Æsop’s Fables with His Life

Dublin Core


Æsop’s Fables with His Life




H. Hills Jr., for Francis Barlow, London.



Caxton Club Member Contributions Item Type Metadata

Brief Notes on Book

40 [The Life of Æsop], 31 [Dudley’s plates of Aesop's life], 40 [La vie d’Esope], 17 [Vita Æsopi], 221 [Les fables d’Esope], [2; contents], [7, blanks]; 3 frontispieces, 100 half-page engravings by Barlow and 31 full-page plates by Tho[mas] Dudley.

Provenance: Armorial bookplate of William Arnold, novelist and brother of Matthew Arnold; leather bookplate of Paul Harth; John Pearson (his sale, Sotheby's, London, 7 November 1916).

Binding: In masterful nineteenth-century binding with binder's stamp of Francis Bedford (1779–1883); "The work of Bedford is not excelled by that of any English bookbinder of his time." (Fletcher, p. 163).


Aesop’s Fables have stood at the forefront of Early Modern English book production, with Caxton selecting the works for one of his early printed texts. Francis Barlow’s illustrated edition sits prominently both within Aesop’s post-Classical reception and modern literary history.

Barlow self-published the first edition of his Aesop in 1665 in London. But many copies did not circulate out of London before the Great Fire of 1666, which saw Barlow’s studio the Golden Eagle destroyed, though the copper plates for the volume survived. Thus, a second edition was prepared using Barlow’s engravings, and expanded to include a biography of Aesop with new plates.

Barlow was renowned in part for his ability to capture wildlife, with hours of field observation and anatomical study bolstering his ability to bring creatures of the hunt to life. These examples may be more fanciful than the game Barlow more customarily drew, but, as mentioned in his preface, the fables suited precisely his “fancy, as consisting so much of Fowl and Beasts, wherein my Friends are pleas’d to count me most Eminent in what I doe.”

The seventeenth "indecent" plate was often suppressed or defaced in attempts to obscure the depiction of a lady’s pudenda that accompanies the lines: “Oft for a jest we expose out modesty, | And to assume a vertue, tell a ly, | But here deceiving fair thou’dst small pretence, | Thy Taile wants all but the kind feeling sense.” The present plate does not display any signs of deletion or markings.


Taylor Kirkpatrick


Barlow Aesop Plate 17.jpg


AESOP [BARLOW, FRANCIS]., “Æsop’s Fables with His Life,” Caxton Club Exhibits, accessed March 22, 2023, https://caxtonclub.omeka.net/items/show/40.