Humanae salutis monumenta

Antwerp, ex officina Christophe Plantin, 1571.


FIRST EDITION.  76 unnumbered leaves, pp. 39 [i]. A-I8, K4, a-b8, c4. Issue without borders to illustrations, illustration on K2 dated 1572. Italic letter, some Roman. Fine engraved pictorial title, large roundel portrait of Christ and 70 full-page engraved illustrations of Biblical scenes after P. van der Borcht, floriated woodcut initials, remarkable, hand-coloured engraved bookplate depicting an african slave of Pierre de Maridat de Serrières (1613-1689) his ex libris on front endpaper, “Petri Bonifanti” manuscript in a contemporary hand at head of title. Light age yellowing, three leaves loose and a little worn at edges. A very good copy, crisp and clean, with excellent, rich impressions of the plates, in handsome contemporary polished vellum over thin paper boards, covers bordered with a single gilt rule, floral wreath gilt at centres, spine double gilt ruled in compartments with fleurons gilt at centres, all edges gilt.

A very good copy of the rare first edition of this beautifully illustrated emblem book with fine impressions of the engravings. This work was published in two editions in 1571; one in quarto with borders to the engraved plates, and this octavo version without the borders. Benito Arias Montano came to the Netherlands in May 1568 in obedience to Philip II instructions to assist in the process of editing and printing the Biblia Polyglotta on which Plantin had been working for several years. He worked closely with Plantin and supervised the administration and printing of the liturgical books Plantin produced for the Spanish crown. Whilst working with Plantin he devised this emblematic work which was hugely successful going through several editions in the late sixteenth century. “Montano’s influential Humanae salutis monumenta was the first book to compound the format of the picture Bible with the text-image apparatus of the emblem, in a haybrid construction offering sacred exempla as the matter of meditative devotion”  Marcia Kupfer. ‘The Passion Story: From Visual Representation to Social Drama.’  Abraham de Bruyn, Pieter Huys, and the Wierix brothers of Antwerp engraved the prints after modelli by Pieter van der Borcht, who was given the task of translating Arias Montano’s inventions into working drawings.

“We find examples of works dating from the late sixteenth century, paving the way for those of the seventeenth century. In 1571 the Plantin Press in Antwerp published the first of several editions of a lavishly illustrated catholic work by Benito Arias Montano, almoner of Philip II of Spain, in which, although the word ‘emblem’ is not specifically used, we nevertheless see a clearly emblematic pattern of construction. In his wholly Latin ‘Humanae salutis monumenta’ Arias Montano offers a series of 71 two-page biblical emblems in which the recto contains a large ornate engraving of the biblical scene, … in the style of the earlier sixteenth-century French emblem books produced in Paris by Janot and in Lyon by de Tournes, or the Rouille/Bonhomme partnership, accompanied by a Latin motto and distich, while on the facing verso is a longer passage of verse in the form of a Latin ode, taking its inspiration from the visual trigger provided by the engraved figure to which refers, and explaining the significance of the scene depicted. The message of each individual emblem is further reinforced by the inclusion of Explanatory notes and biblical references in prose, although, unusually these do not accompany the actual ‘emblem’, but – like Gambert’s ‘Meditations’ – they are grouped together at the end. The collection begins with Moses holding the tables of the law, followed by Adam and Eve, and ends appropriately with the Last Judgement.” Alison Saunders. ‘The Seventeenth-century French Emblem: A Study in Diversity’

The beautiful engraved book plate on the front fly, depicting a handsome black slave boy holding a shield and scales, with contemporary hand colouring, is that of Pierre de Maridat who was born at Serrières in the Ardèche at the beginning of the C17th. He was a councillor for many years at the court of Louis XIII and later during the minority of Louis XIV.

USTC 401487. Adams M1646. Landwehr, Low Countries 45. Brunet I, 421. Voet 588.