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Claude Paradin's
Devises heroïques,
Jean de Tournes and Guillaume Gazeau, 1551


This work is reproduced from Glasgow University Library: SM815

Although the wearing of devices by members of the aristocracy and the incorporation of devices into the fabric of their houses and palaces as marks of ownership had been common practice, initially in Italy, and thereafter in France, from the later 15th century, it was not until the mid 16th century that printed collections of devices came to be published. Claude Paradin’s Devises heroïques, first published in 1551, is the earliest such collection. Republished frequently thereafter in various forms and in different languages, it became extremely influential across Europe. Not only were many of the devices borrowed by subsequent emblem writers (among whom Geffrey Whitney most notably) but they were also used as models for craftsmen working in many different media (among whom Mary Queen of Scots in her embroidery).

Claude Paradin (post 1510-1573)

Claude Paradin (not to be confused with his older brother, Guillaume Paradin, who was actually a more prolific writer than Claude) was born in Cuiseaux (Saône-et-Loire), and – like his brother – he spent his adult life as canon of the église collégiale in Beaujeu, near Lyons. His literary output was very small, comprising in addition to the Devises heroïques only two other works, both also printed in Lyons by Jean de Tournes (a distinguished publisher specialising in illustrated and emblematic works), the Quadrins historiques de la Bible (1553) and the Alliances genealogiques des rois et princes de Gaule (1561). Although quite different in theme, both of these illustrated works have some points in common with the Devises heroïques, though neither of them enjoyed anything like the popularity of his first work. The Alliances genealogiques deals with the cognate field of heraldry, providing illustrations of the shields of the kings and queens of France, accompanied by a brief summary of their genealogy, while the Quadrins historiques is an emblematically arranged version of the first part of the Old Testament,with each episode represented in a woodcut and narrated in a short French verse, very similar to other emblematically arranged versions of the Old and New Testament which were being published in Lyons and in Paris at this same period.

Publication History

(for more information see BFEB F.460-469)

Initially published in 1551 (and in a second, expanded edition in 1557) by Jean de Tournes and Guillaume Gazeau in Lyons, publication of the work was thereafter largely taken over by Christopher Plantin in Antwerp from 1561, before returning to France in the early 17th century. Plantin’s first innovation was to include together with Paradin’s devices a very similar, but much smaller collection of 37 devices by Gabriel Simeoni (1561, 1562 and 1567), and his second innovation was to produce a Latin translation of this combined text in order to provide for a wider reading public (1562, 1567 and 1583). Plantin’s woodblocks still survive in the Plantin Moretus Museum in Antwerp. Reflecting the wide interest that the work attracted is the fact that it was also published in a Dutch translation in Antwerp in 1563, and in an English translation in London in 1591. Paradin’s devices were still popular enough in the 17th century to justify the publication in Paris in 1614, 1621 and 1622 by Rolet Boutonné, of a further revised, and much expanded version in which Paradin’s devices are accompanied by a new commentary by the theorist on emblems and devices, Adrian d’Amboise.

Claude Paradin’s Devises heroïques, Lyons, Jean de Tournes and Guillaume Gazeau, 1551

This first edition of the Devises heroïques represents an early version of the work, in which each of the 118 devices comprises no more than the classic combination of woodcut figure plus motto. Six years later, in the 1557 edition (in which the number of devices was increased to 182) short commentaries in French were added, explaining the significance of each device, and identifying the person who actually used it or – in the case of the unattributed devices – the universally applicable lesson which could be derived from them. This fuller version was used in subsequent editions, and so it is only in this 1551 edition that we see the text as Paradin originally conceived it. The work is arranged symmetrically with one device per page.

GUL: SM816: c7r. Actual page height: 115mm.
GUL: SM816: c7r. Actual page height: 115mm.

All the mottoes are in Latin except for 6 which are in French or Spanish. The English translations of these mottoes are loosly based on the English translation of Paradin, of 1591. The typographic motto appears at the head of the page, followed by the woodcut device. The set of woodblocks used for this edition are probably by Bernard Salomon, who worked closely with De Tournes, though this is not certain (See A. Cartier, vol. 1, p. 15, and P. Sharratt, pp. 283-4).

Select Secondary Bibliography

Alison Adams, Stephen Rawles, Alison Saunders, A Bibliography of French Emblem Books, 2 vols (Geneva: Droz, 1999-2002): entries F.460-469 cover Paradin; this edition is entered as F.460. [LINK TO BIBLIOG DESCRIP]

Alfred Cartier, Bibliographie des éditions des De Tournes imprimeurs lyonnais (Paris: Éditions des Bibliothèques nationales de France, [1937-38]) vol.1, p.15

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, pp. 1812-19.

Claude Paradin, Devises heroïques, 1557; introductory note by C.N. Smith (Menston: Scolar Press, 1971)

Claude Paradin, Devises heroïques, 1557; introduction by Alison Saunders (Aldershot : Scolar Press, 1989)

Peter Sharratt, Bernard Salomon illustrateur lyonnais (Geneva: Droz, 2005)

Page written by Alison Saunders


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