Emblemata Anniversaria Academiae Noribergensis, quae est Altorffii: stvdiorum juventutis exercitandorum caussa inde ab ann. Christi 1577.

Nuremberg, Abr. Wagenman, 1617.



4to. pp. (viii), 540, (xl). Predominantly Roman letter, some Greek, a little Italic. 159 engraved emblems, additional red ink and numbering in pencil. Typographical ornaments. Age yellowing, some light browning, the occasional marginal stain, small hole to t-p margin, small marginal tear on pp. 326 and 518, first gathering a bit loose. A good, crisp, well-margined copy in contemporary vellum, blind-tooled with triple fillet border, blind-tooled initials ‘Z.D.’ and ‘1618’ on front cover. Flat spine with contemporary handwritten title, yapp edges, ties lacking.

Charming engraved, architectural t-p in black and red, with cornucopiae, standing figures of Mercury and Minerva, and the heraldic escutcheon of the city of Nuremberg supported by winged figures. Seventeenth-century engraved bookplate on pastedown depicting a vanitas with column, skull, winged hourglass, burning oil lamp, and the inscription ‘hoDIe MIhI, Cras tIbI’, capital letters in the inscription forming the chronogram ‘MDCIIIII’ (‘1605’). On pastedown ‘Henr: White Lichfeld: Novembris 1817’; early casemark ‘a. G.’, and ‘Bought from Mr. A. Rogoyski. April 30th 1972, £35’; ‘Duplicate B.M. 1818’ on p. 2.

A beautifully printed and finely illustrated edition of this most important German book for the history of Renaissance emblematic iconography and numismatics. This is the most complete cumulative edition for the years 1577-1616, and the FIRST EDITION for the period 1602-1616. The Emblemata Anniversaria is one of a series of six books produced by the Academy of Altdorf between 1578 and 1617. The Academy was founded by the city of Nuremberg in 1575, and became a university in 1623. Every year, on St Peter and Paul’s Day (June 29), the Academy of Altdorf awarded to deserving students a silver medal, decorated with symbolic or allegorical motifs and inscriptions. The ceremony included speeches by selected students, who had to explicate and interpret the symbolic meaning of their medal. In the course of fifty years, the Academy produced almost 200 medals, now preserved at the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg. The six ‘Altdorf Emblem Books’ contain reproductions of each medal, followed by the respective oration.

The Emblemata Anniversaria is divided into sections which reflect the programme of the ceremony, each opened by an introductory speech. There follow, listed by academic grade, the medals and orations pertaining to each of the four decades with which the book is concerned. The numismatic engravings are outstanding instances of Renaissance emblematics. While the reverse of each medal bears a commemorative inscription, the design on the front follows the structure of the classical emblem, presenting a symbolic illustration (‘pictura’ or ‘symbolum’) surrounded by a Latin or Greek motto (‘inscriptio’). These mottos and illustrations are inspired by a variety of sources. Some are animal fables from classical antiquity, like Aesop’s story of the turtle who wanted to fly (201). Others are based on abstract concepts like virtus and labor, or they seek to inspire reflections on the vanity of life. There are also designs drawn from Roman coins, from printer’s devices (Aldus Manutius’s dolphin and anchor, 25), and from the most important emblem books of the time. Each engraving is followed by an oration in Latin or Greek, which records the name of the student. Having been given the ‘pictura’ and ‘inscriptio’ on the medal, students had to provide in their orations the missing, interpretative part of the emblem—the ‘subscriptio’—to display their rhetorical skills, moral education, and understanding of the classical tradition. The Emblemata Anniversaria, of which the present volume is a very good, finely illustrated copy of remarkable provenance, is a unique epitome of Humanist scholars’ enthusiasm for iconography, visual symbolism, and classical antiquity.

Henry White (1761-1836) of Lichfield was a great collector of ‘valuable and curious’ books and manuscripts. White was among the few connoisseurs of the time interested in emblem books, of which he assembled a fine and renowned library.

BL STC German 1601-1700 I, A508; Landwehr (German) 19; Praz 243-44. Not in Brunet or Graesse.