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Commentary on Emblem 144

The "Titan brothers" are the winds. The kindness of dolphins towards men was written about very early (eg, Aristotle History of Animals book 5). The anchor as a sign of political stability appears in a number of classical authors.

Erasmus in his Adages has a full discussion of the anchor and dolphin, but interprets it quite differently from Alciato, under the heading of "Festina lente" or "Hasten slowly" where the swift movement of the dolphin is tempered by the stability of the anchor (2.1.1; trans Collected Works of Erasmus 33:3-17). The symbol appeared on an ancient coin of the emperor Titus Vespasian in AD 80. Apparently (note in CWE 33:340) the juxtaposition of anchor and dolphin had been associated with the god Neptune and the coin was issued in propitiation for the eruption of Vesuvius the year before. Erasmus sees the symbol as a hieroglyphic, which he explains in a long passage. Aldus Manutius (Aldo Manuzio, the Venetian printer, d 1515), published the 1508 edition of Erasmus' Adages, and in his adage 2.1.1 Erasmus tells how Aldus showed him the ancient coin of Vespasian. Aldus had been familiar with this symbol for some time. It appeared in Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, published by Aldus in 1499, as a "hieroglyphic" symbol. Soon after Aldus began to use the anchor and dolphin as his mark, and it was retained by his family after his death (you can see it on the title page of the 1546 edition). It is perhaps the most famous trademark in the history of Western printing.

For another version of the device that goes with "Festina lente" see Whitney 121.

Last modified 25 November 1997