Page:The fables of Aesop, as first printed by William Caxton in 1484, with those of Avian, Alfonso and Poggio. Vol 1.djvu/215

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CAXTON'S CHOICE. 189

(Order of Chivalry). As "stuff o' the imagination" he provided his countrymen with characteristic specimens of the three great English poetic names — Chaucer, Gower, Lydgate (Canterbury Tales, Confessio Amantis, Chorle and Bird), and equally characteristic examples of mediaeval romance, classical (Recueil, Eneydos, Jason), national (Charles, Arthur), allegorical (Fame, Love), and satirical (Reynard). In ghostly instruction his books taught the Christian how to pray (Fifteen Oes), how and when to be edified (Festial, Four Sermons), what examples to follow in life (Golden Legend), how to die (Art and Craft of Dying, Deathbed Prayers), and what to expect after death (Pilgrimage of the Soul). Altogether considering Caxton was publisher as well as author and printer, he showed himself fully ahead of the taste of his day and went far towards producing the hundred best books in English for his day and hour.

Not least did he show his taste and insight in selecting our Aesop for one of his most ambitious productions. After all, the books that are really European may even at the present day be counted on the fingers of one hand, and