The Emblem in Early Modern Europe : Contributions to the Theory of the Emblem book cover
1st Edition

The Emblem in Early Modern Europe
Contributions to the Theory of the Emblem

ISBN 9781472430137
Published July 20, 2017 by Routledge
248 Pages

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Book Description

The emblem was big business in early-modern Europe, used extensively not only in printed books and broadsheets, but also to decorate pottery, metalware, furniture, glass and windows and numerous other domestic, devotional and political objects. At its most basic level simply a combination of symbolic visual image and texts, an emblem is a hybrid composed of words and picture. However, as this book demonstrates, understanding the precise and often multiple meaning, intention and message emblems conveyed can prove a remarkably slippery process. In this book, Peter Daly draws upon many years’ research to reflect upon the recent upsurge in scholarly interest in, and rediscovery of, emblems following years of relative neglect. Beginning by considering some of the seldom asked, but important, questions that the study of emblems raises, including the importance of the emblem, the truth value of emblems, and the transmission of knowledge through emblems, the book then moves on to investigate more closely-focussed aspects such as the role of mnemonics, mottoes and visual rhetoric. The volume concludes with a review of some perhaps inadequately considered issues such as the role of Jesuits (who had a role in the publication of about a quarter of all known emblem books), and questions such as how these hybrid constructs were actually read and interpreted. Drawing upon a database containing records of 6,514 books of emblems and imprese, this study suggests new ways for scholars to approach important questions that have not yet been satisfactorily broached in the standard works on emblems.

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface; Introduction; Recent emblem theory; The importance of emblems; Truth in emblems; Emblems as transmitters of knowledge and traditions; Mnemonics and emblems; Are emblem inscriptiones always mottoes?; Is there visual rhetoric in some emblem pictures?; How were and how are emblems read?; On the interpretation of emblems; Jesuit emblems: in the service of God, man or the Society of Jesus?; Selective bibliography; Index.

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Peter M. Daly has degrees from universities in Bristol and Zurich and spent most of his university career in Canada. His research and publications have been largely on emblems and German baroque literature.


'The principal strength of the book is Daly’s immersive philological method; he collates his material and selected images from several book cultures (impressive enough!), and he also supplies some close and measured distinctions. For example, he organizes his data into cultural units, such as Dutch emblem-books, English emblem-books, Jesuit emblem-books, "realistic" emblem-books, and so on. Daly’s discussion of page design and the physical layout of emblem pages in the printed emblem-books is entirely useful; he shows, with numerous examples, that the emblem presentation in most early-modern printed books had its own signature structure (or "visual rhetoric"): viewers were engaged optically and mentally as the eye would scan over an entire page, seeking to decode and grasp the message of the emblem and ’language’ of the page. (Early cerebrations for the early-modern brain, indeed!)' Appositions