Joannes Sambucus and the Learned Image

The Use of the Emblem in Late-Renaissance Humanism


The emblem is one of the most remarkable literary inventions of Renaissance humanism. The symbolic imagery presented in these Neo-Latin emblem books constituted an important influence on many areas in early modern literature and art. This volume provides the first comprehensive study of Sambucus’ influential Emblemata (first published by Christopher Plantin, Antwerp, 1564). It reconstructs the cultural-historical contexts in which it was produced, thus reconsidering the social and commercial functions of the humanist emblem. Accompanied by a detailed analysis of individual emblems, it takes into account the emblems’ classical intertextuality and the relationship between word and image. This study shows how the emblematic practice can differ from contemporary symbol and emblem theories, which have often coloured modern interpretations of the genre.

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Biographical Note

Arnoud S.Q. Visser, Ph.D. (2003), Leiden University, is a Leverhulme fellow in the School of Classics, University of St Andrews. He has published on Renaissance emblems and edited, together with Karl Enenkel, Mundus Emblematicus. Studies in Neo-Latin Emblem Books (2003).

Table of contents

List of Illustrations


Chapter One. The World of the Author
Chapter Two. The World of the Publisher
Chapter Three. Sambucus about the Emblem
Chapter Four. The Use of Dedications
Chapter Five. The Epigrams: Subject-Matter, Structure and Style
Chapter Six. The Uses of Classical Sources
Chapter Seven. Word and Image in Pictura and Epigram


Appendix One. Concordance to the Emblems
Appendix Two. List of Dedicatees
Appendix Three. Relations between Epigram and Pictura

Select Bibliography
General Index
Index of Emblems

Index Card

Collection Information