Aesop's Fables for Little Readers
Mrs. Arthur (Olive) Brookfield
"Here is a book internally identical with another in the collection. Where that book has a blue cloth cover, this book has a red cloth cover. As I wrote then, there seems to be no indication in this book of when this second edition appeared, but then even the first edition was undated! Like that book, this is smaller in both height and width than the first edition. The back cover features my favorite Ford design of the hermit with the broken nose. The second edition, here as there, lists a printer on the bottom of 71. The pages are more cardboard than paper. Of the first edition, I wrote that fifty-six fables are numbered. Ford does sepia throughout, starting with a frontispiece of "The Old Tree and the Gardener" and a sepia title-page: is that Aesop telling children stories about all the creatures ranged around them? There are three other full-page illustrations (one a repeat of the frontispiece on 31) and numerous smaller vignettes. "I have found, then, that even the simplest editions which are published are too difficult for my own little children to understand.." So Olive Brookfield founds her enterprise in the introduction (9). T of C at the beginning. Polysyllabic words are hyphenated. There is generally one fable to a page; in fact the printer's various spacing to accomplish that uniformity becomes distracting. The moral to "The One-Eyed Doe" is that God "alone, in His own way, can guard us from every kind of harm" (22). The moral of "The Two Frogs" is that we should think well and pray well before we take any great step in life (27). The best illustration of the book for me is the second illustration for "The Hermit and the Bear," for it shows a hermit with a terribly bent nose, which the bear broke according to this version (33). There is not only no death in this version, but there is also no rock. WC has a set of three illustrations on 41, repeated from the cover. "The Snipe and the Partridges" (46) is new to me; the point is that you can shoot at only one object at a time. The printer and engraver work well together on TB (51). The calf mocking the ox on 57 is soon led away not to be sacrificed but to be butchered. The moral to "The Bear and the Honey" (59) may be very instructive. It starts with "Honesty is the best policy." I would not have said that this fable is at all about honesty. The moral next gives perfectly good advice: when you want something, think first if you have a right to it and next whether your taking it will give pain to others. Then comes another surprise: "If you only think of yourself, it will often end in your looking very foolish." Oh? Is this fable at all about looking foolish? And is that motivation not quite different from considerations of right and pain to others? Is there a fable in the tradition on an eclipse of the moon (67)?"
T. Fisher Unwin