The Emblematum libellus of 1534

The first authorized edition was produced in 1534 in an octavo by the scholarly Paris publisher Christian Wechel, with woodcuts by Jollat. Its title translates as Andrea Alciato's Little Book of Emblems. It was dedicated by the printer to Philibert Baboo, bishop of Angouleme.

The first unauthorized edition of Alciato's Emblematum liber had been published in Augsburg in 1531, and was several times reprinted before Alciato went to work on correcting the text. The earlier edition had 104 emblems. This new one has 113 emblems, with completely redesigned woodcuts and generally one emblem per page (in other words, a closer relation between the logic of the emblem and the logic of the page than is found in 1531).

Copies of 1534 are extant which contain variant states in the woodblocks. For instance, Eros in Emblem 110 appears in one version with wings (which makes no sense when read with the epigram, which asks "where are your wings?"), another without (the corrected version). In a recent article John Manning (1989, notes 30 and 33) divides these variants into two groups A [Glasgow UL; Bibliotheque Nationale (2)] and B [Oxford Bodleian; British Library]), though he is unclear if the corrections are by forme (the corrected and uncorrected sheets being mixed) or by copy. We are now (November 1997) informed by Stephen Rawles at Glasgow that these two versions are in fact two distinct editions. There were further editions by Wechel in 1535, 1536, etc.

The original book, an octavo (A-G in 8, H in 4), measures 16.7 x 10.9 cm. Some sample pages:

Page A1 recto (title page)

Page 7 (In silentium: silent scholar) [This is the same as the emblem on Page A3 recto in the 1531 edition. Now the page has been completely redesigned to feature this emblem alone. Compare also with Emblem 11 in the edition of 1621.]

Page 16 (In Deo laetandum: Ganymede) [This is an early version of the emblem, before the addition of the barking dog. See the Commentary for Emblem 4 in 1621.]

Page 57 (In astrologos: Icarus) [In 1531, page C7 recto, this emblem showed the stumbling astrologer. The image has now been corrected to fit the poem. See also commentary for Emblem 113 in 1621.]

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The principal editions: 1531, 1534, 1546, 1550, 1621
List of editions
Last modified 23 November 1997