The Fables of Esope, Grabhorn Press, Illustrations by Valenti Angelo (1930)

Aesop’s existence, while likely, is not completely certain, though writings about him are found in such sources as AristotleHerodotus, and Plutarch. Apparently he lived in ancient Greece around 600 BC. It was long said that he was a slave who won his freedom by his cleverness. No direct writings of his survive, though many tales over the centuries and across cultures have been attributed to him. In fact, as many as 650 fables are associated with Aesop, though it is unlikely that these all actually came from him. Among some of the most famous of Aesop’s fables are The Tortoise and the HareThe Boy Who Cried WolfThe Fox and the Grapes, and The Ant and the Grasshopper. The fables remain very popular across the world and are often used in moral education.

The Fables of Esope (Aesop) have been a favorite of private press publishers for a long time. The 1931 Agnes Miller Parker illustrated edition from the Gregynog Press and the 1973 edition from Officina Bodoni, with 15th century woodcuts attributed to Liberale da Verona recut by Anna Bramanti and hand-colored by Daniel Jacomet, are two of the most sought after of such.

The Fables of Esope, Gregynog Press (1931)
The Fables of Esope, Gregynog Press (1931)
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The Fables of Aseop, Officina Bodoni (1973)

Unfortunately, either of these works will set one back thousands and thousands of dollars! Luckily, there are some other private or fine press editions that are not quite so bank busting (though still not inexpensive). One example is the Bruce Rogers designed 1933 edition for the Limited Editions Club (LEC) that was printed by John Johnson at the Oxford University Press. It can often be found in fine condition for $250-$350. A few years prior to the LEC/Rogers edition, Grabhorn Press published an edition of 200 copies, with decorative initials and illustrations by Valenti Angelo. The pricing on this for near-fine or better, of late, seems well over the map. I have seen it sell for anywhere from around $500 to $1500. In any case, expect to pay more for the Grabhorn than for the LEC, though quite a bit less then for either the Gregynog or Officina Bodoni.

Titled The Subtyl Histories and Fables of Esope, this edition from Grabhorn Press provides an example of the excellent work that Edwin and Robert Grabhorn did for so many years. The Grabhorns were students of Bruce Rogers, and, along with John Henry Nash, became the premier printers in the western United States, and were amongst the best in the world. Beginning with their first publication in 1920, the press was the focal point of fine printing in San Francisco through 1965 (with Robert Grabhorn continuing in partnership with Andrew Hoyem through 1973, after which Mr. Hoyem continued their great work with his Arion Press). The Grabhorn Press edition of Walt Whitman‘s Leaves of Grass is considered one of the all-time great private press works, and The Travels of Sir John Mandeville would not be far behind (both done for Random House). In addition, many Grabhorn works over the years were recognized by the AIGA design association as amongst the best designed books of the year.

For this edition of The Subtyl Histories and Fables of Esope, decorative initials as well as seven illustrations (including the title page) were provided by Valenti Angelo. The illustrations were colored by hand in blue, red, yellow, and gold. The result is wonderfully colorful, in a fashion similar to other works from Angelo that have been highlighted on Books and Vines (See Song of Roland or Vathek, as examples). Rudolf Koch‘s Bibel Gotisch type was used, and is here printed on unbleached Arnold paper from England. The result looks great (as you will see below), especially with the nice wide margins which give the heavy type room to breathe. The book is sized conveniently for reading at 9 5/8″ x 6 1/2″ with 167 pages. It was bound at the Grabhorn Press in full red niger morocco with spine gilt lettered and five raised bands, fore and tail edges untrimmed. I picked up a copy with a substandard binding at a good price, and proceeded to have it rebound by Starr Bookworks with aniline dyed, vegetable tanned french goat from Talas. While at it, I had them add hand-marbled endpapers created by Starr Bookworks.

The translation is the original English translation of William Caxton from the 15th century. Interestingly, the date of the original English translation (1483) is mistakenly given on the title page as 1383. Apparently, they recognized the mistake before the regular edition shipped and was meant to be corrected by hand, though clearly mine below was not corrected.

About the Edition

  • Decorative initials as well as seven illustrations (including title page) by Valenti Angelo, paragraph marks and illustrations colored by hand in blue, red, yellow, or gold.
  • Translation of William Caxton
  • Rudolf Koch‘s Bibel Gotisch type
  • Printed on unbleached Arnold paper from England
  • Bound in full red niger morocco with spine gilt lettered and five raised bands, fore and tail edges untrimmed, at The Grabhorn Press (mine rebound to match by Starr Bookworks with aniline dyed, vegetable tanned french goat from Talas; with hand-marbled endpapers done by Starr Bookworks)
  • 9 5/8″ X 6 1/2″, 167 pages
  • Limited to 200 copies

Pictures of the Edition

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{Ed. Note: You can click on any image for a close up view.}

The Fables of Esope, Grabhorn Press, Slipcase Spine (custom)
The Fables of Esope, Grabhorn Press, Slipcase Spine (custom)
The Fables of Esope, Grabhorn Press, Book in Slipcase (custom)
The Fables of Esope, Grabhorn Press, Book in Slipcase (custom)
The Fables of Esope, Grabhorn Press, Book Spine and Covers
The Fables of Esope, Grabhorn Press, Book Spine and Covers
The Fables of Esope, Grabhorn Press, Macro of Book Spine
The Fables of Esope, Grabhorn Press, Macro of Book Spine
The Fables of Esope, Grabhorn Press, Front Cover
The Fables of Esope, Grabhorn Press, Front Cover
The Fables of Esope, Grabhorn Press, Macro Side View
The Fables of Esope, Grabhorn Press, Macro Side View
The Fables of Esope, Grabhorn Press, Hand-marbled End Papers from Starr Bookworks
The Fables of Esope, Grabhorn Press, Hand-marbled End Papers from Starr Bookworks
The Fables of Esope, Grabhorn Press, Title Page
The Fables of Esope, Grabhorn Press, Title Page
The Fables of Esope, Grabhorn Press, Macro of Title Page #1
The Fables of Esope, Grabhorn Press, Macro of Title Page #1
The Fables of Esope, Grabhorn Press, Macro of Title Page #2
The Fables of Esope, Grabhorn Press, Macro of Title Page #2
The Fables of Esope, Grabhorn Press, Sample Text #1
The Fables of Esope, Grabhorn Press, Sample Text #1
The Fables of Esope, Grabhorn Press, Macro Text #1
The Fables of Esope, Grabhorn Press, Macro of Sample Text #1
The Fables of Esope, Grabhorn Press, Sample Illustration #1 with Text
The Fables of Esope, Grabhorn Press, Sample Illustration #1 with Text
The Fables of Esope, Grabhorn Press, Macro of Sample Illustration #1
The Fables of Esope, Grabhorn Press, Macro of Sample Illustration #1
The Fables of Esope, Grabhorn Press, Sample Text #2
The Fables of Esope, Grabhorn Press, Sample Text #2
The Fables of Esope, Grabhorn Press, Sample Illustration #2 with Text
The Fables of Esope, Grabhorn Press, Sample Illustration #2 with Text
The Fables of Esope, Grabhorn Press, Sample Illustration #3 with Text
The Fables of Esope, Grabhorn Press, Sample Illustration #3 with Text
The Fables of Esope, Grabhorn Press, Macro of Text #2
The Fables of Esope, Grabhorn Press, Macro of Text #2
The Fables of Esope, Grabhorn Press, Sample Illustration #4 with Text
The Fables of Esope, Grabhorn Press, Sample Illustration #4 with Text
The Fables of Esope, Grabhorn Press, Sample Text #3
The Fables of Esope, Grabhorn Press, Sample Text #3
The Fables of Esope, Grabhorn Press, Sample Text #4
The Fables of Esope, Grabhorn Press, Sample Text #4
The Fables of Esope, Grabhorn Press, Macro of Text #3
The Fables of Esope, Grabhorn Press, Macro of Text #3
The Fables of Esope, Grabhorn Press, Colophon
The Fables of Esope, Grabhorn Press, Colophon

2 thoughts on “The Fables of Esope, Grabhorn Press, Illustrations by Valenti Angelo (1930)

  1. Easily one of my favorite Grabhorn Press books and another superlative rebinding job by Starr Bookworks. The choice of Rudolf Koch’s Bibel Gotisch type is perfect and it works seamlessly with the medieval feel of Valenti Angelo’s illustrations and William Caxton’s original English translation from 1483. Interestingly, Angelo’s illustrations bear more than a passing resemblance to the 48 medieval woodcuts found in Erhard Ratdolt’s edition of the Poeticon Astronomicon published in 1482, subsequently published by the Allen Press in 1985.

    http://booksandvines.com/2012/06/10/the-poeticon-astronomicon-by-gaius-hyginus-the-allen-press-1985/

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