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Northern European Emblem Books, 1550–1700

49 volumes

The term emblema was coined by the jurist Andrea Alciato in 1522: he used it to designate a novel literary device—the witty and erudite pairing of a motto with an epigrammatic commentary. In commenting on the motto, the epigram often makes use of verbal images, and perhaps as a result, one of the earliest (unauthorized) printings of Alciati’s manuscript Emblemata (Augsburg: Heinrich Steyner, 1531) translates verba (words) into picturae (pictures), incorporating woodcut illustrations, interpolated not by Alciato but by the publisher, probably at the behest of Alciato’s humanist friend Conrad Peutinger. Whereas the original Emblemata were erudite, festive, and occasionally ribald, the illustrated versions issued in Southern Germany and France (mainly Lyons) utilized pictures to appeal to a much wider public of reader-viewers.

In the form codified by Andrea Alciato and publishers such as Steyner, emblem books adduce their arguments by means of a complex text-image apparatus that operates bi-directionally, reading from text to image, and conversely, from image to text. Generally, a lemma (motto) is attached to a pictorial image, while a longer epigrammatic text (in verse or prose) comments upon this relationship. The connections between text and image are often complex, even paradoxical, for they were devised to test the reader-viewer’s powers of observation and interpretation. By the second half of the sixteenth century, emblem books had many functions: some were proverbial, others scholarly, yet others exegetical. Some were used to meditate on sacred or secular subjects, others to cultivate the soul and facilitate exercises geared toward self-formation.

Northern Europe was the preeminent center for the production of emblems, and Emory University has an important collection of emblem books, mainly published in the Low Countries, with a few French, German, and Italian comparanda.

—Walter S. Melion

Adnotationes et meditationes in Euangelia quae in sacrosancto Missae sacrificio toto anno leguntur …

  • Author: Nadal, Gerónimo, 1507-1580.; Ximenes, Jacobus, 1530-1596.; Wierix, Antonie, 16th cent.,; Wierix, Jeronimus, 1553-1619,; Wierix, Jan, 16th cent.,; Col…
  • Published: 1607
  • Publisher: Antuerpiae: Ex officina Plantiniana, apud Ioannem Moretum
  • Added: July 12, 2022, 1:43 p.m.

Af-beeldinghe van d'eerste eeuwe der Societeyt Iesu voor ooghen ghestelt door de Duyts-Nederlantsch…

  • Author: Bolland, Johannes, 1596-1665.; Henschenius, Godefridus, 1601-1681.; Tollenaere, Jean de, 1582-1643.; Poirters, Adrien, 1605-1674.; Galle, Cornelis, 1…
  • Published: 1640
  • Publisher: T'Antwerpen: In de Plantiinsche Druckeriie
  • Added: May 8, 2020, 12:45 p.m.

Andreae Alciati emblematvm libellvs.

  • Author: Alciati, Andrea, 1492-1550.; Jollat, illustrator.
  • Published: 1536
  • Publisher: Parisiis: Ex officina Christiani Wecheli ...
  • Added: May 18, 2020, 3:30 p.m.

AntonI Sucquet e Societate Iesu Via vita aeternae iconibus

  • Author: Sucquet, Antoine, 1574-1627?; Bolswert, Boëce van, ca. 1580-1633
  • Published: 1620
  • Publisher: Antuerpiae: Typis Martini Nutij
  • Added: May 6, 2020, 4:08 p.m.

Augspurgisches Iubel-Gedächtnüs

  • Author: Roth, Johann Michael, -1748; Baeck, Elias, 1679-1747; Kolb, Johann Christoph, 1680-1743; Rogg, Gottfried; Schmid, Albrecht, approximately 1667-1744
  • Published: 1730
  • Publisher: [Augspurg]: [Johann Michael Roth]
  • Added: Sept. 6, 2023, 4:49 p.m.

Beschouwing der wereld : bestaande in hondert konstige figuuren, met godlyke spreuken en stichtelyk…

  • Author: Luiken, Jan, 1649-1712.
  • Published: 1708
  • Publisher: Te Amsteldam: By de wed. P. Arentz en K. vander Sys
  • Added: May 18, 2020, 2:25 p.m.

Biblia ectypa

  • Author: Weigel, Christoph, 1654-1725
  • Published: 1695
  • Publisher: Augspurg: Weigel
  • Added: Sept. 6, 2023, 2:41 p.m.

Christeliicken waerseggher

  • Author: David, Jan, 1545?-1613; Galle, Cornelis, 1576-1650; Moretus, Jan, 1543-1610
  • Published: 1603
  • Publisher: T'Antwerpen: Inde Plantijnsche druckerije, by Ian Moerentorf, M. D. CIII.
  • Added: Sept. 28, 2023, 12:56 p.m.

D. Catharinae Senensis, virginis ssmae. Ord. Prædicatorum vita ac miracula selectiora formis aeneis…

  • Author: Ophovens, Michel van, 1571-1637; Straet, Jan van der, 1523-1605; Galle, Cornelis, 1576-1650; Galle, Philippe, 1537-1612
  • Published: 1603
  • Publisher: Antuerpiae: Apud Philippum Gallaeum
  • Added: Sept. 27, 2023, 11:17 a.m.

De bykorf des gemoeds : honing zaamelende uit allerly bloemen

  • Author: Luiken, Jan, 1649-1712.
  • Published: 1735
  • Publisher: Te Amsteldam: By Kornelis vander Sys ...
  • Added: May 18, 2020, 2:39 p.m.