Jest book is a collection of stories of a kind that was particularly popular in England and on the continent during and after the 16th c. Jest books were descendants of such collections of tales as the Gesta Romanorum (jest’ derives from gesta or geste), volumes of moral anecdotes like the Alphabet of Tales and Speculum Laicorum, and theological handbooks like John Bromyard’s Summa Praedicantium (a kind of guide to easier preaching). The jests are often reminiscent of the medieval fabliau and for the most part, are brief and didactic, humorous and satirical; sometimes they are ribald.
The earliest known example in English is A Hundred Merry Tales (c. 1526). Later popular works were The Geystes of Skoggan (1565–6), an account of the exploits of John Scogan, a famous jester at the court of Edward IV; Tarlton’s Jests (c. 1592); and The Merry Conceited Jests of George Peele (1607). A Latin source was the Facetiae of Poggio (late 14th c.). The modern counterpart of the old jest books is the compilation of jokes and stories for all occasions.
Also read: Mythopoeic definition and meaning