Aesopus Moralisatus (Aesop's Fables)
These pages come from Aesopus Moralisatus, an edition of Aesop's Fables published in 1485 by Francesco del Tuppo (1443–1501) in Naples, Italy. The text, short versions of the fables in Latin and Italian, and explanations linking each fable to contemporary political events in Italy, is accompanied by woodcut illustrations.
The book starts with a biography of Aesop’s life followed by the fables. In the original book each of Aesop’s fables is structured in different sections. The main fable (written in Latin) is followed by the apologus, the tropologia, the allegoria and finally the exemplaris. All the sections are variations on (or interpretations of) the same story and moral. The illustrations, a selection of which are reproduced here, provided entertainment and a break from the Latin verse and Italian text.
A fable is a story that contains a moral lesson. In a fable animals often speak and behave like humans in order to provide this lesson. Aesop is arguably the most famous teller of fables in the West.
The ancient Romans translated Aesop’s fables from Greek into Latin. The stories were still popular in Europe during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. They were read either in Latin or in Italian, German, French, Spanish or English. Often they were accompanied by woodcut illustrations, as in this example.
Aesop’s fables appealed to a wide audience. Scholars employed them in their teaching and used them as translation exercises for students. Collectors prized early editions for their illustrations and rarity. Priests included the stories in their sermons as examples for churchgoers.
The texts in this edition were translated by Barry Taylor, Meghan Callahan and Caroline Bulloch.