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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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CAMILLI, Camillo


Imprese illustri di diversi co i discorsi di Camillo Camilli et con le figure intagliate in rame di Girolamo Porro Padouano.

Venice, Francesco Ziletti, 1586.


FIRST EDITION. 4to. (in eights). 3 vols. in one. pp [viii], 182, [ii] (last blank) : 95 [i] : 56. Roman letter, verses in Italic. Floriated and historiated woodcut initials, grotesque tailpieces, headpiece containing a device of a plant being watered with motto “A poco a poco”, all three titles with a different engraved architectural border, each containing Ziletti’s star device at head, 108 fine engravings of Imprese by Girolamo Porro. First title fractionally dusty, the odd thumb mark. A very good copy, clean and crisp, the engravings in excellent strong impression, in C17 Italian speckled calf, spine, with raised bands, gilt in compartments with gilt fleurons at centers, tan morocco title label gilt, covers a little worn, joints cracked at head. a.e.r.

First edition of this fine book of imprese, richly illustrated with a long series of engravings of emblems or devices by Girolamo Porro, and Latin (or in a few cases Greek) mottos, all within different ornamental borders, each associated with a contemporary notable and accompanied by Camillo’s text of iconographic explanation, and verses. The work is dedicated to Ferdinando de Medici in which Camilli pays tribute to the engraver Porro “Nella qual opera, se io per insufficienza hauesi manca in qualche cosa, ho alemeno supplito nella nobilta, & bellezza delle Figure, lequali sono state per la maggior parte intagliate da M. Girolamo Porro”. Many are the imprese of important Italian families such as the Gonazaga or Borghesi.

Interestingly this work contains the imprese of Sir Henry Lee (part 2 pages 12-14), Master of the Ordnance under Queen Elizabeth I. Lee became Queen Elizabeth I’s champion in 1570 and was appointed Master of the Royal Armouries in 1580, an office which he held until his death. As Queen’s Champion, Lee devised the Accession Day tilts, held annually on 17 November, the most important Elizabethan court festival from the 1580s. He seems to have been well known to Camilli, and Camilli’s work was influential at the Elizabethan court, providing Elizabethans with devices for their pageants and tournaments. Books of imprese quickly became a favored genre of the Renaissance. They are, as here, crammed with news, from classical historiography to contemporary events, including animalistic, astrological and poetic curiosities, and the relation of customs.

The imprese’s proximity to emblems, with the love of encoded expression helped to explain their success. A typical example in this work is the impresa of Nicolaus Bernardinus Sanseverinus, Prince of Bisignano, whose device shows the optical illusion of a stick placed in water with the motto “Fallit imago”. This device was taken up by the Elizabethan author Chapman and used on the title page of his work ‘Ovids Banquet of Sence’ published in 1595 with the motto changed to ‘Sibi conscia recti’.

A very good copy of this fascinating, beautifully illustrated and influential work.

BM STC C16 It. p. 140. Mortimer, It. C16, 99. Landwehr, J. French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese books of devices and emblems, 202. Brunet I, 1514. ‘Porro n’a peut-être rien fait de plus beau que les 108 figures de ce livre.’ Praz p. 296. Cicognara 1870.


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Mundi Lapis Lydius, sive Vanitas per Vertate falso accusata & convicta opera.

Antwerp, Jaon. Cnobbari, 1639.


FIRST EDITION 4to. pp. [xxviii] 249 [xxvi]. Roman letter, a little italic,  printed side notes, woodcut initials, head- and tail-pieces, engr. t.p. featuring three female allegories of Truth, Justice and Vanity by Theodor Johannes van Merlen after Abraham van Diepenbeeck, 50 engraved emblems by A. Pauli in strong and clear impressions, on p. 234 full moon rising over a river, hand-coloured. Light age yellowing, slightest worming to gutter and margin of t.p., couple of ll. slightly short at end of ream; a handsome and well-margined copy in contemp mottled calf with covers triple-bordered in gilt, spine gilt in six compartments with raised bands, verysympathetically restored.

An emblem book with a uncommon didactic twist: the typical pairing of each image with an instructive motto has been split in two, one describing the scene untruthfully (‘vanitas’), the other its reality (‘veritas’). For instance, surrounding an image of a printing house (p. 10) it is said that Verborum copia and Nihil copia, sed usus: although there is an abundance of words and writing, abundance means nothing without use. In fifty chapters, the book provides a dual commentary over subjects as diverse as memory, marriage, political power, fame, and eating habits. As de Bourgogne argues in the preface, the exercise proves that poor judgement sometimes allows vain conclusions to be drawn from truth.

The work is critical of its own tradition, since other books of emblems encourage forming many different possible interpretations of word and image, both religious and profane. De Bourgogne’s recognizes both tendencies in the genre, and his commentary reveals to readers not only which he takes to be true, but instructs them how to arrive at truthfulness for themselves. The volume is a fresh and innovative continuation of his earlier emblem book, Linguae vitia et remedia (1631) which focuses on remedies for the abuse of language through insults, lies, blasphemies, and calumnies. It was popular into the 18th century, reaching several other editions and translation into Dutch and German.

Little is known about Antoine de Bourgogne (1594 – 1657), Canon and Archdeacon of Bruges, although in one of the five laudatory poems at the beginning of the Mundi Lapis, he is connected by his friend the poet Olivarius Vredius, with the ancient House of Burgundy, through his namesake Anthony, bastard of Burgundy to Anthony’s father Philip the Good (1396 – 1467), and finally Philip’s father John the Fearless (1371 – 1419).

Brunet I 1405. Landwehr, “Emblem and Fables Books”, 98. Praz “Studies in 17th Century Imagery: A Bibliography of Emblem Books” p. 292. Not in BM C17 Dutch.


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