Heffelfinger Aesop's Fables Collection

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Aesop’s Fables Illustrated, Translated, Reinterpreted

Six Centuries of Books from the Minneapolis Athenaeum’s Ruth Heffelfinger Aesop’s Fables Collection Now on View in Special Collections

Aesop was a slave and storyteller believed to have lived in ancient Greece between 620 and 560 BCE. The modern view is that Aesop did not solely compose all those fables attributed to him, if he even existed at all. Whether Aesop is fact or fiction, stories associated with his name have passed on through centuries to modern times, with countless translations, reinterpretations, and illustrations.

The Heffelfinger Aesop’s Fables Collection is comprised primarily of 152 editions of Aesop’s Fables in numerous languages that date from the sixteenth century to the present. It is a fascinating peek at the way fables were presented and illustrated through history—from the simple woodcuts and old English of the 1400s (a facsimile) to the colored and comical 1900s.

Ruth J. Heffelfinger, 1902-1998

Heffelfinger was a civic activist who made significant contributions to local collections of rare books and plants. A native of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, she met her future husband, George W. Peavy Heffelfinger, a Minnesotan, on a cruise. They married and lived first in Winnipeg, then came to Minnesota during WWII.

The Aesop’s Fables and Others’ Fables Collection was donated by Heffelfinger in 1985, with additions in 2000. In addition to fables by Aesop, it includes important editions of the fables of La Fontaine and Reynard the Fox. Heffelfinger herself wrote a book about Aesop and his fables. She also wrote two manuscripts of chapter books for children: “Sea Circus” and “The Clan of the Turtle,” both available in the collection.

The Aesop’s Fables display will be on view in Special Collections at the Minneapolis Central Library through April.