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Jean Jacques Boissard's Emblemes [...]
nouvellement mis de latin
en françois par Pierre Joly
A. Faber, 1595


This book is reproduced from a copy in the Bibliothèque Mazarine, Paris.

This is the French edition of the second of Boissard’s two emblem books, Emblematum liber (Frankfurt, Theodore de Bry, 1593). The original is entirely in Latin. 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. There is a manuscript in Paris (Bibliothèque de l’Institut 623 (c. 1583)) which contains first versions, in Latin, of all the emblems in this book, and also in Boissard’s first emblem book, the Emblemata cum tetrastichis latinis (Metz: Jean Aubry, 1584; second edition Emblematum liber/ Emblemes latins [...] avec l’interpretation Françoise, Metz: Jean Aubry and Abraham Faber, 1588) link Whereas the 1584/88 emblems include from the outset not only Boissard’s Latin text, but also a French version by Pierre Joly, for this book the French version, again by Pierre Joly, is published separately. A German version, entitled Emblemata, is also produced in 1593. In the 1584/88 emblems, Boissard’s Reformed faith is obvious, no doubt a manifestation of the vulnerable position in which Protestants found themselves. This later book, however, seems to reflect the new political situation in which, with Henry IV on the throne, Calvinists were able to feel more optimistic. At the same time we find evidence of the growing interest in Neo-Stoicism at this period.

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,, among them Theodore de Bry, the publisher of this edition.

Publication History (for more information BFEB F.111-114)

Both editions of Boissard’s first emblem book (1584/88)had been published in Metz, under the auspices of Jean Aubry. For this second emblem book, however, Boissard turns to the celebrated German publisher and engraver Theodore de Bry, although still in association with Abraham Faber. The Latin (Emblematum liber) and German (Emblemata) editions, both 1593, are published in Frankfurt, but the French one in 1595, which we reproduce here, actually appears with a Metz imprint. link to bibliog. descrip. All three use the same engravings. The quality of the new engravings is markedly superior to those found in the 1584/88 emblems. The Latin quatrains had been brought out earlier in a volume entitled Tetrasticha in emblemata (Metz: A. 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 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 Emblemes [...] nouvellement mis de latin en françois par Pierre Joly, Metz: A. Faber, 1595

The engraved picturae, closely modelled on the earlier manuscript version (though perhaps not quite as much as in the 1584/88 emblems), are among the most complex and difficult to interpret of any emblem book. While in the earlier book a Latin quatrain had been combined with a French sonnet, here we find both a French verse, in fact two four-line strophes, beneath the pictura, and a French prose commentary on the facing verso.

Bibl. Maz 112114bis: C3vo-C4ro. Actual page height: 188mm.
Bibl. Maz 112114bis: C3vo-C4ro. Actual page height: 188mm.

Pierre Joly for the most part remains relatively close to Boissard’s Latin in the 1593 edition in terms of interpretation, although stylistically he seeks to make his personal mark, often expanding the original somewhat. Thus the less explicitly Christian tone of Boissard’s second emblem book is broadly maintained in the French version. The commentaries often contribute significantly to the overall sense. As in the Latin, the verbal link with manuscript Bibliothèque de l’Institut 623, is not very close. Each emblem in the 1593/95 collection has an individual dedicatee, and it is interesting that several of these are again 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 verses, like Boissard, came from Metz. He was a lawyer, and a Protestant, and was chosen to argue the cause of the Reformed faith with Henri IV.

Select Secondary Bibliography

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.114 [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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