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Jean Jacques Boissard's Emblematum liber
/ Emblemes latins [...] avec
l'interpretation Françoise
, Metz,
Jean Aubry and Abraham Faber, 1588


This work is reproduced from Glasgow University Library: SMAdd415

This is the second edition of the first of Boissard’s two emblem books (first edition Emblemata cum tetrastichis latinis (Metz: Jean Aubry, 1584)). Boissard is exceptional among emblem writers in that, as both an artist and a poet, he is largely responsible for both the text and the engravings of his books. There is a manuscript in Paris, Bibliothèque de l’Institut 623 (c. 1583) which contains first versions of all the emblems in this book, and also those in Boissard’s second emblem book, the Emblematum liber (Frankfurt: Theodor de Bry, 1593 with a German edition in the same year and a French edition in 1595). In both editions, the 1584/88 emblems include not only Boissard’s Latin text, but a French version by Boissard’s friend Pierre Joly. Within ultra-Catholic Lorraine, Metz at this point was a refuge for French Protestants, and Boissard’s emblems at times reflect his Reformed faith. In the same period he had travelled widely, spending many years in Rome, Padua, other Italian cities and even Greece, as well as travelling in Germany and the Low Countries. He may be seen as a true Humanist with contacts in the courts and among the learned men of Europe.

Jean Jacques Boissard (1528-1602)

Boissard led a colourful life, much of the time travelling widely. Born in Besançon, as a young man he studied in Germany and the Low Countries, and later visited Italy and even Greece. He spent considerable time in the entourage of Cardinal Caraffa in Rome where he pursued his interest in archaeology. After 1560, he was based in Metz though travelling widely, since he was charged successively with the education of two of the sons of the Calvinist leader, the Baron de Clervant. This included a period in the university town of Padua, where he was at the time of the plague in 1576. Many people of his acquaintance died, and this, not surprisingly, seems to have affected him deeply. In 1583 he settled more pernanently in Metz, and in 1587 he married Marie Aubry, the daughter of the printer with whom he had worked, Jean Aubry. Later, however, his publishing ventures brought him increasingly into contact with publishers in Germany.

Publication History

(for more information BFEB F.111-114)

The first edition of Boissard’s 1584/88 emblems was entirely engraved, but in the 1588 edition, which we reproduce here, the Latin quatrain and the French sonnet by Pierre Joly are in letterpress link to bibliog. descrip. This means that the engraved blocks for the pictura have been cut in two. This later edition includes a significant number of revisions to both the Latin and the French texts, and that is presumably the justification for this process (see facsimile ed. by Alison Adams: reference below). Between the two editions, Boissard had brought out a volume entitled Tetrasticha in emblemata (Metz: Abraham Faber, 1587), which in fact contains the quatrains for both the 1584/88 emblems and those published in 1593, as well as others drawn from the manuscript (now Bibliothèque de l’Institut 623) which he never published. There are changes in the order of presentation.

Boissard also collaborated with Denis Lebey de Batilly, producing the engravings for his Emblemata (Frankfurt: Theodore de Bry, 1596).

Jean Jacques Boissard’s Emblematum liber/ Emblemes latins [...] avec l’interpretation Françoise, Metz: Jean Aubry and Abraham Faber, 1588, with a French version by Pierre Joly

The engraved picturae, closely modelled on the earlier manuscript versions, are among the most complex and difficult to interpret of any emblem book. In the manuscript Bibliothèque de l’Institut 623, Boissard gives a French prose commentary on each emblem. On the basis of this, it is possible to argue that the French version by Pierre Joly, considerably more extended than the Latin, can in many cases represent Boissard’s own reading of the emblem. In his introductory comments, Pierre Joly invites the reader to struggle first with the pictura, and by implication the Latin quatrain, and only then move on to the French version. This offers an interesting insight into reading practice, especially since Joly’s French sonnet precedes the pictura, being placed on the facing verso.

GUL SMADD415: B4vo-C1ro. Actual page height: 191mm.
GUL SMADD415: B4vo-C1ro. Actual page height: 191mm.

The French often encourages a more explicitly Christian and indeed Calvinist understanding of the emblem, and this is in the main supported by the manuscript. Each emblem in the 1588 edition has an individual dedicatee, and it is interesting that several of these are friends of Boissard’s who had died in the plague in Padua. Many of the emblems contain quotations from the Greek, most of them from Menander’s Sententiae.

Pierre Joly (Petrus Lepidus), who supplied the French sonnet, like Boissard, came from Metz. He was a lawyer, and a Protestant, and would later be sent to argue the cause of the Reformed faith with Henri IV. spaces at the end of emblems which are filled in with typographic ornaments.

Select Secondary Bibliography

Boissard, Jean Jacques, 1528-1602, Jean Jacques Boissard's Emblematum liber : Emblèmes latins : Metz: A. Faber, 1588 : a facsimile edition using Glasgow University Library SM Add 415, with a critical introduction and notes by Alison Adams (Turnhout: Brepols, 2005). Gives a full analysis of the emblems, including comparison with Bibliothèque de l’Institut 623.

Alison Adams, Stephen Rawles, Alison Saunders, A Bibliography of French Emblem Books, 2 vols (Geneva: Droz, 1999-2002): entries F.111-115 cover Boissard; this edition is entered as F.113 [LINK TO BIBLIOG DESCRIP]

Alison Adams, Webs of Allusion. French Protestant Emblem Books of the Sixteenth Century (Geneva: Droz, 2003), esp. pp. 155-291.

Wolfgang Harms, ‘Mundus imago Dei est. Zum Entstehungsprozeß zweier Emblem-Bücher Jean Jacques Boissards’, Deutsche Vierteljahres-schrift für Literaturwissenschaft und Geistesgeschichte 47 (1973), 223-244.

Wolfgang Harms, ‘Eine Kombinatorik unterschiedlicher Grade des Faktischen. Erweiterungen des emblematischen Bedeutungspotentials bei dem Archäologen Jean Jacques Boissard’, in Mimesis und Simulation, ed. A. Kablitz and G. Neumann, Romback Litterae 53 (Freiburg: Rombach, 1998), pp. 279-307.

Heinfried Wischermann, ‘Ein Emblembuch-manuskript von Jean-Jacques Boissard’, Archiv für Geschichte des Buchwesens 14 (1974), col. 433-464.

Paulette Choné, Emblèmes et pensées symboliques en Lorraine (1525-1633) (Paris: Klincksieck, 1991), pp. 662-682.

Page written by Alison Adams


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