Lenaghan, R. T
. Harvard University Press . Cambridge
PA3855.E5 L38 (Carlson Fable Collection, BIC bldg)
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A valuable book for which I sought a long time. I was amazed to find it in this downtown San Diego store whose owner thought he had nothing for me. The introduction gives a clear picture of the provenance of Caxton's version, a translation-plus-additions of the 1480 French translation of Steinhöwel's German/Latin of the 1474 (Ulm) and the 1477 (Augsburg) edition. Caxton's woodcuts are rough reworkings of the French, which were traced from Steinhöwel's. Lenaghan presents the Augsburg woodcuts as superior; the five Caxton illustrations in Appendix II are clearly inferior. There are vocabulary words at the bottom of the page and in a glossary, notes especially comparing Caxton with the French source, and a valuable table of Perry numbers. Now in 1996 I have worked through the texts thoroughly and want to note briefly here how often Caxton's versions take turns I did not expect from having worked with earlier and later versions. These include, in his numbering, 3, 7, and 14 in Book I. The rat is a pilgrim who asks the frog for help across the river, the sun's breeding is related only to humans and not to frogs, and the snail that cannot be cracked has become a nut, betrayed by a raven. In Book II, 5, 12, and 14 cause me hesitation: are we not to fear roaring mountains? Are we to learn from this fly's bite only that we should not laugh over others' misfortunes? Does the fable still work when the fox and the mask have become a wolf and a skull? In II 20, I am surprised when the ox steps on the mother frog as she puffs herself up! Check III 2, 8, 11, and 12. In 2, it is hard for me to sort out the physician and sore foot gambits of lion and horse. Caxton demurely breaks off the scratching story of 8-and lets clerics read it in Latin--because he does not want to offend women. I believe that 11 mixes up who does what between father and son. The last lines of 12 move into surprising claims that evil men cannot hurt each other. In Book IV, I find unusual turns in 1, 3, 10, and 15. In the first, the fox does not even leap for the grapes and is praised by Caxton. Fable 3 becomes a new and better fable with a wolf for a fox and a shepherd for a woodsman; for once the hunter understands the shepherd but the wolf takes off as soon as he sees the shepherd betraying his presence. In 15, the lion moves on from the statue to subdue the man and throw him into a pit! In V 11, there is no manger for the dog to bark from, and in Rinnucio 2, the beetle becomes a weasel. Instead of the dung beetle's flying over Jupiter's lap, the weasel builds a dung heap and jumps smelly into his lap, just to get brushed out of it with the eggs because Jupiter cannot stand the smell. Overall this collection shows its moralistic medieval roots, and Caxton is very concerned with the good people against evil people and particularly with the little people against those who have power over them. I am keeping in the good copy a facsimile of an advertisement by Caxton which I found in one of the extra copies.