Alciato's Book of Emblems
Thomas Palmer's Two Hundred Poosees and their Sources in Alciato

Thomas Palmer (1540-1626) was a well-known poet and orator in his own time but has since been neglected in the history of English emblem writing, even though his extant manuscript entitled Two Hundred Poosees is the earliest extant English emblem book, dating from 1566, preceding Geffrey Whitney's Choice of Emblemes by twenty years.

This emblem collection, British Library Ms Sloane 4794, was edited by John Manning (New York: AMS Press, 1988). All our information here comes from Manning's excellent discussion, both in his edition, and in his article "Continental Emblem Books in Sixteenth-Century England: The Evidence of Sloane MS. 3794" Emblematica 1 (1986) 1-11. Helpful context is given in Michael Bath's Speaking Pictures: English Emblem Books and Renaissance Culture (London and New York: Longman, 1994) 57-69.

The manuscript measures 110 X 160 mm in 104 leaves (it lacks emblems 1-4, 7-8, 23-24, motto and picture of 25, and 114-117). It is written in a neat secretary hand, is dedicated to Robert Dudley, the earl of Leicester, and can be dated to early 1566. Many of the poems are illustrated, some with pen and ink, some with pencil, and some with cut-outs from printed emblem books.

Manning discusses Palmer's sources, which show close readings of Alciato, Aneau, Coustau, Paradin, and Valeriano, and the Adages of Erasmus. For Alciato, Palmer used the 1540 Paris edition of C. Wechel (with Hunger's German translation) and the 1556 Lyons edition of de Tournes and Gazeau (with commentary by Sebastian Stockhammer and woodcuts by Bernard Salomon). Palmer sometimes follows the commentary of Stockhammer rather than Alciato's verses.

We list the titles and immediately below, and the emblem number from Alciato, where appropriate. For purposes of keyword searching, we have modernized the spelling.

Picture descriptions are given in square brackets. The first hundred are our brief summaries of the picture content. The second hundred - far more elegant than ours! - are written by Thomas Palmer for pictures that were never drawn in the manuscript.



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Two hundred poosees devysed by Thomas Palmer:
Emblem Titles [and Picture Descriptions]

1 / The gift is not so much to be weighed as the mind of the giver [Artaxerxes, water from poor man]

2 / A long and prosperous life [olive tree]

3 / Everything is as it is taken [garden, spider, bee, honey]

4 / Clemency joined with severity: Severity joined with clemency [arms of England]

5 / Bear and forbear [Atlas]
[Cf Alciato 34]

6 / The arms of Oxford containing a place of universal learning [arms of Oxford]

7 / Liberality founders of a college [elephant bears college on back]

8 / Everlasting life [golden fleece]

9 / The way to heaven [Ganymede, eagle]
[Alciato 4]

10 / Religion [elephant]

11 / An image of a man's life [hourglass]

12 / Death bringeth another life [hourglass]

13 / The sinner is only relieved by Christ [eagle knocks off her own beak]

14 / One good turn asketh another [blind man carries lame man]
[Alciato 161]

15 / A man for all words [ass]

16 / The force of self love [Narcissus]
[Cf Alciato 69]

17 / Adversity causeth a man to know himself [falconer with falcon]

18 / Baptism [phoenix in palm tree]

19 / A sovereign medicine for sensuality and carnal affection [man spits on snake]

20 / The whole state of the court [auditor counts money]

21 / Mans tongue doth either great harm or good [Aesop's tongues]

22 / A good king having a noble counsel [prince, senate]
[Alciato 145]

23 / Let us not meddle with things that pass our capacity [Prometheus]
[Alciato 103]

24 / A goodly personage without wit [fox, head]
[Cf Alciato 189]

25 / Neither too slow nor too hasty [anchor, remora fish]
[Cf Alciato 20]

26 / Good hope [Hope, Cupid, Rhamnusia]
[Alciato 44]

27 / Against flatterers [chameleon]
[Alciato 53]

28 / Pride will have a fall [Phaeton}
[Alciato 56]

29 / The mean state is the best [Icarus]
[Alciato 104]

30 / Of battle comes peace [helmet, bees]
[Alciato 178]

31 / Seek not glory and renown [shadow pursues man under sun]

32 / All be not apt for learning [man beats ass]

33 / The misery of the covetous man [Tantalus]

34 / All be not like witted [boys climb palm tree]

35 / The innocent is punished, and the guilty let go [dog attacks stone, not the man who threw it]
[Alciato 175]

36 / The piety of a son [Aeneas bears Anchises]
[Alciato 195]

37 / He that will smite with the sword, shall be stricken with the scabbard [raven carries off scorpion]
[Alciato 173]

38 / Speak not evil of the higher powers [satyr sits before fire]

39 / A covetous old man [ass eats thistles]
[Alciato 86]

40 / An inconstant man [tennis court and players]

41 / Friendship dieth not [vine and elms]
[Alciato 160]

42 / Man's life is nothing else but anguish and pain [Sisyphus]

43 / He that giveth ill counsel is as much in fault as he that doeth the ill deed [trumpeter before the castle gate]
[Alciato 174]

44 / Fading be fortune's good [gourd and pine tree]
[Alciato 125]

45 / He that hath been twice beguiled, will beware the third time [man holds eel in figleaf]
[Alciato 21]

46 / The indulgence of parents [willow tree near water]

47 / Gluttony slays many men [fisherman with pike on line]

48 / Youth must take pains for age [Bucephalus driven by Alexander's page]

49 / The piety of children towards their parents [stork bears mother]
[Alciato 30]

50 / Better eye out than always ache [Democritus is blind]

51 / An unfaithful friend [armed warrior, Brasidas, with shield]

52 / Impossible things [Ethiopian being washed white]
[Alciato 59]

53 / Against them that keeps knaves and queens [Actaeon and his dogs]
[Alciato 52]

54 / The courtier's state [well dressed courtier in stocks]
[Alciato 87]

55 / An heart of oak [oak tree denuded of leaves by winds]
[Alciato 42]

56 / Against parasites [lobster (called a crab) and fish in dish]
[Alciato 93]

57 / Maids must be kept in [Pallas Athena]
[Alciato 22]

58 / Against them that above their strength attempt anything [Hercules and the pygmies]
[Alciato 58]

59 / Riches is oft hurtful unto itself [boys throw stones at nut tree]
[Alciato 193]

60 / Poverty is a grievous burden to the studious of good letters [boy, pulled up by wings on one hand, pulled down by stone in other]
[Alciato 121]

61 / Against lovers and harlots [sargus trapped in net by fisherman who wears skin of goat]
[Alciato 75]

62 / Manhood's badge [eagle on tomb]
[Alciato 33]

63 / One house is too little to find two parasites [one bird drives another from a tree]
[Alciato 94]

64 / An harlot's tomb [tomb, body on top, lion, ram below]
[Alciato 74]

65 / A good heart will not yield to them that would oppress it [boy hangs on palm tree]
[Alciato 37]

66 / God is our refuge in adversity [anchor, dolphin]
[Alciato 144]

67 / Time trieth truth [Time, with daughter Truth who emerges from cave]

68 / Not to me, Lord, but to thy name give the praise [ass with image being adored by crowd]
[Alciato 7]

69 / A man that rules his affections [man on kicking horse]
[Alciato 35]

70 / No commodity but brings his discommodity [serpent on strawberry plant]

71 / An unfit person to bear office [hog with gold ring in nose]

72 / Meddle with they match [pots of brass and clay in river]
[Alciato 166]

73 / The greatest crakers be not the greatest doers [mountain brings forth a mouse]

74 / He that takes a good turn of another selleth his liberty [man on horse fends off attacking bull]

75 / Unpreaching prelates [man offers food to dog]

76 / Feigned nobility [mother, child, playing children]

77 / Obstinacy is punished and humility is pardoned [lion spares man]

78 / A careful man [man devours heart]

79 / The stout stomach is not overcome with anxieties and griefs of the mind [cypress tree]

80 / Where the hedge is lowest it is soonest gone over [spider in web]

81 / The force of all eloquence [Orpheus, lyre, animals]

82 / A willful man [horse has thrown rider]

83 / Detraction's fury and end [Apelles' Calumny and other figures]

84 / Claw a churl [goat gives suck to wolf]
[Alciato 64 (Palmer follows Greek Anthology))]

85 / Falsehood [mirror on stand]

86 / Commit not a sword to a boy's hand [naked boy holds sword]

87 / A good preacher [rooster or cock]

88 / Freedom [cat]

89 / Thy word is a lantern unto my feet and a light unto my paths [hawk loses feathers below sun]

90 / He ought not to be trusted with other men's goods, that hath lavished out and wasted his own substance [statue of Medea killing children, bird flying]
[Alciato 54]

91 / Death is the end of all things: or, death spareth none [statue of Terminus]
[Cf Alciato 158]

92 / A good shepherd will lose his life for his sheep [pelican feeds young with her blood]

93 / The ignorant man is soonest deceived [man seated at dinner table]cf
[Cf Alciato 188]

94 / Young men thinks themselves wiser than their elders [man holds candle to the sun]

95 / A cloak for the rain [Trojan horse]

96 / Strength to wisdom gives place [owl sits on head of lion]

97 / Desire not that thou canst not have [fox and grapes]

98 / Love God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, etc. [man tills field with horse-drawn plough]

99 / We know not how soon we shall die [man holds up boy swimming in water]

100 / Against those that will say more than they will do [man turns to another, wolf before]

101 / Against the sluggish and slothful young man [Here must be painted a little hill of ants and the emots (= emmets, ants) going to and fro in the pathways carrying of their sustenance]

102 / The piety of parents [A hen clocking (= cloaking) of her chickens under her wings, and both a kite and a raven hovering in the air about her]

103 / An impudent man [An whole body of a man saving that he hath a dog's head]

104 / A man amated of a foil (= a man disheartened by a personal disgrace) [An hart that hath lost his horns hiding himself in a little thicket]

105 / He hath put all things under his feet sheep and oxen, etc. [The whole body of a lion having a man's head]

106 / The king will not hear those that wills him to ill [An elephant running from a grunting hog, who follows him]

107 / Preposterous and overwhart doings (= doings that should be placed first and that are contrary and perverse) [A cart and the horse set behind to the tail of the same]

108 / A bridle for lewdness [A great bull having as it were a garland about his neck made of the wild fig boughs]

109 / A citizen oppressed of a stranger [A wolf wearing (= worrying, seizing by the throat) a cow in the midst of the marketplace of a city]

110 / Nature at one time or another will show itself [A king with divers lords and states sitting in his great chamber, to see certain apes to mask, and the apes with their visors fallen off lying in the floor cracking of nuts]

111 / A drunken man [A man fighting with his shadow]

112 / One taketh pain, another hath the profit [A man beating of a bush with a staff on thone (= the one) side, and another fellow catching of the bird on the other side of the bush]

113 / An image of repentance [Christ sitting at a table with publicans and others, and Mary Magdalen underneath the board washing his feet with tears and wiping them with the hair of her head]

114 / Philip find fault [An assemble of the gods, before whom stand Momus point to the breast of a naked man hard by him]

115 / A dissembler of vices [A cat hiding her dung]

116 / (Title lost) [A scorpion swimming in a river]

117 / An unthrift [A fletcher making of a bolt]

118 / Had I wists fellow [A servant shutting of the stable door, and a thief standing far from him with an horse in his hand going away]

119 / Comfort in adversity [A great shower of rain, and a rainbow appearing in the firmament, and the earth overflowed with the water, where in a dry place the people kneels and holds up their hands to heaven looking towards the rainbow]

120 / Christ never forsakes his church [A green bush all of a fire being in a grove, and a man wondering at it, from the which place not far off is a flock of sheep]

121 / Under a beggarly cloak wisdom is sometime hid [A foul favoured man, his head like a sugar loaf, blabber-lipped (= with protruding, swollen lips) with a short nuck (= nape of neck) and a black skin, and a multitude of people wondering at him]

122 / Of ills the least is to be chosen [A willow tree growing upon the bank of a river, and a boy hanging by the boughs thereof over the water]

123 / An image of patience [A woman standing in an higher chamber looking out of a window and throwing down a piss-bowl full of water upon an old man's head who stands without doors under the wall]

124 / Company causeth cuckolds [A miller all bewrayed (= dirtied) with meal]

125 / Against rebellion [Absalom on horseback riding under an oak, and hanging by the hair of his head in one of the arms of the same, and a man slaying him with his spear]

126 / Nothing is to be counted ours that may be taken from us [A great company of men, women and children going out of a city with bag and baggage, and one notable man carrying, of nothing, whom all the rest do wonder at]

127 / Against cheaters [A leopard devouring of some other beast]

128 / Some men look so high that they see nothing alow [A man looking upon the stars and his feet being slipped into a ditch up to the knees and a maiden laughing at the distance]
[Cf Alciato 105]

129 / Of one act we must not judge a man [One swallow and a man blowing of his nails]

130 / Trust not too much to thy strength [A strong and a big man that hath both his hands fast in a cleft of an oak, and certain wedges hard by as it were flown out of the same]

131 / Children that do degenerate from their parents [A willow tree with roses growing upon it]

132 / A corrupt conscience [A horse with a gold back, and a man touching the sore wherewith he kicketh]

133 / Ill got, ill spent [Two kites, whereof the one vomiteth, the other looketh on]
[Alciato 129]

134 / Nothing too hard for labour [A strong and a big man (= Milo) bearing of an ox upon his back]

135 / Ignorance is cause of much ill [A dog lying without a man's house, abroad and barking at strangers that comes to the house]

136 / Against them that will not hear the word of God [A serpent laying one of his ears hard to the ground, and stopping his other ear with his tail and a charmer not far off of doing of his feat (= performance, act)]

137 / Without prudence we do nothing well [A great raven plucking out the eyes of a dead sheep]

138 / Let every man take him to that that he is most meet for [A man riding of a lusty gelding and a mill horse in a mill and four or five horses drawing of a cart]

139 / Some ill is toward for that ill dwells us by [An house in a town all of a fire and people running and carrying of water to quench the same]
[Cf Alciato 166]

140 / That one loseth, another findeth: or else, an ill wind that blows no man good]
[Alciato 126]

141 / Time maketh ill things good [A potecary (= apothecary) gathering of henbane, burleaves, and other like weeds]

142 / Marry thy like [A man (= Mars) and a woman (= Venus) lying in bed together covered as it were with a fine net of iron, and a company of gods looking on]

143 / A man beaten with his own rod [A smith with fetters on his legs]

144 / Concord unvincible [A man having as it were three bodies in one]
[Alciato 40]

145 / A double-tongued gentleman [A man bearing in one hand fire, and a stone, and in the other hand bread and water]

146 / Against disdainful and scornful persons [A cat looking upon a king]

147 / Learn by other men's harms to beware [A whelp beaten with a wand before the great of the lions]

148 / The rage of love [A great hill from the which issueth great smoke]

149 / Be not light of credit [A king with others sitting in judgment shutteth the tone of his ears with the palm of his hand and a man standing afore him]

150 / A man in doubt what to do [A man holding of a great wolf by both the ears]

151 / Out of sight, out of mind [A gentleman looking upon his man dressing of a gelding]

152 / A judge is as it were a sanctuary to the poor oppressed [A church and a man standing at an altar in the church]

153 / Promise broken [A goodly fair gentlewoman having a pair of balance in her hand: whereof in the lighter part lies two hands folded one in the other, signifying a man's promise: and in the weightier part of the balance is put a fair ostrich feather]

154 / If God be with us, who dare to stand against us [Little David killing great Golias (= Goliath)]

155 / Learn to know thyself [A naked man beholding himself in a looking glass]

156 / Education of children [A great bear licking of her young bears being newly whelped]

157 / The twitting and upbraiding of a man's benefit [A cow overturning a pail of milk with her foot]
[Cf Alciato 141]

158 / The magistrate bears not a sword for nought [A dudman, otherwise called a malkin (= scarecrow), standing upon a thatched house, and a crow standing upon his head]

159 / Against those that speak evil of the dead [An heap of armed men lying in a field whereunto comes a number of dawes, ravens, and pies]

160 / Do nothing rashly [A snail without a shell feeling the way with her two horns]

161 / Nothing of price is got without great pain [A steepy hill, in whose top be many goodly trees laden with fruit, and men gathering thereof: but on all sides to the top it is overgrown with bushes and briars so thick, that no man without great pains can pass the way thither]

162 / Facing fools [A man pursuing a crocodile who fleeth away]

163 / All is not gold that glistereth [An ostrich]

164 / Do as thou wouldst be done unto [The fish polypus, his head being caught fast within a shellfish]
[Cf Alciato 95]

165 / Carnal pleasure is best avoided when it is not cherished [A gentlewoman playing with her little dog]

166 / Many hands make light work [A giant with an hundred hands]

167 / Fortitude [An anvil and a diamond lying upon it, and a man striking it with an hammer]

168 / The valiantest men have been overcome of women [A goat slain, and a woman breaking the diamond with goat's blood]

169 / Wisdom goes to war [A goodly lady in complete harness]

170 / Slothfulness [A man hanging his head down, and having his nose dropping, and his hands in his bosom]

171 / Logic and rhetoric [A grave philosopher having one of his hands shut and his other open]

172 / Great pain and little profit [A man angling by a riverside and having caught a frog upon his hook]

173 / Faithful friendship [A table laid and only a fair salt upon the board]

174 / Innocency (= Innocence) [A serving man holding the basin and the ewer, and his master washing of his hands]
[Cf Alciato 31]

175 / A perfect wiseman [A baker bolting (= sifting) of meal]

176 / Knowledge [A fair great chair]

177 / Death [Three women spinning upon distaffs and one of their spindles being fallen away, and the thread knapt (= snapped) in two in the midst

178 / Marriage [Two oxen yoked together]

179 / Haste maketh waste [A bitch having newly whelped, her whelps being blind]

180 / Alms deeds [An olive tree]

181 / A rich man given all to flattery [A fig tree growing upon a high rock, and certain crows and kites eating the fruit]
[Alciato 73]

182 / The returning home of the lost sheep [A partridge carrying eggs to her nest]

183 / Discipline [Wormwood]

184 / Humility and patience [Hyssop (= the low-growing herb)]

185 / Against gorgeous apparel [A peacock spreading her tail, and some looking upon her]

186 / Impiety [A cock treading of an hen, and another cock hiding himself]

187 / Curiosity [A frog with great eyes standing out of her head]

188 / Silence in due time [Wild geese flying over an high hill, where two or three eagles be]

189 / Chastity [A pair of turtle doves]

190 / A talkative fellow [A pie (= magpie)]

191 / God helps the fatherless and motherless [A nest of young ravens gaping for meat]

192 / A description of the night [A peacock spreading of her tail]

193 / A description of the day [A peacock having her tail down and close]

194 / A description of a lover [Two or three flies with long feet flying about the candle light]

195 / The watch of a city [Many cranes asleep, and one awake holding up her leg keeping a stone in her foot]

196 / Mutual benefits [Many bats flying together on a rank, the one's head in the other's tail]

197 / Against those that gape after men's deaths for their lands and goods [A raven feeding upon a dead horse]

198 / The blind Jew [The owl flying by night]

199 / A man born to himself alone [An eel lying in mud]

200 / Death is nothing else by a sleep [A man lying in bed]

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Last modified 20 November 1997