Wise Animals: Aesop & His Followers: An Exhibition at the Rare Book & Manuscript Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 20 January thorugh 6 April 2012
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Regier, Willis Goth
Griset (cover) and Billinghurst (title-page) lead off. Valerie Hotchkiss' foreword does as good a job as I have seen in introducing on one page the genre of fable and its place in our literature and life. Regier then gives six pages to Planudes' life of Aesop, embellished by illustrations from Barlow, l'Estrange, and Croxall. Would I have known before that Planudes has Aesop quoting Euripides eight years before the latter was born? The five Barlow illustrations here are helpful to me because the Barlow edition in our collection is the earlier one without the illustrations on the life of Aesop. Particularly good, I believe, are those picturing the vomiting of the figs and the carrying off of Aesop to jail. Regier does well to honor Ben Edwin Perry and clarifies the place in history of the Collectio Augustana as against the Collectio Accursiana and its frequent offspring, the various Aesopi Phrygii editions. In fact, Willis and I just discussed whether these were primarily school editions: I had not been aware of that context for them. I had associated them with the travelling book sellers in northern Italy carrying their wares from town to town. Regier goes on to observe that, under Croxall, who dismissed the life of Aesop as monastic waggery, Aesop the slave striving for freedom has become an advocate of the status quo. If I had known it, I had forgotten that Rousseau found The Crow and the Fox to be teaching children all too well that flattery works! This introduction to the exhibit concludes by noticing that there is an Aesop edition for everyone. Other artists included are Stockdale, Fry, Weir, Tenniel, Doré, Bennett, Condé, and Winter. I find this a thoroughly exciting presentation as well as a lovely gift!
The Rare Book and Manuscript Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign