View the list of available books

Andrea Alciato's Los Emblemas,
Macé Bonhomme for Guillaume Rouille, 1549


This work is reproduced from Glasgow University Library: SM32

This edition contains Bernardino Daza's Spanish translation of Alciato's Emblematum liber or Emblemata, the work which is recognised as the first printed emblem book and the most frequently printed (over 100 editions in all, published in Germany, France, the Spanish Netherlands and Italy before the 1620s). The influence of Alciato's emblems is enormous and, since they first appeared in Latin, extends over the whole of Europe. They set the pattern commonly, though not universally associated with the emblem, that is a motto or inscriptio, a picture (pictura) and a verse text or epigram (the subscriptio). The corpus would eventually stretch to 212 emblems, but early editions had a little over a hundred. In due course translations would appear not only in French, but also in German, Italian and Spanish, and many of the emblems appear in English in Geffrey Whitney's Choice of Emblems (1586).

Andrea Alciato (1492-1550)

Portrait of Andrea Alciato (1492-1550)

Alciato was born in Alzate near Milan. He is famed not only for his emblems but as a legal scholar. He studied in Milan, Pavia. Bologna and Ferrara, and taught law both in Italy and at different periods in France, including a stay in Bourges from 1529-1534 at the invitation of François I. His interpretative work on Roman law is still of interest to legal historians today.

Publication History (for more information on French editions see BFEB F.001-072)

Alciato's emblems were first published in Augsburg in Germany (two editions in 1531 and one in 1534); from 1534 onwards publishing shifted to France and remained there for the next thirty years. Chrestien Wechel at first produced Latin editions (from 1534), like those in Augsburg. He can be said to have set the standard for clear presentation of emblems, with each emblem beginning on a fresh page, featuring the motto or title, the pictura below that, and then the subscriptio or verse text [= 'primary text' in our search engine]. In 1536 there appeared the first French version of Alciato's emblems, by Jean Lefevre, which we publish here. Wechel went on publishing Alciato until the late 1540s, producing further Latin editions, editions including Lefevre's French, and indeed also a similarly conceived German/Latin edition. After an unillustrated pirated Lyons edition by Denys de Harsy, probably dating from late 1540, the main focus of publication for emblems shifted more firmly to Lyons from the mid 1540s, with editions of Alciato first by Jacques Moderne (1544, pirated), by the celebrated Lyons printer Jean de Tournes, and then, with a programme of editions, by Guillaume Rouille and Macé Bonhomme from 1548 onwards. At the same time, the total number of Alciato's emblems had been growing. In particular 86 new emblems were published in Venice in 1546, and others enter the corpus piecemeal. The 1550 Latin edition by Rouille is the first to have 211 emblems (the whole corpus, apart from the so-called obscene emblem 'Adversus naturam peccantes') illustrated. The Rouille/Bonhomme programme of editions included not only a French translation, but also versions in Italian and Spanish, all of which appeared for the first time in 1549. Most of the editions, like this one, are octavos, with elaborate frames.

Andrea Alciato's Los Emblemas, Lyons, Macé Bonhomme for Guillaume Rouille, 1549, a Spanish translation by Bernardino Daza

The 1549 Spanish translation of Alciato's emblems, by Bernardino Daza, which is reproduced here is part of a major publishing venture in Lyons by the team of Guillaume Rouille and Macé Bonhomme, which started in 1548 with editions in Latin. A new set of woodcuts was commissioned, attributed to Pierre Eskrich or Vase. Read a Bibliographical Description. This edition contains all the emblems apart from 'Adversus naturam peccantes' and 'Doctorum agnomina'. All the emblems start on a new page and are contained within the decorative frames which are characteristic of these editions. Daza's translation is not a literal one.

GUL SM32 H5vo-H6ro. Actual page height: 184mm
GUL SM32 H5vo-H6ro. Actual page height: 184mm.

The translator Bernardino Daza came from Valladolid where he later bacame a Professor of Law. His main concern seems to have been to display a number of poetic forms while conveying the meaning in the most general terms. Unlike other Rouille/Bonhomme editions, the emblems follow the division into two books. Daza claims to have had access to what appears to be a printed copy with manuscript corrections in Alciato's own hand.

This edition is often wrongly dated 1540 because of the badly inked title page.

Selected Secondary Bibliography

Henry Green, Andrea Alciati and his Book of Emblems. A Biographical and Bibliographical Study (London: Trübner, 1872), 36/37.

John Landwehr, French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese Books of Devices and Emblems 1534-1827 (Utrecht: Haentjens Dekker and Gumbert, 1976), 40/41.

Alison Adams, Stephen Rawles, Alison Saunders, A Bibliography of French Emblem Books, 2 vols (Geneva: Droz, 1999-2002): entries F.001-072 cover early French editions of Alciato; this edition is entered as F.036.

Pedro F. Campa, Emblemata Hispanica. An Annotated Bibliography of Spanish Emblem Literature to the year 1700 (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1990.), *A1.

Andrea Alciato, Los emblemas de Alciato traducidos en rimas Españoles, Lion, 1549; edición preparada por Rafael Zafra ([Palma de Mallorca]: Universitat de les Illes Balears, 2003).


Back to top

Privacy notice
Terms and conditions