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In introducing the printing press to England, William Caxton, born in Kent in 1415, helped to revolutionise the production and circulation of information. Aesop was an enslaved person in Greece; a storyteller who lived approximately 620–560 BCE. Likely the transmitter, rather than the originator of many of his fables, he represents the age-old human impulse to tell stories, and to pass them on. The fables – often centred on animals – teach a simple, practical morality, deeply rooted in human experience and common sense, and giving worldly, rather than metaphysical, reasons for behaving well. This 1484 edition of Aesop’s Fables was printed just eight years after Caxton had first introduced the printing press to Britain, and are translations from the French. The first text Caxton printed in English had been Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, whose sprawling subject matter embraced the secular as well as the religious landscape of 14th century England.

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