[Vicenza, Jacobus de Dusa] c. 1482.
4to (197 x 136 mm.). a8 b-c6 ($3 (+A4)).  leaves. Roman type (102), 29 lines per page (text block 148 x 98 mm.), two-line capital spaces with printed guide letters, quires signed on the last line of text. Early 19th-century English gilt ruled purple morocco, small gilt tulips in corners, flat spine with solid Romantic foliage tools and vertically gilt lettered title (slightly rubbed), turn-ins gilt, all edges gilt, green silk marker. “THE TRUE AESOP FOR THE BROAD MIDDLE AGES” (Manitius, tr.). ONLY SURVIVING COPY OF THIS EDITION. THIS TWELFTH-CENTURY ENGLISH FABLE COLLECTION CONTAINS “ONE OF THE FEW MEDIEVAL TALES TO PRESENT JEWS IN A POSITIVE LIGHT” (Zago et al.). In the 1170s Walter of England produced sixty-two verse fables, fifty-eight based on a late classical corpus, four original stories and three additional tales, which brings the total to sixty-five. The contemporary event that inspired Walter’s The Jew and the Cup Bearer is considered THE ORIGIN OF THE JEWISH RITUAL MURDER LIBEL. In 1044 at Norwich, a Christian boy was killed, a Jewish merchant suspected, arrested, tried and acquitted. Two years later, in revenge for what was widely seen as Jewish blood libel, the merchant was murdered, in Walter’s telling, by the Royal Cup Bearer, who revealed his deed to King Stephen. The monarch swiftly condemned and executed the violator and publicly vindicated the innocent Jewish victim. Of Germanic origin, The Snow Child (here The Man and the Adulterous Wife) tells of the woman who was “impregnated by the snow” during her merchant husband’s absence. Getting the drift, he took the boy, sold him into slavery and claimed he melted in the sun. “This story enjoyed great popularity in England” (Du Méril, tr.). The final fable, The Lion, the Wolf and the Fox, ties the present printing to only two others. Physical evidence assigns this remarkable fable book to the press of Jacopo de Dusa, previously credited with four publications, all confined to 1482. The wide set of the type matches that in his Claudianus and distinguishes it from the fonts of Achates and Liechtenstein, while its wear sets it apart from Koblinger’s Roman. Moreover, this Aesop shares the paper stock of Dusa’s other quarto and at least two of his three folios (watermark as Briquet 4667). The present set of sixty-five fables are unique to three 15th-century plain-text editions, surviving in four examples — Toscolano 1479 (Cambridge, Rylands), that offered here and ?Vicenza c. 1485 (Innsbruck). None appears in the English, German or U.S. auction records. In fine condition (first quire misfolded), the Wolters-Du Méril copy, out of sight for a century and a half.Wolters, Cat. (1844) 412 this copy; Du Méril, Poésies inédites du Moyen âge 417-20 this copy (citing Brunet); Brunet I: 88 (?the Celotti ex. sold 1825, ?an error); Keidel, A Manual of Aesopic Fable Literature 77 (after Brunet); GW online 385/10N this copy.For the text — Hervieux, Les fabulistes latins I: 472-666 & II: 316-351; Manitius, Gesch. d. latein. Lit. d. Mittelalters III: 771-3; Lerer, Children’s Literature: A Reader’s History 41-5; Zago et al., “The Jew and the King’s Cup-Bearer: A Tale of Jewish Life in Medieval Europe” in Fabula 42 (2001) 213-242; Hale, “Aesop in Renaissance England” in The Library Ser. 5 vol. XXVII (1972) 116-25.For the type & watermark — BMC VII: lxv & 1048-9 and, of course, Haebler’s Typenrepertorium. Item #8192