The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Emblem book

Emblem books are a particular style of illustrated book developed in Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries, normally containing about one hundred picture/text combinations. Each combination consisted of a woodcut or engraving accompanied by one or more short texts, intended to inspire their readers to reflect on a general moral lesson derived from the reading of both picture and text together. The picture was potentially subject to numerous interpretations: only by reading the text could a reader be certain which meaning was intended by the author.

Emblem books, both secular and religious, attained enormous popularity throughout continental Europe, though in Britain they never captured the imagination of readers to the same extent. The books were especially numerous in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, and France. Andrea Alciato wrote the epigrams contained in the first and most widely disseminated emblem book, the Emblemata, published by Heinrich Steyner in 1531 in Augsburg.

Last updated: 08-30-2005 06:40:09
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