Devises héroïques et emblêmes de M. Claude Paradin, reveues et augmentées de moytié [by François d’Amboise]

Paris, J. Millot, (1614).


FIRST EDITION thus. 8vo., pp. (iv) 340 (iv). Italic letter, some Roman. Fine engraved title, figures at sides, and above, with emblems in roundels, 174 small engraved emblems in text, woodcut initials and headpieces, ‘White Knights No. 3056’ pencilled note to front free endpaper. Light age yellowing, occasional minor mark or spot. A very good copy, the engravings in good impression, in handsome early 19th century dark blue straight-grain morocco, covers bordered with a single gilt rule, spine with raised bands gilt ruled in compartments, small gilt circles at centres, gilt lettered direct., inner dentelles gilt, a.e.g., a little rubbed at extremities.

First edition of Claude Paradin’s influential book of emblems augmented by a commentary by Francois D’Amboise, beautifully illustrated with 174 emblematic engravings. Paradin first published his ‘Devises heroïqves’ in 1551; publication was taken over by Christophe Plantin in Antwerp from 1561, with the addition of 37 ‘devises’ and the inclusion of a Latin translation of the combined text order to provide for a wider reading public. It was later published in a Dutch translation in Antwerp in 1563 and in an English translation in London in 1591 and then in this revision in Paris with a commentary by Adrien d’Amboise. Paradin’s work was influential in England: Mary Queen of Scots, held at Tutbury Castle, and Bess of Hardwick knew and used Paradin’s emblems in the design of embroidered hangings. “Interest in Emblems and interest in devices had from the earliest days of the genre run hand in hand, and this pattern also continues in the seventeenth century. The pioneering collections of devices compiled by Simeoni, Giovio and Paradin were all extremely popular in France in the first half of the the sixteenth century, but somewhat surprisingly no French versions of Giovio were published after the 1560’s although interest in the work of the native French Paradin was more enduring, with editions of his devices continuing to be published in France into the first two decades of the seventeenth century. ..An expanded French edition of the work of Paradin .. was published in 1614. .. This lasting popularity was not reserved just to France. As well as these seventeenth-century editions of Paradin in French published in Paris.. the popularity of the work extended to England also, where an English version was published in London in 1591.” Alison Saunders. ‘The Seventeenth-century French Emblem: A Study in Diversity.’

Paradin was innovative in the introduction and explanation of his emblems, introduced in his second edition. “This second edition of 1557 offers a version of the text which is markedly different from that of the original edition published by De Tournes in 1551. There the work was much smaller, containing only 118 devices, whereas the 1557 edition contains 182. But more significantly the nature of the work is changed: the original version giving a set of basic devices comprising woodcut figure plus motto, is transformed in 1557 by the addition at the end of each device of a French commentary explaining its significance, and identifying the person who used it, or – in the case of the unattributed devices – the universally applicable lesson which could be derived from them. In this new form – which became the norm for subsequent editions – Paradin’s work is thus far more informative and overtly moralistic than in its original text-free form. Its increased ‘educational’ dimension is reflected also in the marginal notes accompanying the prose commentaries, identifying sources.” French Emblems at Glasgow.

The dispersal of the library amassed by George Spencer-Churchill (1766-1840), Marquess of Blandford and later fifth Duke of Marlborough, at Whiteknights is most commonly cited today as a preservative against folly. The collection contained some of the most sought-after incunabula of a period defined by the high prices paid for early printed books. It included a fine selection of Caxtons, spectacular botanical and emblem books, and the iconic Valdarfer Boccaccio – the first edition of the Decameron, purchased by Blandford in 1812 for the unprecedented sum of GBP2,260. The Boccaccio was symptomatic of the profligate expenditure of its buyer. By 1819 his spendthrift ways had ruined him, leading to the sale of his opulent estate at Whiteknights, near Reading, and the dispersal of one of the key libraries in the era of bibliomania.

BM STC Fr. C17th P188. (1622 edn only) Landwehr, Romanic, 571; Adams, Rawles & Saunders F.468. Praz p.444-445.


Print This Item Print This Item

GIARDA, Cristoforo


Bibliothecae Alexandrinae icones symbolicae.

[Milan], G.B. Bidelli, 1628.


4to. 140 signed ll. plus 28 unsigned plates and their descriptions. Roman letter, with Italic. Engraved architectural t-p with Sts Paul and Alexander, 16 engraved plates with female figures within arch, decorated initials, head- and tailpieces. Large light (wine?) stains to first few ll., very slight marginal marking in a few places. A very good, wide-margined copy retaining numerous uncut edges, in C19 red morocco, triple gilt ruled, rebacked, gilt spine retained, inner gilt dentelles. Bookplates of Robert Hoe, John Barrymore and ‘The Lamberts’ to feps.

A very good copy of the second edition of this attractively illustrated Baroque celebration of the ‘artes liberales’. Cristoforo Giarda (1595-1649) was an Italian bishop in Castro, where he was appointed by the Pope without consultation with the local ‘signore’ Ranuccio II Farnese—an event which sparked a war between the dukedom and the Pontifical States. He was also interested in emblems. ‘Iconae symbolicae’ is rooted in the C16 emblematic tradition as a monument to knowledge epitomized by the disciplines celebrated by the destroyed Library of Alexandria. It presents female personifications of the ‘artes liberales’—e.g., Astronomy, Law, Theology, Philosophy and Eloquence—in statuary form accompanied by learned glosses. For instance, after celebrating the discipline in which there are ‘as many heads as there are diagnoses’, he explained that Medicine was depicted with flowers, herbs, books and a vulture, which stood for medicaments, assiduous study and the possibility of the patients’ death. ‘Icones’ was rooted in the reading of Greco-Roman iconography promoted by the ground-breaking C16 manuals of Cesare Ripa and Natale Conti who interpreted the allegorical personifications and emblems of the classical tradition through multiple meanings. Unlike them, ‘Icones’ imposed on them a specific, single meaning, following the new interpretations of the Baroque period. Indeed, to Giarda the doctrine of symbols was an instrument useful ‘to explain everything’ and helped man ‘to imitate divine perfection’.

Robert Hoe of New York was one of the great collectors of the turn of the C20. His personal library catalogue was published between 1903 and 1919 in 16 vols and its sale fetched over £400,000.

John Barrymore (1882-1912) was a celebrated American actor of stage and screen. His first choice of career had been an artist, studying at the Slade, which may explain his appreciation of the present volume. It was however a gift to him from ‘the Lamberts’ (Constance Lambert?) in 1925 as recorded over the bookplate on the pastedown. Given Barrymore’s long-standing drink problem, the early staining is almost certainly wine, not ink.

BM STC C17 It., p 395; Praz 349; Landwehr, Romantic Emblem Books, 320. Not in Brunet, Graesse or Adams.


Print This Item Print This Item

LICETI, Fortunio


Hieroglyphica sive antiqua schemata gemmarum anularium.

Padua, Sebastiano Sardo, 1653


FIRST and ONLY EDITION. Folio. pp. (xx) 440 (xx). Roman letter, little Italic. Engraved vignette to t-p, engraved author’s portrait to ∫4, 65 c.½-page engravings of emblematic gemstone signets, decorated initials and tailpieces. Occasional light age browning, minimal marginal foxing, small tear with no loss at gutter of p. 397, touching one letter. A very good copy, on thick paper, in roughly contemporary vellum, yapp edges, morocco label, all edges green.

Very good copy of the FIRST and ONLY EDITION of this handsomely illustrated work on the emblematics of ancient gemstone signets. Born and raised in Rapallo, Fortunio Liceto (1577-1657) was a philosopher, physician and natural scientist who taught at Bologna, Pisa and Padua. His wide-ranging writings influenced by Aristotelianism include works on the movement of comets, teratology and the soul of animals. ‘Hieroglyphica’ was an excursion into the world of antiquarianism—a study of the iconography of ancient sculpted ‘gemmae anulariae’ (gemstones on signet rings). Traced back to the Egyptians, such gemstone emblems—e.g., three Cupids, a girl kidnapped by a Triton, a crow, Roman quadrigae, a skull with a moth—were popular in classical antiquity; moral and philosophical messages were communicated through their iconography, beautifully portrayed and learnedly explained by Licetus with the help of classical sources, the humanist methodology of numismatics, and the assistance of fellow scholars. For instance, the ‘Smithia gemma’, which represents a cross on a hill flanked by two fish, came from the collection of the famous Dutch antiquarian Johannes Smetius. The scholar Nicolaus Heynsius, who sent it to Liceti from Leiden in 1651, confirmed it to be a very precious relic of early Christianity, which Liceti read as a mystical representation of the apostles as ‘fishers of men’ who preached about the crucified Christ. An incredibly erudite and handsomely produced work of antiquarian scholarship.

BL STC It. C17, p. 487; Brunet III, 1069; Landwehr, French, Italian … Books of Devices and Emblems, 486.


Print This Item Print This Item

CATS, Jacob

Proteus, ofte, Minne-beelden: verandert in sinne-beelden.

Rotterdam, P. van Waesberge, 1627.


FIRST EDITION thus. 4to. pp. (viii), 35, (i), 315, [i]; 28; 91 (iii); 46, (ii blank); 48 [iii unnumbered ll.] 49-55, [i]. Roman and Italic letter. Fine engraved allegorical title by J. Matham after van de Venne, Sinne- et minne-beelden with 52 engraved emblems by J. Swelinck after A. van de Venne, each accompanied by 5 pages of text in Dutch, Latin and French (partly in verse), with partial English translation in following section, ‘Emblemata moralia’ with 43 engraved emblems, verses in Latin and Dutch, quotations from various sources at foot of each emblem in both works. Galathee with four engravings in text, full page portraits of Galathee and Phyllis in roundels with allegorical borders by Swelinck after van de Venne. Portions of text set in double columns. Woodcut head- and tail-pieces, woodcut initials, engraved armorial bookplate of Allan Heywood Bright, signed ‘Alf Downey’, on pastedown. Light age yellowing, faint waterstain on a few leaves, occasional mostly marginal mark, spot, or thumb mark, very minor dust soiling in places. A very good copy, with excellent dark impressions of the engravings, in handsome modern tan calf, covers bordered with single blind rule, spine with gilt ruled double raised bands, richly gilt in compartments, green morocco title and date labels, gilt lettered, edges gilt ruled, inner dentelles gilt, a.e.g.

First collected edition of these beautifully illustrated emblem books by Jacob Cats, one of the most important author’s of emblem books “whose volumes still form one of the adornments of Dutch houses. Cats took inspiration from proverbs and everyday life, his realistic emblems form a counterpart to genre painting and supply interesting evidence for the history of costume” (Praz p. 86). The work contains, each with separate pagination: Sinne ende Minnebeelden, (an expanded version of “Silenus Alcibiadis”); Emblemata Di Iacobi Catsii, in linguam Anglicam transfusa, (an English verse translation of the foregoing sometimes attributed to Josuah Sylvester); Emblemata moralia et aeconomica, (with illustrations copied from Maechden plicht); the Latin text, with French translation, of the dialogue between Anna and Phyllis from Maechden plicht; Galathee ofte Harder Minne-klachte. Laudatory poems by D. Heinsius, A. Hofferus, J. Arcerius, I. Lyraeus, A. Roemers, I. Luyt, S. de Swaef, L. Peutemans, I. Hobius.

Jacob Cats (1577-1660), seventeenth-century poet, moralist, and statesman, was one of the leading poets in the golden age of Dutch literature. His emblem books, which reflected a stolid Calvinist philosophy, exhorted readers to virtuous and industrial lives. Enormously popular, the books became the source of many well-known maxims and proverbs, giving him the title of “Father Cats,” a fond soubriquet still used by modern Dutch to describe him. He is best known as a poet and author of emblem books—illustrated collections of didactic and moralistic (although clever and often humorous) poetry. They are valued as treasure troves of sociological and historical detail, illustrating not only many facets of daily life in the seventeenth century, but the moral and philosophical ideals of the era as well. Cats’s first book Sinne-en minnebeelden (Portraits of morality and love) was published in 1618, when he was forty years old. The book, divided into three sections, contains prose, poetry, Bible verses, quotations from the classics, and common proverbs in Dutch, French, and Latin. Each illustration was accompanied by three different texts, each of which was designed to give three different—but always instructive—interpretations: the first romantic, the second social, and last religious. This combination of texts, styles, and languages in various degrees of complexity made the book accessible to a broad public. The images for many of Cats’s books were supplied by Adriaan van de Venne. He drew literally hundreds of illustrations for the books, and they were, in turn, reproduced by master engravers.

“Cats is one of the major fingers in emblem literature, exerting a wide influence on later exponents of the genre. He is responsible for two regular emblem books, whose bibliography is complicated for a number of reasons. Firstly they appear under various different names: his first emblem book, Silenus Alcibiadis is also known in Latin as Proteus and in Dutch as Minnelikje, zedelijke en stichtelijke sinne-beelden en gedichten, or  sinne- en minne bilden. Often associated with Silenus Alcibiadis is another work which is broadly emblematic, although the text is in dialogue form, Maschden-plicht or Monita amoris virginei. In 1627, the engraving designs for this work were reused in a new emblem book, Emblemata moralia et oeconomica. For all three works, Adriaen van de Venne supplied the designs for the engravings, which were executed by different engravers for different printers, according to the required size and shape, sometimes in mirror image” Alison Adams, Stephen Rawles. ‘A Bibliography of French Emblem Books.’

De Vries 89. Landwehr, Low Countries 118. Praz, p. 300. Adams, Alison. ‘A bibliography of French emblem books of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Nr. F.154.


Print This Item Print This Item

SUCQUET, Antoine


Via vitae aeternae iconibus illustrata.

Antwerp, Martin Nutius, 1620.


FIRST EDITION. 8vo., pp. (16), 875, (21), plus 32 numbered plates. Predominantly Roman letter, little Italic; engraved title showing the distribution of souls between hell and heaven and 32 full-page engraved emblems, all by Boëce van Bolswert, a few foliated initials and decorative tail-pieces. A very good, well-margined copy in contemporary Dutch vellum, gilt with external panel and large central piece of interlacing ribbons, gilt title and floral decoration on spine, yapp edges, all edges blue; contemporary ex libris of the Convent of the Discalced Carmelites in Brussels at head of title, modern bookseller’s pencil annotation on front pastedown, nineteenth-century description and cut-out from a later sale catalogue pasted before front endpaper.

Beckford’s copy of the first edition of ‘an immensely popular book’ (Praz) of Catholic devotion. Antoine Sucquet (1574 – 1627) was a Belgian scholar and leading member of the Jesuits in the Low Countries. Together with his Testamentum Christiani hominis, this is his only published work, providing complex visions of Heaven and Hell through a strong combination of text and images. Each emblem is beautifully illustrated with a high-quality plate by a pupil of Rubens, the Flemish artist Boëce van Bolswer (1580 – 1633), and is accompanied by biblical quotations and in-depth explanations in prose referring to the figures depicted. The book found immediate success, with frequent reprints and translation into the main European vernacular languages, even if no later edition was able to retain the remarkable style of the engravings illustrating this editio princeps. 

As pointed out in the modern pencil annotations on the front pastedown and the following cut-out from an early twentieth-century sale catalogue, this copy comes from the library of two eminent British collectors, William Beckford (1760 – 1844), and the 10th Duke of Hamilton (1767 – 1852). It was sold as lot 2302 during the eleven day-sale of the third portion of his renowned collection, in July 1883. In light of Beckford’s interest in Catholic culture, it is not surprising to find marks of his illustrious ownership on Jesuit books.

BM STC Simoni, S269; Brunet, IV, 577; Graesse, VI, 519; Funck, 398; Landwehr, Low Countries, 761; Praz, 506; Sommervogel, VII, 1690; Hamilton Palace Libraries: Third Portion, Sotheby’s and Co., 1883, lot 2302.


Print This Item Print This Item



Nebulo nebulonum hoc est, jocoseria modernae nequitiae censura.

Frankfurt, Jakob de Zetter, 1620.


FIRST EDITION. 8vo., pp. (8), 164, (4), without final blank. Predominantly Roman letter, some Italic and Greek; engraved title within architectural border with allegorical standing figures of Deceit and Idleness, a few head- and tail-pieces and foliated initials, 33 large engraved curious illustrations of emblems; occasional light browning in margins, original paper flaw at foot of pp. 105 and 133. A very good copy in seventeenth-century calf, gilt panel and spine with floral motif, title gilt on olive morocco label, all edges sprinkled red; original comb-marbled pastedown and endpapers; corners slightly chipped, joints a bit cracked.

First edition of the Latin versification of Thomas Murner’s ruthless satire Der Schelmen Zunft (‘The League of Rogues’), published in 1512. Not to be confused with the contemporary Evangelic pastor and prominent hymn-writer, Johann Flittner was born in Schleusingen, became ‘Gerichts-Procurator’ in Frankfurt, and was appointed poet laureate of the Holy Roman Empire around 1620. This Latin translation after Murner – the early sixteenth-century master of satiric pamphlets who penned, i.a., a harsh parody of Luther – was Flittner’s most relevant and successful achievement.

It consists of a series of 33 erudite jokes in the form of illustrated verses against personal vice. Everything is taken and represented in its literal meaning, creating some funny emblems like the one depicting strict censors as people who ‘go around sifting excrement.’ Very fittingly, the work opens with a dedicatory epigram to Momus, the Greek god of mockery, which illustrates the meaning of the title (‘Rascal of Rascals: A Teasing Reproach of Contemporary Idleness’).

BM STC Ger., M1623; Brunet, II, 1293 (‘ouvrage singulier, dont les exemplaires sont peu commmuns’); Graesse, II, 597; Landwehr, 283; Praz, 337; VD17 1:029198C.


Print This Item Print This Item



Quadriga aeternitatis universi generis humani meta.

Munich, Raphael Sadeler, 1619.


FIRST EDITION. 8vo., pp. (10), 124, (2). Roman and Italic letter, little Greek; engraved title within border with four opposing oval depictions of heaven and hell, 9 half-page engraved emblems by Sadeler, decorative and typographical head-pieces, engraved printer’s device on colophon; mainly marginal foxing, clean tear to A4, repair to gutter of penultimate leaf, just affecting one letter of colophon. A good copy in very fine straight grained c. 1800 red morocco, gilt crest of the 5th Duke of Marlborough (1766-1840) within blind-tooled fenestration, gilt-ruled panel with blind-rolled floral decoration, spine richly gilt and tooled on bands and nerves with title and editorial data, all edges gilt; bookplate of Samuel Ashton Thompson Yates, 1894, on front pastedown.

First and only edition of a rare moral and devotional book of emblems. Very little is known about the author. Gailkircher was born in Munich and later became canon of S. Maurice in Augsburg and a respected Catholic Neo-Latin poet. This is his only published work, in which Gailkircher mixed the wisdom of the ancient philosophers and writers – Plato and his followers in particular – with Christian precepts, so as to devise a guide for heaven (‘Charriot of Aeternitas’). Virtuous examples and mottos are provided along with some remarkable engraved illustrations by Sadeler, including the Last Rites, Last Judgment, Hell, Christ as Salvator Mundi, Virgin and Child, the navicula Petri and an allegorical depiction of Vices. The Quadriga is dedicated to the secretary of the archbishop of Cologne.

This copy was bound for the well-known English collector, George Spencer-Churchill, 5th Duke of Marlborough (1766-1840), Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. His crest, a griffin’s head between two wings expanded out of a ducal coronet, appears on the covers surmounted by two crowns, one for the dukedom, the other for the Spencer barony. Most of his family fortune was spent on books and antiquities, which he amassed on his estate at Whiteknights Park at Earley, near Reading.

No recorded copies in the US.

Not in Brunet. Graesse, VI, 212; Landwehr, German, 302; Praz, Studies, 345.


Print This Item Print This Item

DREXEL, Jeremias


Zodiacus Christianus … seu signa XII divinae praedestinationis.

Cologne, Cornelius van Egmondt, 1632.


24mo., pp. (6), 451 (i.e. 151), (5), without final leaf with printer’s device. Roman letter, little Italic; engraved title with blessing Christ sitting on globe, two standing angels with open book and two small emblems, 12 emblematic copper plates by Raphael Sadeler, tail-pieces with Jesuit monogram inside a heart; small worm trail in lower gutter of second half, tiny ink spot to fore-edge. A good copy in contemporary limp vellum, a bit stained, minor burn at head of spine and on rear upper corner.

Rare expanded edition of an intriguing Jesuit book of theology and Christian emblems, first published in 1618. Raised a Lutheran, Jeremias Drexel (1581-1638) converted very early to Catholicism and joined the Society of Jesus. Besides teaching rhetoric in Dillingen, he served as a preacher for 23 years at the court of Maximilian I, Elector of Bavaria, and his wife Elizabeth of Lorraine. He was a prolific and successful writer of some 34 devotional books, widely read and translated.

In Zodiacus Christianus, Drexel presents what he considers to be the 12 signs of predestination, i.e. the lit candle, skull, pix (host container), plain altar, rosebush, fern, tobacco plant, cypress, two crossed lances, whip and switch, anchor and, finally, lute. Each of these symbols is learnedly elucidated and accompanied by an emblematic plate with a Biblical verse as motto (plate four and five were incorrectly swapped in pagesetting). The most unexpected sign adopted by Drexel is the tobacco plant, which is related to alms and other forms of charity on the account of its curative power. This curious work is dedicated to Prince Johann of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen (1578-1638), prominent member of the Catholic branch of the illustrious German noble family.

No recorded copies in the US.

Not in Brunet, Graesse or Alden. BM STC Germ. 17th, D753; Sommervogel, III, 184:4; Landwehr, German, 229; Praz, Studies, 319.


Print This Item Print This Item



Diverse imprese tratte di gli emblemi.

Lyon, Guillaume Rouillé, 1551.


8vo., pp. 191, (1). Italic letter, little Roman; title and printer’s device within rich architectural woodcut border, couple of historiated initials; 180 high-quality woodcut illustrations, including eleven trees; every page but one within an ornamental, all’antica, architectural or grotesque border, all different; occasionally light browning, very light damp stain at head of some leaves, few leaves slightly foxed; small marginal tear to p. 99, just affecting border. A good copy in contemporary limp vellum; yapped edge, contemporary manuscript title and monogram ‘WE’ to spine; rear cover a bit stained, lacking ties; on title, contemporary ex libris ‘di Giulio de Nobili’ and shelf mark ‘n. 491’ in his hand; A.H. Bright’s bookplate to front pastedown.

Second edition of the Italian translation of a Renaissance masterpiece, the collection of emblems by Andrea Alciato. Alciato (1492 – 1550) was a prominent humanist and professor of law from Milan. His historical and philological investigation of Roman law was crucial for the revival of ancient sources in juridical studies, influencing in particular the sixteenth-century French school. His Emblemata, first published in 1531, attained incredible and long-lasting success throughout Europe, with many vernacular translations and hundreds of editions over more than four centuries.

The work consists of a collection of allegorical depictions with explanatory concise Latin verses disclosing a moral teaching. While emblems had been created in the Middle Ages, the use of classical mythology as the main literary and iconographic reference was an original and distinctive contribution by Alciato. The Emblemata were so successful and influential that they truly marked the rise of a new literary genre. This Italian translation of the work was undertaken for the sake of people ignorant of Latin and dedicated to the Venetian Doge Francesco Donà. Accomplished by Jean Marqual – a French bookseller active in Venice and closely connected to Gabriele Golito, it was curiously printed for the first time in Lyon, in a joint edition by Rouillé and Macé Bonhomme in 1549. Its beautiful woodcuts are the same as those in the princeps. Many of them bear at the bottom the initials ‘P.V.,’ regarded nowadays as the signature of the Parisian engraver Pierre Vase, otherwise known as Eskrich. Eskrich was a key collaborator of Rouillé and a very skilled artist, able to replicate the style of his illustrious colleague Bernard Salomon.

Giulio de Nobili (1537 – 1612), former owner of this book, was a learned Florentine patrician. Following his studies at the University of Pisa, he became senator and member of the order of St. Stephen. He wrote for his son Pierantonio an unpublished moral treatise in Italian, warning him against the vices and troubles of adult life. ‘The Galateo’ by Giovanni Della Casa is clearly De Nobili’s main source, but it is very likely that he took advantage of the educational mottos and examples provided by this translation of Alciato’s ‘Emblemata.’

Green’s collation copy. Graesse, I, p. 63: ‘Édition tres rare.’

BM STC It., 16; Adams A 599; Brunet, I, 149; Graesse, I, 63; Green, 50; Landwehr, 55.


Print This Item Print This Item


Tou agiou patrow hmon Epifaniou. Ad physiologum. Eiusdem in die festo Palmarum Sermo.

Antwerp, Christopher Plantin, 1588.


Two parts in one. 8vo. pp. (xvi) 124 (xii). Roman, Italic and Greek letter. Nearly full-page engraved portrait of St. Epiphanius by Joannes Adolus Leucosiensis after an icon at the monastery of Sula, and 25 further 2/3 page engravings, probably by Pieter van der Borcht, featuring animals in rural and domestic landscapes. Light age yellowing, a very good and clean copy in late 19th-century speckled calf, rubbed at joints and corners. Bookplate of John Landwehr on upper pastedown, a.e.r.

Second edition, edited by Consalus Ponce de Leon (following the Rome edition of the year before), an attractive and popular emblem book from the Plantin press. Mainly consisting of 25 chapters of the ‘Physiologus’, a study on animals and their behaviour, each chapter with an illustration, the work was tremendously popular in the Middle Ages, and was translated from Greek into Latin and many vernacular languages. “With the Physiologus starts the series of medieval bestiaries” (Voet). The Physiologus was not, however, a work of Natural History. Rather, it was a deeply moralising work, aiming to present Christian doctrine in its allegorical moral tales of animals.

“Physiologus was never intended to be a treatise on natural history. Nor did the word ever mean simply “the naturalist” as we understand the term, but one who interpreted metaphysically, morally, and, finally, mystically the transcendent significance of the natural world.” (Curley, Physiologus, 1979, p. xv). This made the Physiologus an ideal text for emblem books, which were very popular in the 16th and 17th-centuries (first appearing in the 1530s), especially in the Low Countries, combining as they did an apparently mysterious image with an aphorism and a section of explanatory text (usually in rhyme), which carried a moralistic message and were all three unintelligible without looking at the other two.

The text is most likely to have been composed in the second century and later falsely attributed to Epiphanius. It is followed by an eleven page Homily on the feast of Palm Sunday in parallel Greek and Latin. Epiphanus was born c. 315 in Judea and was Archbishop of Constantia (Cyprus) from 367 until his death at sea in 403. Ponce de Leon was a Spanish theologian living in Rome, whose careful editing of the text saw him consult three manuscripts to ensure textual accuracy. The attractive and interesting half-page illustrations were based on the woodcuts used for the Rome edition and are attributed to Borcht on the basis of style. They are here in very fine, clear, impression.

Landwehr, Low Countries, 230, this copy; Voet 1126; Praz, p. 328; Adams E-248; not in BM STC Dutch.


Print This Item Print This Item