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Hadrianus Junius's Les emblesmes,
Christophe Plantin, 1567


This work is reproduced from Glasgow University Library: SM659

This is the first French edition of the emblems of Hadrianus Junius, published in 1567 by Christophe Plantin in Antwerp. The translation is the work of the French dramatist Jacques Grévin, who also produced the translation of Sambucus’ emblems.The work was originally published in Latin by Plantin in 1565.

Hadrianus Junius (1511-1575)

Junius (Adriaan de Jonghe) was a Dutch humanist and physician, born in Hoorn. He studied in Louvain and Bologna, then worked as a preceptor and doctor for the aristocracy in Bologna, Paris and London. Junius returned to the Low Countries in 1550, where he spent the rest of his life, except for a brief, unsuccesful attempt to gain patronage at the Danish court. His publications include linguistic manuals, such as the Adagia (1558) and his polyglot dictionary Nomenclator (1567), and an important historical work about the province of Holland, Batavia (published posthumously 1588).

Junius knew Alciato personally from his period in Bologna, and even mediated between him and the Paris publisher Christian Wechel for a new edition of his emblem book. Junius was also in personal contact with Joannes Sambucus, who had visited the Southern Netherlands in 1563-1564. Sambucus’ emblematic activities seem to have triggered Junius’ publication. Indeed, the preliminaries of Junius’ collection include a letter by Sambucus praising Junius’ emblems. Like Sambucus, Junius used the emblem form as an instrument to strengthen his social network. He dedicated the collection as a whole to Arnoldus Cobelius, treasurer of the province of Holland, while addressing nineteen individual emblems to important (mostly Dutch) politicians, diplomats, and fellow humanists.

Publication History

(for more information see BFEB F.519, and Voet 1484)

As in the case of Sambucus, it was the publisher, Christophe Plantin, who took the initiative for vernacular editions of Junius’ emblems. In 1565, he commissioned Jacques Grévin to produce a French version and Marcus Antonius Gillis van Diest to make a Dutch translation, both of which were published in 1567. A slightly modified French translation was published in 1570, including an ‘explanation to some difficult emblems’, which was reprinted in 1575. The Dutch version saw one re-edition in 1575.

The Latin version was reprinted six more times, in 1566, 1569, 1575, 1585 by Plantin, and in a slightly expanded version published by the officina Raphelengiana, in 1595, also issued as a new-title edition giving 1596.

Jacques Grévin (1538-1570) was born in Clermont-en-Beauvaisis and studied medicine in Paris, where he became a disciple of Pierre de Ronsard. As Ronsard, he advocated classical forms in French poetry. His plays included the tragedy César (1560), modelled on Marc-Antoine Muret’s Julius Caesar. Some of his erotic poetry was published in the collection Olimpe in 1560, followed by Gélodacryes, a collection of satyrical sonnets, in 1561. Grévin’s Calvinist convictions caused a break with Ronsard and his intellectual milieu. This break and Grévin’s subsequent outsider’s position might explain why his contribution to the emblems is nowhere mentioned. In 1561, he became physician at the court of Margeret of Savoy in Turin, where he died in 1570.

Hadrianus Junius’s Emblesmes, Antwerp, Christophe Plantin, 1567

The French translation of Junius’ emblems was published by Christophe Plantin in 1567. They include 57 emblems, accompanied by woodcut illustrations. This is one less than in the Latin edition, which was due to a confusing typographical mistake made in the Latin edition (see Adams ‘An expensive compositorial misreading’). One emblem (no. 19) lacks the illustration. The picturae were designed by Geoffroy Ballain and Pieter Huys, while the woodblocks were cut by Gerard Janssen van Kampen and Arnold Nicolai.

Each emblem consists of a motto, a woodcut illustration (without the borders of the first Latin edition), and an epigram.

GUL: SM659: C6r. Actual page height: 115mm.
GUL: SM659: C6r. Actual page height: 115mm.

The section of emblems is preceded by preliminary pages, including a dedicatory letter to Arnoldus Cobelius by Plantin. The commentary to the Latin emblems and the section with riddles have been left out.

Select Secondary Bibliography

Alison Adams, Stephen Rawles, Alison Saunders, A Bibliography of French Emblem Books, 2 vols (Geneva: Droz, 1999-2002): this edition is entered as F.352. [LINK TO BIBLIOG DESCRIP]

Leon Voet, The Plantin Press, 1555-1589 : a Bibliography of the Works printed and published by Christopher Plantin at Antwerp and Leiden (Amsterdam: Van Hoeve, 1980-1983) vol. 4, 1484.

Hadrianus Junius, Emblemata, 1565, introductory note by Hester M. Black (Menston: Scolar Press, 1972). Facsimile reprint of Latin edition.

Hadrianus Junius, Emblemata, ad D. Arnoldum Cobelium; Aenigmata, ad D. Arnoldum Rosenbergum (Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 1987). Facsimile reprint of Latin edition.

Hadrianus Junius, De Emblemata van Hadrianus Junius, herdruk der Plantijnsche uitgave, van de oorspronkelijke houtsneden afgedrukt; net een voorwoord van Max Rooses (Antwerpen: Museum Plantin-Moretus, 1902)

Alison Adams, ‘An expensive compositorial misreading: the reset gathering in Hadrianus Junius’ Emblemata’, The Library, sixth series, 17 (1995), 345-348.

Alison Adams, ‘Jacques Grévin et sa traduction française des Emblemata d’Hadrianus Junius’, De Gulden Passer 73 (1995), 37-66.

C.L. Heesakkers, ‘Hadriani Iunii Emblemata’, in: Enenkel-Visser, Mundus Emblematicus (Turnhout, 2003), 33-69.

Page written by Arnoud Visser


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