depicted are stylistically outstanding. Both animals as well as people are drawn with expressive facial expressions and gestures, which wonderfully render the content of the fables in gorgeous pictures. The various kinds of animals are additionally remarkable in their naturalistic depiction. In addition to the woodcuts, the text is designed with diverse colored initials. Aesop’s Fables, meant to be understood like parables, have lost nothing of their impressive and entertaining nature. Just as in antiquity, the Middle Ages, or the Renaissance, these tales, e.g. of the fox and the grapes or of the amorous lions, are a great pleasure both as entertaining literature as well as useful reading. The moralizing tales are crowned with colorful woodcuts by Jörg Syrlin in the famous specimen of the Ulm Aesop.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Esopo - Vita e Favole
Size / Format
550 pages / 30.5 x 22.5 cm
Origin
Germany
Date
1476
Illustrations
191 colored woodcut illustrations
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
Aesopus - Vita et Fabulae – Museum Otto Schäfer (Schweinfurt, Germany)
Il Bulino, edizioni d'arte – Modena, 1992
Limited Edition: 800 copies

Aesopus - Vita et Fabulae
Edition Libri Illustri – Ludwigsburg, 1992
Limited Edition: 800 copies
Detail Picture

Aesopus - Vita et Fabulae

The Man and the Lion

This colorful woodcut and the fable it illustrates are concerned with the difference between perception and reality as well as the importance of considering the facts before forming an opinion. Framed on the right is the artist's depiction of a heroic and fashionably-dressed man pouncing upon the lion. The reality of when a lion meets an unarmed man is shown on the ground to the left: a much humbler man being mauled as he tries to defend himself.

Esopo - Vita e Favole
Single Page

Aesopus - Vita et Fabulae

The Man and the Lion

In this fable, the moral of which is to examine the source of evidence before accepting it, man and lion debate which of them is more powerful. They stand before a painting showing a man wearing red and green seizing a lion by the jaws, which the man points to as evidence for his superiority.

The lion retorts that a man painted the scene, and that if a lion had, then it would be different. To prove his point, the lion pounces on the man, who has foolishly left his shield hanging on a bough in the background. This popular fable was later adapted by Geoffrey Chaucer in the “Wife of Bath,” who in defense of her sex demanded “Who painted the lion, tell me who?”

Esopo - Vita e Favole
Facsimile Editions

#1 Esopo - Vita e Favole

Il Bulino, edizioni d'arte – Modena, 1992
Aesopus - Vita et Fabulae – Museum Otto Schäfer (Schweinfurt, Germany)
Aesopus - Vita et Fabulae – Museum Otto Schäfer (Schweinfurt, Germany) Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Publisher: Il Bulino, edizioni d'arte – Modena, 1992
Limited Edition: 800 copies
Binding: Leather
Commentary: 1 volume (84 pages) by Peter Amelung, Claudio Fraccari and C. Fraccari
Languages: German or Italian
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Price Category: € (under 1,000€)
Edition available
Please ask for a quote!

#2 Aesopus - Vita et Fabulae

Edition Libri Illustri – Ludwigsburg, 1992

Publisher: Edition Libri Illustri – Ludwigsburg, 1992
Limited Edition: 800 copies
Binding: Leather
Commentary: 1 volume (84 pages) by Peter Amelung
Language: German
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Price Category: € (under 1,000€)
Edition available
Please ask for a quote!
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