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From Poggio to Caxton: Early Translations of Some of Poggio’s Latin Facetiae

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Chapter Summary

The seven facetiae by Poggio Bracciolini, or Poggio the Florentine, are a peculiar presence in the vernacular versions of the fables of Aesop which began with the compilation assembled by Heinrich Steinhöwel and translated by him into German. Recent discoveries have enabled us to get closer to the Aesopus texts which Caxton translated, including some of the facetiae. He translated no fewer than 23 works into English, mainly from French, but a few from Latin and Dutch. Most of Caxton's sources were unidentified manuscripts which are probably no longer extant. Caxton stated in the beginning of his Aesop that he had translated it from the French 'in the yere of oure Lorde M. CCCC. lxxxiij', and at the end the colophon date is 26 March 1484. The translation of the four facetiae which Caxton added to the Steinhöwel compilation is more interesting, and it obviously offered Caxton much amusement.

Keywords: Aesopus texts; Caxton; Heinrich Steinhöwel; Latin facetiae; Poggio Bracciolini



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