An emblem book is a book collecting emblems (allegorical illustrations) with accompanying explanatory text, typically morals or poems. This category of books was popular in Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries.
Emblem books are collections of sets of three elements: an icon or image, a motto, and text explaining the connection between the image and motto. The text ranged in length from a few lines of verse to pages of prose. Emblem books descended from medieval bestiaries that explained the importance of animals, proverbs, and fables. In fact, writers often drew inspiration from Greek and Roman sources such as Aesop's Fables and Plutarch's Lives.
But if someone asks me what Emblemata really are? I will reply to him, that they are mute images, and nevertheless speaking: insignificant matters, and none the less of importance: ridiculous things, and nonetheless not without wisdom [...]— Jacob Cats, Voor-reden over de Proteus, of Minne-beelden, verandert in sinne-beelden.
Scholars differ on the key question of whether the actual emblems in question are the visual images, the accompanying texts, or the combination of the two. This is understandable, given that first emblem book, the Emblemata of Andrea Alciato, was first issued in an unauthorized edition in which the woodcuts were chosen by the printer without any input from the author, who had circulated the texts in unillustrated manuscript form. It contained around a hundred short verses in Latin. One image it depicted was the lute, which symbolized the need for harmony instead of warfare in the city-states of Italy.
Some early emblem books were unillustrated, particularly those issued by the French printer Denis de Harsy. With time, however, the reading public came to expect emblem books to contain picture-text combinations. Each combination consisted of a woodcut or engraving accompanied by one or more short texts, intended to inspire their readers to reflect on a general moral lesson derived from the reading of both picture and text together. The picture was subject to numerous interpretations: only by reading the text could a reader be certain which meaning was intended by the author. Thus the books are closely related to the personal symbolic picture-text combinations called personal devices, known in Italy as imprese and in France as devises. Many of the symbolic images present in emblem books were used in other contexts, on clothes, furniture, street signs, and the façades of buildings. For instance, a sword and scales symbolized death.
Emblem books, both secular and religious, attained enormous popularity throughout continental Europe, though in Britain they did not capture the imagination of readers to quite the same extent. The books were especially numerous in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, and France. Emblem books first became popular in the sixteenth century with Andrea Alciato's Emblemata and remained popular until the eighteenth century.
Many emblematic works borrowed plates or texts (or both) from earlier exemplars, as was the case with Geoffrey Whitney's Choice of Emblemes, a compilation which chiefly used the resources of the Plantin Press in Leyden.
Early European studies of Egyptian hieroglyphs, like that of Athanasius Kircher, assumed that the hieroglyphs were emblems, and imaginatively interpreted them accordingly.
A similar collection of emblems, but not in book form, is Lady Drury's Closet.
|Author or compilator||Title||Engraver, Illustrator||Publisher||Loc.||Publ.||Theme||# of Embl.||Lang. [n 1]||Notes|
|Andrea Alciato||Emblemata||probably Hans Schäufelin after Jörg Breu the Elder||Heinrich Steyner||Augsburg||1531||104||the first and most widely disseminated emblem book.|
|Guillaume de La Perrière||Theatre de bons engines||Paris||1539|
|Achille Bocchi||Symbolicarum quaestionum de universo genere||1555|
|Gabriele Faerno||Centum Fabulae||1563||fables||100||la|
|János Zsámboky||Emblemata cum aliquot nummis antiqui operis||Vienna||1564|
|Georgette de Monteney||Emblemes, ou Devises Chrestiennes||Jean de Tournes ?||Lyon||1571|
|Geoffrey Whitney||Choice of Emblemes||(various)||Plantin||Leiden||1586||248|
|Cesare Ripa||Iconologia||Rome||1593||not properly speaking an emblem book but a collection of erudite allegories.|
|Nicolaus Taurellus||Emblemata Physico Ethica||Nuremberg||1595|
|Daniel Heinsius||Quaeris quid sit amor||Jakob de Gheyn II||(Netherlands)||1601||love||first emblem book dedicated to love; later name "Emblemata amatoria"|
|Jacobus Typotius||Symbola Divina et Humana||Aegidius Sadeler II||Prague||1601|
|Otto van Veen||Amorum Emblemata||Otto van Veen||Henricus Swingenius||Antwerp||1608||love||124||la||Published in more than one multilingual edition, with variants including French, Dutch, English, Italian and Spanish|
|Pieter Corneliszoon Hooft||Emblemata Amatoria||(Netherlands)||1611||love||Not to be confused with Quaeris quid sit amor, which was republished under the same name.|
|Gabriel Rollenhagen||Nucleus emblematum||Hildesheim||1611|
|Otto van Veen||Amoris divini emblemata||Otto van Veen||(Netherlands)||1615||divine love|
|Daniel Heinsius||Het Ambacht van Cupido||Leiden||1615|
|Michael Maier||Atalanta Fugiens||Matthias Merian||Johann Theodor de Bry||Oppenheim||1617||alchemy||50||la,de||Also contains a fugue for each emblem|
|Peter Iselburg||Aula Magna Curiae Noribergensis Depicta||Nuremberg||1617||32||la,de|
|Daniel Cramer, Conrad Bachmann||Emblemata Sacra||1617||40|
|Jacob Cats||Silenus Alcibiadis, sive Proteus||(Netherlands?)||1618|
|Jacob Cats||Sinn’en Minne-beelden||Adriaen van de Venne||(Netherlands)||1618||Two alternative explanations for each emblem, one related to mind (Sinnn), the other to love (Minne).|
|Julius Wilhelm Zincgref||Emblemata||Frankfurt||1619|
|Jacob Cats||Monita Amoris Virginei||Amsterdam||1620||moral||45||for women|
|Raphael Custos||Emblemata amoris||1622|
|Johan de Brune||Emblemata of Zinne-werck||Adriaen van de Venne||Amsterdam||1624||51|
|Herman Hugo||Pia desideria||Boetius à Bolswert||Antwerp||1624||la||42 Latin editions; widely translated|
|Daniel Stolz von Stolzenberg||Viridarium Chymicum||Prague?||1624||alchemy|
|Lucas Jennis||Musaeum Hermeticum||Frankfurt||1625||alchemy||la|
|Jacob Cats||Proteus ofte Minne-beelden||Rotterdam||1627|
|Benedictus van Haeften||Schola cordis||1629|
|Daniel Cramer||Emblemata moralia nova||Frankfurt||1630|
|Antonius a Burgundia||Linguae vitia et remedia||Jacob Neefs, Andries Pauwels||Joannes Cnobbaert||Antwerp||1631||45|||
|Jacob Cats||Spiegel van den Ouden ende Nieuwen Tijdt||Adriaen van de Venne||(Netherlands?)||1632|
|Henry Hawkins||Partheneia Sacra||1633|
|Etienne Luzvic||Le cœur dévot||1634||translated into English as The Devout Heart|
|George Wither||A collection of Emblemes, Ancient and Moderne||1635|
|Francis Quarles||Emblems||William Marshall & al.||1635|
|Jan Harmenszoon Krul||Minne-spiegel ter Deughden||Amsterdam||1639|
|Jean Bolland, Sidronius Hosschius||Imago primi saeculi Societatis Iesu a provincia Flandro-Belgica ejusdem Societatis repraesentata||Cornelis Galle the Elder||Plantin Press||Antwerp||1640||A Jesuit emblem book illustrating the history of the Jesuit order in the Southern Netherlands|
|Diego de Saavedra Fajardo||Empresas Políticas||1640|
|(anonymous)||Devises et emblemes d'amour||Albert Flamen||Paris||1648|
|Filippo Picinelli||Il mondo simbolico||Milan||1653||encyclopedic||it||1000 pages|
|Adrien Gambart||La Vie symbolique du bienheureux François de Sales||Albert Flamen||Paris||1664|
|Jan Luyken||Jesus en de ziel||(Netherlands)||1678|
|Josep Romaguera||Atheneo de Grandesa||(anonymous)||Barcelona||1681||15||ca|
|Livre curieux et très utile pour les sçavans, et artistes||Nicolas Verrien||Daniel de La Feuille||Amsterdam||1691||encyclopedic|
|Jan Luyken||Het Menselyk Bedryf
("The Book of Trades")
|Jacobus Boschius||Symbolographia sive De Arte Symbolica sermones septem||Caspar Beucard||Augsburg||1701||encyclopedic||3347|
|Romeyn de Hooghe||Hieroglyphica of Merkbeelden der oude volkeren||(Netherlands?)||1735|
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