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Gilles Corrozet's Hecatomgraphie,
Denis Janot, 1540


This work is reproduced from Glasgow University Library: SMAdd385

This is the second vernacular French emblem book, appearing shortly after Guillaume de la Perriere’s Theatre des bons engins also published by Denis Janot. It seems to have been well received, since further editions followed in close succession. At this early stage in the history of the genre, less than ten years after the first published edition of Alciato’s emblems, and only four after the first to include a French version, the generic expectations had by no means stabilised. Thus it will be seen that neither of these two works correspond to the tripartite structure generally regarded as typical. These editions by Denis Janot can be regarded as particularly fine examples of Parisian printing.

Gilles Corrozet (1510-1568)

Gilles Corrozet was a true Renaissance figure: he was both a publisher and a man of letters and historian, even a philosopher, in his own right. A self-made man who undertook no formal university studies, he was moved by the desire to instruct others and to bring learning to a wide public. Among his historical works are two on the history of Paris (La fleur des antiquitez de la noble et triumphante ville de Paris, Paris, 1532 and Les antiquitez, histoires et singularitez de Paris (Paris 1552), as well as ones concerning other French towns and Spain. His linguistic skills and his philosophical interest are reflected in his Diffinition et perfection de l’amour (Paris: D. Janot, 1541-1542), a French version of Marsilio Ficino’s commentary on Plato’s Symposium. More closely related to his emblematic endeavours are his Blasons domestiques, as well as his Historiarum Veteris Testamenti Icones (Lyon, 1539) with woodcuts by Holbein, the Simulaches et historiees faces de la mort (Lyon, 1538), his translation of Aesop (Paris, 1542), and his Tapisserie de l’église chrétienne (Paris, n. d.). He is responsible for one further proper emblematic work, the Emblemes which appear in the back of his Tableau de Cebes (Paris: Denis Janot, 1543).

Publication History

(for more information F.189-191, 193, 195-198)

The Parisian printer Denis Janot was responsible for the first four official editions of the Hecatomgraphie, in 1540 (reproduced here) Link to bibliog descrip, 1541, 1543 and 1544: this last edition (titled Hecatomgraphie) is dated 1543, but the typography indicates that it was in fact printed in 1544. By the third and fourth editions, significant revision of the text has taken place. An unillustrated pirate edition was brought out by Denis de Harsy, undated but probably in late 1540. Janot’s successor, Etienne Groulleau, brought out a further edition, using the same woodcuts, in 1548. Two editions appear in Lyons, using different woodcuts and with a different title: La fleur des sentences certaines, apophthegmes, et stratagemes (Lyons; Valence: Philibert Rollet and Barthélemy Frain for Claude de la Ville, 1548 and 1549), and La fleur des sentences moralles (Lyons: Balthasar Arnoullet, 1551). In these editions, an Italian motto is added to each emblem.

26 emblems from the Hecatomgraphie, along with 32 from Guillaume de la Perrière’s Theatre de bons engins, were included in an anthology of moralising verses published in several editions by Etienne Groulleau from 1548, entitled Le Jardin d’honneur. (See BFEB F.346-50)

Gilles Corrozet’s Hecatomgraphie, Paris, Denis Janot, 1540

This work, consisting of one hundred emblems, has a distinctive structure, with each emblem occupying a full spread.

GUL: SMAdd385: I8v-K1r. Actual page height: 152mm.
GUL: SMAdd385: I8v-K1r. Actual page height: 152mm.

The verso page, contains a motto/title, the woodcut and a quatrain, and the facing recto a longer verse text which is often divided into strophes. Sometimes the longer text has been regarded as a mere commentary rather than an integral part of the emblem, but in fact the emblems cannot be properly understood without this longer text and we are merely witnessing an alternative structure. The relationship between the four parts is variable. Most, though not all, of the woodcuts were produced specially for this edition. The series of editions by Janot, with their decorative woodcut frames, are fine examples of Parisian printing.

Select Secondary Bibliography

Alison Adams, Stephen Rawles, Alison Saunders, A Bibliography of French Emblem Books, 2 vols (Geneva: Droz, 1999-2002): entries F.189-199 cover editions of Corrozet; this edition is entered as F.189 [LINK TO BIBLIOG DESCRIP]

Corrozet, Gilles, L’Hecatomgraphie (1544) & Les Emblemes du Tableau de Cebes (1543), reproduits en facsimilé avec une étude critique par Alison Adams (Genève: Droz, 1997).

Corrozet, Gilles, Hecatomgraphie, 1540, introductory note by Alison Saunders (Ilkley: Scolar Press, 1974).

Alison Saunders, ‘Emblem Books for a Popular Audience? Gilles Corrozet’s Hecatomgraphie and Emblèmes, Australian Journal of French Studies 17 (1980), 5-29.

Alison Adams, ‘Textual Development in Corrozet’s Hecatomgraphie’, Emblematica 8.1 (1994), 43-59.

Stephen Rawles, ‘Corrozet’s Hecatomgraphie: Where did the Woodcuts come from and where did the go?’, Emblematica 3.1 (1988), 31-64.

Page written by Alison Adams.


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