Joseph Jacobs is known chiefly as a historian of the Jewish peoples, and as a folklorist.
In 1890 he published English Fairy Tales, followed, in 1894, by More English Fairy Tales. The books include popular tales such as Jack and the Beanstalk, The Story of the Three Bears (Goldilocks), Cap o' Rushes (a Cinderella type story), and Dick Whittington. Jacobs wrote the stories in a way in which they would actually be told to children.
His other works include collections of Celtic fairy tales, a collection of Indian fairy tales, an edition of Aesop, and a Book of Wonder Voyages.