Fables (John Gay, 1727)

A collection of poems geared towards children of upper-class families destined for public life. Indeed, Gay wrote them specifically for George II’s youngest son, Prince William. Almost all feature anthropomorphized animals illustrating some moral point, often the perils of vanity and pretense, or the dangers of being taken in by self-serving sycophants posing as friends. At the same time, there’s a certain sarcastic undertone that rather suggests the distinction between politics and realpolitik is a polite fiction.

At least in the fourth edition (1738), every single poem has a large woodcut depicting its principal scene, and they’re all exquisitely detailed.

Inscription: A gift to William Webster on occasion of his 14th birthday, June 7th, 1741.