First Edition of Sebastian Brant's Version of Aesop With Numerous Woodcuts
AESOP. Esopi appologi sive mythologi cum quibusdam carminum et fabularum. additionibus Sebastiani Brant. Basel: Jacob Wolff de Pforzheim , 1501].
Illustrated edition of Aesop's Fables and the first edition of Sebastian Brant's additions fables (part two). Two parts in one folio volume (11 3/4 x 8 3/16 inches; 297 x 208 mm). Collates complete except it is lacking the final blank (M6). Collates identical to the Fairfax-Murray copy. a-b8, c6-o8 (alternately), p-s6 (s6 blank); A-B8, C-D6, E8-K6 (alternately), L4, M5, (M6, final blank, lacking). But with the blank leaf s6 present at end of part 1. With woodcut portrait of Aesop on verso of a1 and small woodcut portrait of Brant on verso of A1 in part 2. Both parts with numerous woodcuts and initials. Text in Latin.

Full 19th-century black straight-grain morocco. Boards ruled in gilt. Spine stamped and lettered in gilt. Boards edges gilt, gilt dentelles. All edges gilt. Marbled endpapers. Very wide margins. Previous owner's small bookplate on front pastedown. Recto and verso of title-page of part one with some very light old ink annotations. Worming repairs to top edge border of leaves a1-a8, not affecting text. Leaves a6 and c6 with closed tear repairs, no loss of text. Leaves l3 and l4 bound in reverse order. Worm hole and closed tear repair to leaves q6, r1, r2, r4, r5, no loss of text, r6 with small hole causing loss of a few letters on recto and a small portion of woodcut on verso. s2, and s3 with minor repairs. Title-page of part 2 (A1) remargined, with some repairs, barely affecting text, and a few other leaves also remargined. A2 with closed tear repair, barely affecting text. A4, B3, B5, C1-C3 with minor repairs barely affecting text. C4 with small hole, affecting woodcut on recto, text on verso. E3, M2-M4 with minor repairs, not affecting text. Final text leaf M5 with repaired closed tear, barely affecting text. Approximately for places in part 2 where there have been paragraphs lightly crossed through with the notation in an early hand reading "no legas" ("do not read"). These parts being expurged is a common occurrence among other copies of this book. Some occasional toning and spotting. Aside from this and the repairs which are relatively minor, this is a very clean, lovely copy.

The plan of this edition was conceived by Sebastian Brant, and the first part of this book is an early illustrated edition of Aesop's Fables, with numerous woodcuts which already appeared in the first illustrated edition of 1476-77 printed at Ulm by Johann Zainer. Brant includes his commentaries to these fables and chose to use only Latin, whereas the 1476 edition was in both German and Latin. The second part is the first printing of Brant's new section of 140 fables which follows the same structure as the first section, with a woodcut followed by verse and then prose, "some of a very remarkable character", according to Hugh W. Davies (Fairfax Murray). These compositions are taken from the works of Stace, Juvenal, Virgil, Ovid, Lucien ... The first story, taken from Hesiod, is said to be the oldest known fable.

"The numerous woodcuts in this volume fall into two distinct categories. The woodcuts in the first part (with a few exceptions) are rather simplistic and naive in execution and are based (in reverse) on the woodcuts from Zainer's successful Ulm edition of c.1476 (incidentally the first illustrated edition of Aesop); the actual blocks were first used in Wolff's edition of not after 1489 (Goff A115). The woodcuts of the second part are more sophisticated, with the use of hatching and perspective to enliven the images, and they were cut specifically for this edition; is it thought they were produced by the workshop of Johann Grüninger in Strassburg." (Sotheby's) According to Hugh W. Davies, "The remainder of the cuts are by a new artist, the style entirely differing from the older blocks. These are heavily shaded by thin close parallel lines, amalgamating into a solid mass in the deepest shadows. The perspective as a rule is fair: the faces are well rounded, the noses being broad at the bridge but well-shaped. The cuts have the appearance of metal, but they nevertheless are probably on wood."

Copies can be found at the Getty, Library of Congress, University of Manchester, Cambridge University and 2 German and 2 French libraries. In the past 30 years there have been five other auction results for this book (one copy selling twice).  The average price achieved for those five sales (including the buyer’s premium) is just under $119,000. If we average just the two copies sold in the last ten years, that average jumps to over $167,000. Of those five results, the lowest sale price (from 2002) made over $81,000. And finally, to complete the analysis, a particularly fine copy was offered by the trade in 2014 for 200,000 pounds, roughly $329,000. So, while our copy has it’s defects and imperfections (as do almost all other copies), it is priced competitively for such a lovely and important work. 

Fairfax Murray 20. Goed. I, 390, 24. Adams A291.

HBS # 67868 $95,000