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The Big Book of Fables Edited by Walter Jerrold and Illustrated by Charles Robinson

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The Big Book of Fables Edited by Walter Jerrold and Illustrated by Charles Robinson

Walter Jerrold has chosen the fables and edited this Big Book of Fables which was first published in 1912 (although, of course, the fables themselves are much older). Jerrold was a writer and newspaper editor. He spent much of his time in London, starting out as a clerk in a newspaper counting house and going on to become deputy editor of The Observer.

Front Cover - Big Book of FablesFrontis
Front Cover / Frontis

The book is covered with red cloth and has a gilt patterned and titled spine. The first edition has a gilt design to the front board, the early reprints have a blind design i.e., no gilt.

This book contains fables from many different authors, for example The Raven by William Cowper, as well as those by Aesop and La Fontaine.  Many of the verse fables in this “Big Book” are translated from La Fontaine. The intention of each fable is the same throughout – to present a little story which is entertaining by what it tells and teaches us by what it implies.

The Fables may be by different authors, but the illustrations are all by Charles Robinson.

A Snake and A FileBorrowed Feathers
A Snake and A File / Borrowed Feathers

This book has 28 full page colour plates, some of which are shades of red and grey, others are full colour. The frontispiece is a spectacular full colour plate depicting the fable ‘A Peacock and A Crane’. The fable is thus:

As a peacock and a crane were in company together, the peacock spread his tail, and challenged the other to show him such a fan of feathers. The crane, upon this, sprang up into the air, and calls to the peacock to follow him if he could.

“You brag of your plumes,” says he, “that are fair indeed to the eye, but no way useful or fit for any manner of service.”

And the moral of the story? That which is useful is of more importance than that which is merely ornamental.

A Bear and BeesA Bear and Bees
A Bear and Bees

There are also full page black and white illustrations as well as illustrations within the text and as chapter headers and footers.

Looking through the book, I come across a fable entitled “A Swallow and a Spider”… Of course, as the owner of a number of tarantulas,  the word ‘spider’ caught my attention so I had to read it…

“A spider that observed a swallow catching flies fell immediately to work upon a net to catch swallows, for she looked upon it as an encroachment upon her right. But the birds, without any difficulty, broke through her work and flew away with the very net itself.

“Well,” says the spider, “bird-catching is not one of my talents I perceive,” and so she returned to her old trade of catching flies again.”

A Swallow and a Spider
A Swallow and a Spider

The moral: It is well to learn by experience!

How true!

For more about Fables and Aesop, I invite you to take a look at an archived article of ours from years gone by:

Contributed by Sonia

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(Published 7th Mar 2023)

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