The “Ulm Aesop”, as it became noted over the years, is a bilingual edition of the famous fables by the Greek storyteller.
The layout of the book has the German version of each fable being preceded by the Latin version from which Steinhöwel had translated.
Its most remarkable feature is the succession of 208 woodcuts, each only partly framed and laid out over the width of the printed page. Each woodcut is placed to head the German version of the fables, or single episodes of the Life. In this way illustration served to emphasize the structure of the text, and was also explicitly linked to bringing vernacular texts to life for readers who would not be reading them in Latin.
The many schoolchildren who had to read Latin versions of Aesop’s fables as part of their early instruction in the language were not granted the benefit of pictures until much later.
Steinhowel’s selection of texts, combined with the exceptionally fine woodcuts Johann Zainer had procured, became the model for all subsequent reprints in German (none of them bilingual), and for translations into other vernacular languages: Low-German and ‘Kölnisch’, French, English, Dutch, and Czech.
Its woodcuts were copied, these copies were copied, and so on, giving rise to a large number of successive generations of cuts, all still echoing the original designs, with reversals and small variations.