¶ The fyrst fable is of the cok and of the precious stone
Woodcut and proof print for Aesop's "The fable of the cock and the jewel".
¶ Fable of the Wolf and the Statue
¶ The iij fable is of the rat and of the frogge
Woodcut and proof print for Aesop’s fable of the frog and the mouse.
¶ The xiij fable is of the foxe and of the storke
Woodcut and proof print for Aesop's "The fable of the fox and the stork".
Vita et fabulae, 1479
Original page from the edition on the Library of Congress, USA
Capital letters hand-cut in cherrywood
Detail of lead type and woodcut initial "W" resting on a galley before printing.
Test print of the title page woodblock "Fabulae Aesopiae".
Making a woodcut for the Fables
“Das leben des hochberuemté fabeltichters Esopi...” Capital D for the introduction text of the Aesop Fables. Woodcut on linden wood 5x5cm
Capital D for the introduction text of the Aesop Fables. Woodcut on linden wood 5x5cm
Introduction to the Fables
Detail of lead type and woodcut initial "D" resting on a galley before printing.
Page for the fable "the rat and the frog" set up and ready for print. Moveable lead type, woodcuts for the illustration, and capital letter.
Printed pages of the fable "the rat and the frog", printed on linen laid paper.
What better thing to use a printing press for, then to print an actual book? That was the Graal for the first printers, the Gutenberg Bible being the most famous and well-known incunable, and definitely one of the most beautiful printed books in the 15th century, from a technical point of view.
We are not as ambitious, or magnanimous, and the first book that came out from the press was an edition of the popular Aesop Fables, in medieval German language, with a selection of the fables composed with moveable type and woodcut illustrations.
A note on nomenclature: an incunable (English), from the Latin incunabula, is the name for books, broadsides, and other materials printed before the year 1501. The Latin term means ‘swaddling clothes, cradle’, so referring to the birth of printing in Europe.
A late medieval best seller
The Aesop Fables had more than 150 separate editions in the second half of the 15th century, in different European languages. Our first edition is based on the Vita et Fabulae from 1479, translated from Latin into German by Heinrich Steinhöwel.
The text is set in Nürnberger Schwabacher with woodcut initials and illustrations, printed on archival paper. This limited edition book has 48 pages, bound by Chris Wenzel (kopert.de).