Speculum imaginum veritatis occultae, exhibens symbola, emblemata, hieroglyphica, aenigmata, omni, tam materiae, quam formae varietate.

Cologne, sumptibus Ioannis Antonii Kinchii [1650] [Privilege dated 1649]


FIRST EDITION. 8vo. pp. (xlviii), 672, (lxxx), 47, (i). ✝⁸, 2✝⁴, 3✝⁸, 4✝⁴, A-2T⁸, *-3*⁸, a-b⁸, ²A-C⁸. Roman letter, some Italic and Greek. Engraved printers device on title with angels at sides and a unicorn at centre with the motto “In manibus Dei sortes meae”, foliated woodcut initials grotesque tailpieces, typographical ornaments, stamp of the‘Bibliothek Ordensseminar Geistingen Cssr Hennef’ on verso of t-p. “Seminarium Emmerami” in C19th hand on pastedown. Light age yellowing, the very rare mark or spot. A very good copy in contemporary vellum over thin boards, all edges blue.

Extremely rare first edition of this theoretical emblematical work by the German Jesuit Jacob Masen, giving a sophisticated system and comprehensive interpretation of “figurative” (metaphorical) image. As well as poetry and drama, Masen wrote works of history, criticism and theology; with Jacob Bidermann, he was one of the most important Jesuit German dramatists. “Jacob Masen was born on March 23, 1606, in Dahlem in the old duchy of Julich (Rhineland). .. For a total of some fourteen years, Masen taught poetry and rhetoric at Emmerich, Koln, Munster, and Aachen. .. for almost thirty years there was a steady stream of writings from the pen of Jacob Masen. Biographers have classified Masen’s works in various ways but generally they fall into the following classes: poetry, rhetoric history and asceticism. The poetic works include epigrams, odes epics and his most significant work, dramas, where he was a standard bearer in Jesuit theatre. Among the epics, the Sarcotis, which describes the fall of man, may have had some influence on Milton’s Paradise Lost, though no one today holds with the Scotsman, William Lauder (1753), that Milton plagiarized Masen. In dramatic poetry seven plays have come down to us and it is this area of dramatic poetry that Masen has most made his mark.” James J. Mertz ‘Jesuit Latin Poets of the 17th and 18th Centuries: An Anthology of Neo-Latin Poets.’

The work is mostly concerned with, (though not exclusively, as it contains some of his lyric poetry) Masen’s theory of imagery, the deciphering of hidden truths in emblems, symbols, hieroglyphics, puzzles etc. Masen uses the term ‘imago figurata’ to explain his theory of the figurative image while he excludes those emblems which do not have a transferred meaning. He is only interested in emblems that have a meaning beyond what they represent. “The conception of metaphor as a figure of thought is even more distinct in the analysis of a contemporary of Tesauro, the German Jesuit Jacob Masen, outlined in his book Speculum imaginum veritatis occultae, published in Cologne in 1650. With regards to the construction of emblematic compositions, Masen too refers to wit – or as he himself defines it, to the ‘ars nova argutiarum’ – as the highest genre of the first part of rhetoric, the inventio. It was not a question, therefore, even for Masen, of having recourse to a figure of style tied to elocution, but rather utilizing the places of comparison and contrast (similia atque contraria), which have their foundation in thought.  … Masen addresses the spectator’s deciphering of the emblem in chapter 4 of his Speculum. He identifies in the reciprocal interaction between image and epigram a relationship analogous to that which makes complementary opposites of the composition and the resolution of drama, revealing how the theatrical contradiction between appearance and substance, between figure shown and the thing signified, is concentrated and repeated in the synthesis of every emblem.” John W. O’Malley. The Jesuits II: Cultures, Sciences, and the Arts, 1540-1773

BM STC Ger. C17th III M439.


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