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Each of the twenty-two books in this project can be read or searched a number of different ways. This page will help identify and clarify these choices.

When you first select the contents of a book, you will find a list of emblems displayed by default in the order they appear in the book, with an accompanying thumbnail image. This can be modified (see preferences, below), to display titles (or first lines) only, without the thumbnail.

From the display of thumbnail images, you can either click on the 'transcribed page' or the 'facsimile page': the first includes not just a keyed version of the text, but also annotations, corrections and other markings that help search or read the text. It is not an exact copy of the sixteenth-century page, though appears generally in the same basic layout and formatting. To see exactly how the page appears in the original, click instead the 'facsimile page' (represented by this icon: facsimile), which is a digital photograph of each individual page that comprises the emblem.

Once a view has been selected, you can read by advancing page by page, one at a time for the transcribed page. For the facsimile page it can be advanced either one by one or two at a time (i.e., like a book) ["Dual Emblem Display"]. Alternatively, pages can be advanced in a combination of transcribed and facsimile views.

Within the transcribed page, you can click on the facsimile icon, indicated at the top of each emblem, and at each page break where it occurs in the text; this will take you to the digital facsimile image. Alternatively, you can click on the cropped image (the pictura) to see an enlarged version. From the pictura, you can then click back to either format of the emblem as a whole. At any stage you can click on the book title on the large blue banner at the top of the page to return to the introductory page and contents of that book.

Aside from the emblems that make up the bulk of these books, each edition also contains paratextual material: 'Prefatory matter' and 'Back matter', which includes various texts such as prefaces, printer's privileges, dedications, poems, indexes, and so forth. These can be read as a single page for either 'Prefatory matter' or 'Back matter' in 'transcribed page' format. Facsimile views are also available by clicking the icon where each page-break occurs, as in the emblems.

The detailed analytical index to the 1621 Tozzi edition is available as a search tool in its own right. Apart from this index, the paratextual material of this edition has not been transcribed.

Please note: the extensive non-authorial commentaries in three books (1591, 1615, 1621) are available in facsimile format only.

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About the transcribed page:

Each emblem has been keyed and marked using XML in various ways to allow maximum readability and searchability. Most of these won't be seen on the page, but work behind the scenes in the search process.

Most of the text has been keyed in a direct manner, with no changes, but we have systematically made a few emendations:

For any of these the actual printed version can be viewed by accessing the facsimile view.

In addition, some words that appear as significant errors (but were not corrected by Errata in the original edition) have been given corrections in the text, immediately following the word: for example, 'Purella [=Puella]'.

French, German and Spanish words have been keyed as in the original but can also be found using a modern spelling ("emblesme" and "embleme"; "roy" and "roi"; "bolverse" and "volverse"; "Hertzen weiß" and "Herzen weis"). When searching in these languages the most effective way will normally be to use modern spelling. But you should also try any spelling you think appropriate. Thus "Met hors dung serpent lenfant nud" will also be returned by searching for "met hors d'un serpent l'enfant nu". The modern spelling of the Italian is not avaialble at present.

Latin words that have variant spellings have been keyed as they appear, but marked so that they can be found on the search page using either spelling (like caelum and coelum).

Some of the texts in this website include Greek words. These can be viewed in their original format in the facsimile view, or in Unicode characters in the transcribed view. Transcription of Greek texts seeks to reproduce the original, while resolving ligatures. Breathings and accentuation are at times idiosyncratic or plain wrong, and these should always be omitted for searching purposes (see instructions for searching Greek, below). The best fonts to use when viewing these pages are {Palatino Linotype}, but not all browsers will be able to view the Greek complete with all of its accompanying diacritical marks. Our policy for annotations has been to transliterate Greek characters into Roman script for translation purposes, but to use Greek characters when elucidating a particular word in a footnote.

Pagination has been indicated in several ways, to make a sixteenth-century system both searchable by a twenty-first century computer, and comprehensible to both scholars and non-scholars.

Immediately to the right of the facsimile page icon will be seen a code that indicates how the page was numbered by the printer in the original format. All the pages reproduced here have their 'signature references' given. This is the most reliable way of referring to any given page of an early modern book (e.g. A1r; A1v; HH3v). Some books also use 'foliation' (= each leaf numbered) or pagination (= the now almost universal convention of numbering each page). Foliated book number only on the 'rectos' or new leaves (folios), i.e, folio 1 recto (front), and folio 1 verso (back), which are marked here f1r and f1v. Paginated books use the modern convention of numbering every page.

Our notation accompanying each facsimile icon is a combination of these systems (usually signature followed by pagination), and will be useful to those wishing to cite exact pages in academic work, or to order copies of particular images (see How to order images). Thus: 'Link to an image of this page [B4v p16]' indicates a link to the facsimile of leaf B4 verso of the book in question, which is also paginated 16.

Thematic Classification when indicated in the original book is given at the top of the transcribed emblem. You can locate the other emblems in each category by clicking on this term.

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Translations and Annotations

The transcribed page also offers several extra elements to help comprehend the emblem: all Latin mottoes and primary (mostly verse) texts have been translated into English, as have secondary texts when no vernacular version is available; and most emblems are accompanied by annotations made by various scholars affiliated with this project. The translations can be "switched off" if desired, by using the Preferences tab (see below).

The translations of the Latin into English are provided to help the user. They should not, however, be regarded as offering definitive interpretations of texts. For scholarly purposes, reference back to the original version should always be made.

The level of Annotation will be noticeably different from book to book. Some books have been heavily annotated in previous incarnations, and by permission of their authors notes have been modified and transferred into this website. Others derived mostly from translators' efforts in making the Latin texts more accessible. The notes identify names and elucidate concepts where these are felt to be not generally known. The notes also provide links with other emblems that use similar themes or mention key persons. These links can be clicked to take the reader directly to the emblem being referenced. Similarly, the number of the footnote (in blue) can be clicked to take the reader to the exact spot in the text to which the note refers, especially useful in very long texts.

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Using the preferences tab at the top of each page, you can choose to modify how you view the emblems, or how search results are displayed. You can choose to have translations 'on' or 'off' for each emblem; have proper names appear with underline or not (the default here is 'off'); or view contents or search results with or without thumbnail images. Settings will be remembered if the same machine is used, even in a later session.

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The books in the project can be searched in two basic ways, by Quick Search or by Advanced Search.

The Quick Search has one box, at the top right of each page, which searches all the data sets available for this project (keyed text, Iconclass terms, proper names).

Advanced Search gives many more options to select exactly which criteria you want. After each search, you can see 'what you searched for', then follow options to 'try another search' (or 'clear all' back on the search page), or to 'update your search', modifying the conditions you set.

For each separate element on the Advanced Search page, you can select one option, or several options using the shift or control keys. These include selecting the book or books you wish to search, the language, or the textual element (see below). You can also limit a search to one book only from the contents page of each book. You can choose to view search results with or without thumbnails (see Preferences).

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Keyed Text

When using the Text search box, all texts will be searched, including the paratextual material (see above), translations and footnotes. You can, however, limit the search by individual textual elements (see below) or books. You can use 'wildcards' in this search using *. Words can be spelled in old or new forms (see above). The full rules for searching text can be found here.

Each emblem has been divided into its component Textual elements: while there is no universal standard for the emblem as a genre, some basic divisions will make searching by component possible. Most emblems have a motto or title, followed by a primary text (usually in verse). Some are then accompanied by a secondary text which may be by the author or another person.

Searching in Greek: Greek words should be searched by means of the standard transliteration system (A transliteration table can be found here). For example, the word Νῆφε should be keyed into the text box as "Ne^phe".

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Proper Names

In this project, we have chosen to select one ‘key’ name for mythological or historical persons or places that appear in the text, and then to match all the variant spellings to that one key. In this manner you can search for Minerva, and find all of the associated names of this goddess (Athena, Pallas, the goddess of Wisdom, Athène, Minerve, etc). As a general rule, the key name for persons from mythology or Classical history appears in Latin, as was more customary in the sixteenth century (so Minerva, not Athena), but a search for either will produce the same results. Similarly, Medieval or Early Modern figures who were known more by their Latinised name, can be found under either (for example, Cardinal Hugh de St-Cher, can be searched under Hugo Cardinalis; Erasmus can be searched - if someone so wished - under Gerrit Gerritzsoon). A complete listing of the various forms of proper names that appear in this website, can be found here. This list for the most part separates the names into modern English or Latin variants (or Greek for gods where helpful), but not for other languages, unless the modern non-English name differs enough from the English to put it in another part of the alphabet (for example, Angleterre for England), or is significantly different (Elie for Elijah).

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Iconclass uses a controlled vocabulary, designed to index images. Use of Iconclass in this project has been developed in close association with the Mnemosyne project in the Netherlands, and, in our case, also used experimentally to index mottoes and primary texts (but not secondary texts).

When viewing individual emblems in 'transcribed page' view, you can choose to search "Image only" or "Image and Text". As with any other Search category, you can also limit its use to individual books or groups of books (but not to elements within books). You can put one or more keywords in the search box, using the standard rules for text searching.

You can also:

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When searching by Versification, it is important first to select the required language. Thereafter you can search by metre, overall number of lines, and lines per stanza.

14-line poems are identified as sonnets only when they are so named, or where the layout clearly supports this.

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Rhetorical Categories

A feature of some Alciato editions is the statement of a particular rhetorical category to which the text is deemed to conform. These may be searched using the following normalised English terms:


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