Guide for Human Life


Composed in India by a wise brahmin known in the West as Bidpai, Panchatantra (Five treatises) is an Indian anthology of stories and fables. Although purportedly about animals, the fables contain aphorisms celebrating intelligence, cunning, the rules of social life, and princely wisdom, and were intended to instruct the sons of rulers. First written in Sanskrit, the tales are dated in some sources to between the third century and the sixth century. Other scholars hold that they are considerably older, and originate from the third century BC. The Sanskrit versions do not survive, but the Panchatantra appeared in various languages as it made its way westward: Middle Persian (in the sixth century), Syriac, Arabic (in 750, in a translation by the Persian Ibn al-Muqaffa’, a highly educated writer and influential courtier), and Hebrew (in the 12th century). The 12th-century Hebrew version by Rabbi Joel, known as Kalila wa-Dimna (Kalila and Dimna), was the basis on which Giovanni da Capua (active 13th century) selected, adapted, and published in Latin an anthology of stories and fables entitled Directorium humanae vitae alias parabola antiquorum sapientum (Guide for human life or other proverbs of the ancient sages). Johann Prüss printed this edition of the anthology, with its beautiful woodblock illustrations, in Strasbourg in 1489.

Date Created

Subject Date

Publication Information

Johann Prüss, Strasbourg


Title in Original Language

Directorium humanae vite

Type of Item

Physical Description

82 pages : illustrations ; 28 centimeters

Last updated: May 31, 2016