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Claude Paradin's
Devises heroïques,
Jean de Tournes and Guillaume Gazeau, 1557


This work is reproduced from Glasgow University Library: SM816

Although the wearing of devices by members of the aristocracy and the incorporation of devices into the fabric of their houses and palaces as marks of ownership had been common practice, initially in Italy, and thereafter in France, from the later 15th century, it was not until the mid 16th century that printed collections of devices came to be published. Claude Paradin’s Devises heroïques, first published in 1551, is the earliest such collection. Republished frequently thereafter in various forms and in different languages, it became extremely influential across Europe. Not only were many of the devices borrowed by subsequent emblem writers (among whom Geffrey Whitney most notably) but they were also used as models for craftsmen working in many different media (among whom Mary Queen of Scots in her embroidery).

Claude Paradin (post 1510-1573)

Claude Paradin (not to be confused with his older brother, Guillaume Paradin, who was actually a more prolific writer than Claude) was born in Cuiseaux (Saône-et-Loire), and – like his brother – he spent his adult life as canon of the église collégiale in Beaujeu, near Lyons. His literary output was very small, comprising in addition to the Devises heroïques only two other works, both also printed in Lyons by Jean de Tournes (a distinguished publisher specialising in illustrated and emblematic works), the Quadrins historiques de la Bible (1553) and the Alliances genealogiques des rois et princes de Gaule (1561). Although quite different in theme, both of these illustrated works have some points in common with the Devises heroïques, though neither of them enjoyed anything like the popularity of his first work. The Alliances genealogiques deals with the cognate field of heraldry, providing illustrations of the shields of the kings and queens of France, accompanied by a brief summary of their genealogy, while the Quadrins historiques is an emblematically arranged version of the first part of the Old Testament,with each episode represented in a woodcut and narrated in a short French verse, very similar to other emblematically arranged versions of the Old and New Testament which were being published in Lyons and in Paris at this same period.

Publication History

(for more information see BFEB F.460-469)

Initially published in 1551 (and in this second, expanded edition of 1557) by Jean de Tournes and Guillaume Gazeau in Lyons, publication of the work was thereafter largely taken over by Christopher Plantin in Antwerp from 1561, before returning to France in the early 17th century. Plantin’s first innovation was to include together with Paradin’s devices a very similar, but much smaller collection of 37 devices by Gabriel Simeoni (1561, 1562 and 1567), and his second innovation was to produce a Latin translation of this combined text in order to provide for a wider reading public (1562, 1567 and 1583). Plantin’s woodblocks still survive in the Plantin Moretus Museum in Antwerp. Reflecting the wide interest that the work attracted is the fact that it was also published in a Dutch translation in Antwerp in 1563, and in an English translation in London in 1591. Paradin’s devices were still popular enough in the 17th century to justify the publication in Paris in 1614, 1621 and 1622 by Rolet Boutonné, of a further revised, and much expanded version in which Paradin’s devices are accompanied by a new commentary by the theorist on emblems and devices, Adrian d’Amboise.

Claude Paradin’s Devises heroïques, Lyons, Jean de Tournes and Guillaume Gazeau, 1557

This second edition of 1557 offers a version of the text which is markedly different from that of the original edition published by De Tournes in 1551. There the work was much smaller, containing only 118 devices, whereas the 1557 edition contains 182. But more significantly the nature of the work is changed: the original version giving a set of basic devices comprising woodcut figure plus motto, is transformed in 1557 by the addition at the end of each device of a French commentary explaining its significance, and identifying the person who used it, or - in the case of the unattributed devices – the universally applicable lesson which could be derived from them. In this new form – which became the norm for subsequent editions – Paradin’s work is thus far more informative and overtly moralistic than in its original text-free form. Its increased ‘educational’ dimension is reflected also in the marginal notes accompanying the prose commentaries, identifying sources. As in 1551 the work again laid out so that each device begins on a new page. Typically the commentaries are 2 to 8 lines long, but on occasion they can be much longer, such that a single device may take up as many as three pages.

GUL: SM816: c5r. Actual page height: 160mm.
GUL: SM816: c5r. Actual page height: 160mm.

All but a very small number of the mottoes are in Latin, and the typographic motto appears at the head of the page, followed by the woodcut device, followed by the French commentary. The English translations of these mottoes are loosly based on the English translation of Paradin, of 1591. The original set of woodblocks from 1551 is again used here, with some replacements, and with the addition of new ones for the devices which appear here for the first time. These are probably by Bernard Salomon who worked closely with De Tournes, though this is not certain. (See A. Cartier, vol.1, p.15, and P. Sharratt, pp.283-4).

Select Secondary Bibliography

Alison Adams, Stephen Rawles, Alison Saunders, A Bibliography of French Emblem Books, 2 vols (Geneva: Droz, 1999-2002): entries F.460-469 cover Paradin; this edition is entered as F.461. [LINK TO BIBLIOG DESCRIP]

Alfred Cartier, Bibliographie des éditions des De Tournes imprimeurs lyonnais (Paris: Éditions des Bibliothèques nationales de France, [1937-38]) vol.1, p.15

Leon Voet, The Plantin Press, 1555-1589 : a Bibliography of the Works printed and published by Christopher Plantin at Antwerp and Leiden (Amsterdam: Van Hoeve, 1980-1983) vol. 4, pp. 1812-19.

Claude Paradin, Devises heroïques, 1557; introductory note by C.N. Smith (Menston: Scolar Press, 1971)

Claude Paradin, Devises heroïques, 1557; introduction by Alison Saunders (Aldershot : Scolar Press, 1989)

Peter Sharratt, Bernard Salomon illustrateur lyonnais (Geneva: Droz, 2005)

Page written by Alison Saunders


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