The Emblematum liber of 1531

The first edition of Alciato first appeared in Augsburg in 1531, with 104 emblems in the collection. The printer was Heinrich Steyner. The small woodcuts have been ascribed to Jorg Breu. The title translates: The Book of Emblems of that Most Famous Man, Andrea Alciato, Jurisconsult of Milan, to Master Chonrad Peutinger, Jurisconsult of Augsburg (we have a note on Peutinger).

As has been shown by a number of scholars (Bernhard Scholz 1991 providing the most recent and most thorough summary-discussion in English), Alciato was not happy with this edition which was clearly unauthorized, and prepared a second edition of Paris, 1534. The woodcuts of 1531 are charming, though occasionally inaccurate. And the layout is difficult to follow, with titles and images often separated from the poem text by a turn of the page ("perceptual closure" at odds with "semantic closure" as Scholz [252] puts it). Our sample pages illustrate some of these problems, though to early 16th century readers what we term "problems" were normal occurrences in text layout and illustration. It is interesting to see, however, that they are "corrected" in the second edition, so that the emblem is presented as a complete visual unit on the page.

The original book, an octavo (signed A-E in 8, F in 4), measures 14.3 x 8.4 cm.

Page A1 recto (title page) [As was customary, the publication information is not given here, but on the colophon, F3 verso, which reads "Excusum Augustae Vindelicorum, per Heynricum Steynerum die 28. Februarij, Anno M. D. XXXI."]

Page A3 recto (In silentium: silent scholar), the same as Emblem 11 in 1621. [On this page you can see the end of one poem at the top, the motto, picture, and text for In silentium and the title for the next emblem, all on one page. This kind of layout is corrected in 1534, as you can see on page 7.]

Page B2 recto (Princeps subditorum incolitatem procurans: dolphin and anchor), the same poem as Emblem 144 in 1621. [The picture is interesting in the way it alludes to, but does not precisely imitate, the famous printer's mark of Aldus Manutius (see Commentary for Emblem 144).]

Page B7 recto (Non tibi sed religioni: ass carrying the image of the god), the same as Emblem 7 in 1621. [On this page, a title hangs at the bottom.]

Page C7 recto (In astrologos: astrologer) [The same poem as Emblem 113 in 1621, though the picture is wrong, depicting Thales, or some other ancient philosopher, tripping over a brick, not Icarus falling from the sky (see Commentary for Emblem 113). The image was corrected on page 57 of the authorized edition of 1534.]

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The principal editions: 1531, 1534, 1546, 1550, 1621
List of editions
Last modified 24 April 1995