Emblem book

Emblem book

Emblem books are a particular style of illustrated book developed in Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries, normally containing about one hundred combinations of pictures and text.

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 the 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. 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 "Lang|it|imprese" and in France as "Lang|fr|devises".Emblem books, both secular and religious, attained enormous popularity throughout continental Europe, though in Britain they never captured the imagination of readers to the same extent. The books were especially numerous in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, and France. Andrea Alciato wrote the epigrams contained in the first and most widely disseminated emblem book, the "Emblemata", published by Heinrich Steyner in 1531 in Augsburg. Another influential illustrated book was Cesare Ripa's "Iconologia", first published in 1593, though it is not properly speaking an emblem book but a collection of erudite allegories.

Early European studies of Egyptian hieroglyphics, like that of Athanasius Kircher, assumed that the hieroglyphics were emblems, and imaginatively interpreted them accordingly.

External links

* [http://media.library.uiuc.edu/projects/oebp/ the OpenEmblem Project] - housed at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
* [http://www.mun.ca/alciato/order.html Alciato's Book of Emblems]
* [http://emblem.libraries.psu.edu/home.htm The English Emblem Book Project]
* [http://www.emblems.arts.gla.ac.uk/ Glasgow University Emblem Website] including French and Italian emblem books
* [http://www.emblems.arts.gla.ac.uk/alciato/ Alciato at Glasgow] - 22 editions of Alciato from 1531 to 1621
* [http://emblems.let.uu.nl/index.html Emblem Project Utrecht] - "27 Dutch love emblem books, religious as well as profane"
* [http://www.mnemosyne.org/emblems/ Mnemosyne Emblem Project] - a dozen digitized emblem books

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