The Birds, from Aristophanes, a “perfectly realized fantasy” and an allegorical comedy for the ages, was first performed at the City Dionysia in 414 BC where it won second prize. The birds, driven by oratory powers of a man named Pisthetaerus (Trustyfriend), decide to build a city in the sky, called Cloudcuckooland, to blockade the Olympian Gods so to subjugate them. There is much comedy, such as advising the festival judges to award them first place or risk getting defecated on, and the birds passing laws against caging, stuffing, or eating them! Political allegory within the play has been analyzed for centuries now since the play was staged not long after the commencement of the Sicilian Expedition (though there is no direct mention of the Peloponnesian War and very few direct political statements). There is no question that this is one of the great works of comedy in all human history and it remains an essential and influential part of the Western Canon.
Aristophanes (446 BC – 386 BC) was the great comic playwright of ancient Athens, who arguably remains unsurpassed, with the exception of Shakespeare, as the greatest comic playwright of all time. His ridicule could be scathing, his criticisms influential, and his insight into the world he lived was second to none. He is known to have written at least 30 plays, with eleven of them surviving through the ages in a nearly complete fashion. His work remains greatly influential from an artistic standpoint, and also as a window into the classical Athens world. Besides The Birds, his best known plays are The Frogs, The Clouds, and Lysistrata.
This edition from the Limited Editions Club is fantastic and a great value, as it can usually be found for $50 (even less) in near fine or better condition. The many illustrations (often more like decorations) from Marian Parry spice up nearly every page. They are colorful, mostly classical (as one would find on an ancient Greek vase) and witty. Look at ‘Sample Illustration #5’ below for what I consider a busy, but very beautiful set of pages. The paper from Curtis Paper Company is very light, with a silky, delicate feel, and is done in a Japanese Fold manner. The type is 12 point Bembo, which is very readable and a decent selection for this edition. I really enjoy the binding here, with a polished black calf spine and sides of classic parchment, with decorations in blue from Marian Parry; all in a chemise with a parchment spine and blue paper sides, with decorations also designed by Marian Parry. $50 or less, really? For one of the classics of all time in an edition that looks like this? Get it!
About the Edition
- Printed at The Thistle Press in New York
- Planned, designed and put into color by Bert Clarke
- Illustrations, pen and ink drawings, by Marian Parry
- Introduction by Dudley Fitts
- Translation is Anonymous
- 12 point Bembo on a thirteen point base
- Pages are double-folded (Japanese fold), on paper made by Curtis Paper Company of Newark, Delaware
- Square back, with polished black calf spine and sides of classic parchment, with decorations in blue from Marian Parry, bound by Frank D. Fortney
- In a chemise , also with a parchment spine and blue paper sides, with decorations also designed by Marian Parry.
- Limited to 1500 copies, signed by Marian Parry
Pictures of the Edition
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The Birds, Limited Editions Club, Sample Text (Introduction)
The Birds, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustrations #3 with Text