The Invention of the Emblem Book and the Transmission of Knowledge, ca. 1510–1610


This study reexamines the invention of the emblem book and discusses the novel textual and pictorial means that applied to the task of transmitting knowledge. It offers a fresh analysis of Alciato’s Emblematum liber, focusing on his poetics of the emblem, and on how he actually construed emblems. It demonstrates that the “father of emblematics” had vernacular forebears, most importantly Johann von Schwarzenberg who composed two illustrated emblem books between 1510 and 1520.

The study sheds light on the early development of the Latin emblem book 1531–1610, with special emphasis on the invention of the emblematic commentary, on natural history, and on advanced methods of conveying emblematic knowledge, from Junius to Vaenius.

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Karl Enenkel is Professor of Medieval Latin and Neo-Latin at the University of Münster. Previously he was Professor of Neo-Latin at the University of Leiden. He has published widely on international humanism, early modern culture, paratexts, literary genres 1300–1600, Neo-Latin emblems, word and image relationships, and the history of scholarship and science.
"Enenkel brings much scholarship from German and Dutch to the English-speaking world and, in addition to helpful footnotes, the text includes an extensive bibliography and an index of names. […] In this trenchant study, Enenkel provides a vital foundation for the intellectual history of emblem books as a genre and should be considered necessary reading for students and scholars of Renaissance and Early Modern European Humanities."
Jenny Davis Barnett, University of Queensland, in Ceræ: An Australasian Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, 7. “a truly scholarly tour de force.”
Michael Bath, University of Glasgow. In: Emblematica, Vol. 3 (2020), pp. 313–324.

“This book provides a wealth of material and insights, where Karl Enenkel, an outstanding scholar of Neo-Latin, has brought his knowledge to bear on these topics. […] This rich book will be mined by future scholars.”
Mara R. Wade, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In: Historians of Netherlandish Art Reviews, March 2020.

“Enenkel has a firmer grasp of the classical sources than probably any other emblem scholar alive today.”
Peter Daly, McGill University, emeritus. In: Renaissance Quarterly, Vol. 73 , No 4 (Winter 2020), pp. 1371–1372.

List of Illustrations

PART 1: Alciato

1 The Emblematization of Nature, and the Poetics of Alciato’s Epigrams
 1 Introduction
 2 Curiosities of Natural History
 3 Ekphrases of Works of Art
 4 Animal Poems, Drawn from the Greek Anthology, and the Aesopean Tradition
 5 Emblematic Constructions Based on Ovid’s Metamorphoses
 6 The Description of Character Types through the Emblematization of Animals
 7 In Conclusion

PART 2: Vernacular Forerunners of Alciato’s Emblematum Liber

2 A Manuscript Emblem Book before Alciato: Johann von Schwarzenberg’s Mirror of Religious Virtue (Memorial der Tugent, ca. 1510–1512)
 1 Introduction
 2 Schwarzenberg’s Ideas about the Combination of Text and Image – Congruences with the Emblematum Liber
 3 The Dichotomous Structure of Schwarzenberg’s Emblems: Res significantes and res significatae
 4 Variations of the Dichotomous Structure
 5 A Catholic Emblem Book
 6 In Conclusion: The Transmission of Knowledge in Schwarzenberg’s Emblematic Constructions

3 A Printed Emblem Book before Alciato: Johann von Schwarzenberg’s Emblematization of Cicero’s De officiis as a Mirror of Political Virtue
 1 A Printed Emblem Book before Alciato’s Emblematum Liber
 2 The Genesis of the Emblematic De officiis
 3 The Transformation of De officiis into an Emblematic and Christian Mirror of Princes
 4 Emblematic Means for the Philosophical Education of Laymen: Proverbs, Similes, Moral Conclusions
 5 Political Realism – A Kind of Machiavellization of De officiis avant la lettre?
 6 Emblems Against Tyranny
 7 In Conclusion

PART 3: The Emblematic Commentary as a Means of Transmitting Knowledge

4 The Transformation of the Emblem Book into an Encyclopaedia: Stockhamer’s Commentary on Alciato (1551/1556)
 1 Introduction: The Impact of a Commentary on the Genre of the Emblem Book
 2 Stockhamer’s Commentary on Alciato and His Humanist Learning
 3 Stockhamer’s Commentary and the Transmission of Knowledge: The Construction of an Encyclopaedic Compendium
 4 The Emblematic Commentary as a Combination of Various Types of Encyclopaedia’s: Natural History, Etymology, Mythology, Grammar, and Collections of Proverbs
 5 Conclusion

5 The Game of Emblematic Interpretation and Emblematic Authorship: Hadrianus Junius’ Emblemata (1565)
 1 Introduction
 2 The Enigmatic Structure of the Emblems, and the Enigma of the Author’s Self-Commentary
 3 Potential Models for Junius’ Commentary?
 4 The Function of Junius’ Commentary: Authorization of Emblematic Interpretations, Transmission of Emblematic Knowledge, and Collection of Commonplaces
 5 The Game of Emblematic Interpretation and Emblematic Authorship

PART 4: Advanced Emblematic Transmission of Knowledge

6 Early Modern Zoology as a Mirror of Princes: Joachim Camerarius’ Quadrupedes (1595)
 1 Introduction
 2 The Structure of Camerarius’ Emblem Books: What is the Status of the “Commentary”?
 3 The Transmission of Knowledge in the Book on the Quadrupeds: Zoology and Political Education
 4 Camerarius’ Emblems and University Education
 5 The Printed Emblem Book and the Manuscript
 6 The Emblematic Construction of a “Plinian” Animal: The Rhino
 7 Curious Animal Behaviour: The Leopard’s Trick as a Political Lesson
 8 The Zoological and Emblematic Construction of an Animal without Pliny: The Opossum of the New World
 9 The Zoological and Emblematic Construction of an Animal without Written Sources: The ‘Suhak’ (Saiga)
 10 Conclusion

7 The Transmission of Knowledge via Pictorial Figurations: Vaenius’ Emblemata Horatiana (1607) as a Manual of Ethics
 1 Introduction
 2 The Emblemata Horatiana: A Mirror of Princes? A Neostoic Manifesto?
 3 The Pictorial Transmission of Typically ‘Horatian’ Ethics: The Use of Personifications, Mnemonic Landscapes, and Geometrical Figurations
 4 Personifications, Dichotomous Constructions and Moments of Decision
 5 Horace’s Aurea mediocritas: Geometrical Figurations, Mnemonic Landscapes and Middle Positions
 6 Vaenius’ Personifications: The Rhetoric of Living Images
 7 The Transmission of Proverbial Wisdom: Scenes of Everyday Life, Paintings within Paintings, and Other Figurations
Index Nominum
All interested in emblem studies, literary history, art history, especially of the Early Modern period, book illustration, word-image relationships, history of science and scholarship, 16th century studies, humanism, history of ideas, emblemata, transmission of knowledge, word and image, relationship visual arts – science and scholarship, relationship vernacular literature – Neo-Latin, classical tradition, allegory (allegorical interpretation), personification, natural history, commentary (emblematic commentary), game of emblematic interpretation, and poetics (emblem poetics).