Friday, December 19, 2008

eLitterae Interview + Special Offer

For those of you who subscribe to Bolchazy-Carducci's eLitterae newsletter, check your email inbox for the latest edition: there's a special discount offer - 50% OFF - for people who want to order the Aesop's Fables book now! (I'm not sure when the book will actually start shipping - I am guessing it will be the first week of January.)

Aesop’s Fables in Latin: Ancient Wit and Wisdom from the Animal Kingdom represents the latest entry into intermediate Latin textbooks for both high school and university students. With this book, students review grammar and syntax and increase their knowledge of Latin prose style while they read eighty Aesop’s fables in Latin prose, taken from the 17th-century edition illustrated by Francis Barlow. These Latin prose fables are ideal for Latin language students: simple, short, witty, and to-the-point, with a memorable moral lesson that provides a jumping-off point for discussion. 40 original black-and-white Barlow illustrations and over 100 pertinent Latin proverbs are featured, spurs for classroom discussion. Selected fables include many that have become proverbial, such as “The Tortoise and The Hare” and “The Dog in the Manger,” along with many intriguing, lesser known ones.

For those teachers and students inclined to take a blended approach to learning Latin, author Laura Gibbs has created a plethora of FREE online resources in support of this book. Visit and join the book’s community of users. Read a fable-of-the-day, view full-size images from Barlow’s Aesop, and watch Aesop videos featuring the woodcuts accompanied by the reading of the fable in Latin.

Each fable has its own dedicated webpage where teachers and students can read commentary on the Latin grammar and syntax of the fable, view the original Barlow page containing both the image and the Latin fable as it was published in the 17th century, watch the fable-specific video, listen to the podcast in Latin, link to other outside sources for additional scholarship on each fable, and more! Click here ( for an example featuring the fable, “De Leaena et Vulpe.”

This book and its companion online components are perfect for doing Latin-language warm-ups before class, assigning fables as fun homework, or to use after students have taken their AP exams as a break from Classical Latin authors.

Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers took some time to ask the author, Dr. Laura Gibbs, about what makes this book special:

Bolchazy-Carducci: What gave you the idea of writing a textbook on Aesop's Fables in Latin? Didn't Aesop write in Greek?

Laura Gibbs: Aesop was a Greek storyteller – but his stories were famous in Rome, too. The oldest collection of Aesop's fables that has survived from the ancient world is actually a collection of Latin poems by Phaedrus, a freed slave from the household of the Emperor Augustus – but since poetry is usually harder to read than prose, I really wanted to find a collection of Aesop's fables in Latin prose. What got me especially excited about this particular collection of Aesop's fables in Latin prose is that it has illustrations, too!

BCP: How is the textbook organized? How is each fable presented to the reader?

LG: There are a total of 80 fables in the book. In terms of actual length, it adds up to something about as long as Book IV of Vergil's Aeneid – but each fable is a separate little unit of its own, and you can read them in any order you like. There is an introduction for each fable that explains something about the theme and history of the fable, along with some comments about grammar and style. Then there is a vocabulary list for the words in the fable, along with a line-by-line commentary explaining any difficult constructions in the Latin. We were able to include illustrations for half of the fables (40 illustrations in all) and there are also Latin proverbs scattered throughout the book, too, matching the morals of the stories.

BCP: How do you see this textbook being used?

LG: The fables are arranged in order of difficulty, so you can work through the book from start to finish as a basic course in Latin prose. Alternatively, since each fable can stand on its own, the book can provide a great source of supplementary reading for any Latin course. The fables are also a fantastic way to do Latin prose composition. Substitute different animals, change the moral, even invent a different outcome for the plot – you'll find it very easy to write your own Latin fables based on the fables you find in the book.

BCP: Where did you find the images? Do you find that they help in making sense of the Latin in the fables?

LG: The fables come from a book published in 1687, and there are only a few copies of the book to be found anywhere in the United States. One of those copies is in the Rare Books Collection at Michigan State University; the illustrations you see in the book come from that copy. Unlike the simple woodcut illustrations that were used to illustrate Aesop's fables in the 15th and 16th centuries, these 17th-century illustrations are really wonderful works of art. My favorite is the illustration to the war between the birds and the beasts, where you can see imaginary animals like unicorns and gryphons fighting with barnyard animals like cats and roosters. There's even a little hedgehog trying to nose his way into the fight!

BCP: You created a cornucopia of online supporting materials for this textbook for a blended, 21st-century approach to learning Latin. Are these for teachers, students? How do you see them being used? What do they provide that a textbook cannot?

LG: This book actually started out as a project on the Internet, so I've been working on the web-based materials even longer than the book! I hope that the materials at the website,, will be useful to teachers and also to students at all levels. There are audio and visual materials at the website, along with additional grammar commentary, quizzes, and other learning materials. Best of all, the site is interactive – so students and teachers can publish their own materials at the site, too. For example, if you write your own version of a fable in Latin, you could publish it at the site. It's also possible to create study groups at the website, so independent learners, for example, or homeschoolers could use the website to "meet up" and work through the fables with other students anywhere in the country, or anywhere in the world, for that matter!

BCP: What was your favorite part about doing this project?

LG: Well, this may sound strange, but my favorite part of this project has been a kind of imaginary dialogue I have had in my mind with Francis Barlow, the artist who did the illustrations and arranged for the original publication of this book over three hundred years ago. He invested years of his life in the project, creating the illustrations, choosing the Latin text, finding the investors to back the publication, and so on. They didn't have publishing houses back then the way we do now, so Francis Barlow had a lot of work to do just to bring the book into existence. Well, here we are now, hundreds of years later, and we are putting his book into the hands of readers again. I don't believe in ghosts, but I have thought a great deal about how very pleased Mr. Francis Barlow would be to know that we have published his fables and illustrations once again, now in the 21st century!

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