Burkard Waldis: Esopus 400 Fabeln und Erzählungen nach der Erstausgabe von 1548 [Esopus. 400 Fables and Tales in Accordance with the First Edition from 1548]

Edited by Ludger Lieb, Jan Mohr, and Herfried Vögel. 2011. De Gruyter. ISBN: 978-3-11-025475-4 (hard cover).


Reviewed by David Elton Gay, Indiana University

[Review length: 372 words • Review posted on January 30, 2013]


The comparative study of early modern fables will be made easier with the appearance of this new edition of Burkard Waldis’ verse translation of four hundred Aesopic fables from 1548.

Volume One of the edition presents the text of Waldis’ translation. Lieb, Mohr, and Vögel present a plain text of the fables in this first volume; all textual and other commentaries are in the second volume. The language of the fables is Early New High German, but they can be read with little problem by anyone who can read modern German (some reference might have to be made to the various grammars and glossaries of Early New High German for specific words and grammatical points, however).

Volume Two contains the introduction, commentary, text critical comments, indices, and the bibliographies. Though the introduction is brief, it nonetheless offers information about a number of topics: the types, form, and themes of Waldis’ fables; information about period biographical notices concerning Waldis; the models for his Esopus; the printing history for Waldis’ Esopus during the sixteenth century; comments on the reception and research history concerning the Esopus; and, finally, general information about the edition and the editorial principles guiding it and the commentary.

The commentaries to the fables vary in length, and tend toward strictly text-critical commentary rather than cultural, literary, or folkloric information about the fables. They do, however, give the Latin original for the two hundred and eighty-one fables taken from Martin Dorp’s 1522 Latin edition of Aesop’s fables, and, where relevant, the ATU number for the fable, a reference to Frederic Tubach, Index Exemplorum: A Handbook of Medieval Religious Tales, FFC 204 (Helsinki, 1969), and to Gerd Dicke and Klaus Grubmüller, Die Fabeln des Mittelalters und der frühen Neuzeit (Münster, 1987). The extensive indices provide further help for the student of the fables by offering guides to elements such as the biblical references in the fables; proverbs and other traditional phrases used in the fables; and the various things and names mentioned in the fables. There is also a concordance giving the numbers and titles of Waldis’ fables in comparison to the Aesopus Dorpii.

Lieb, Mohr, and Vögel have indeed given students of the fable a very useful edition and commentary to Waldis’ Esopus.

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© Journal of Folklore Research, 2010. Last revised June 21, 2010.