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Andrea Alciato, Diego Lopez,
Declaracion magistral sobre
las Emblemas de Andres Alciato
Juan de Mongaston, 1615


This work is reproduced from Glasgow University Library: SM1225

This Spanish edition provides a lengthy Spanish commentary on Alciato's Emblematum liber or Emblemata, the work which is recognised as the first printed emblem book and the most frequently printed (over 100 editions in all, published in Germany, France, the Spanish Netherlands and Italy before the 1620s). The influence of Alciato's emblems is enormous and, since they first appeared in Latin, extends over the whole of Europe. They set the pattern commonly, though not universally associated with the emblem, that is a motto or inscriptio, a picture (pictura) and a verse text or epigram (the subscriptio). The corpus would eventually stretch to 212 emblems, but early editions had a little over a hundred. In due course translations would appear not only in French, but also in German, Italian and Spanish, and many of the emblems appear in English in Geffrey Whitney's Choice of Emblems (1586).

Andrea Alciato (1492-1550)

Portrait of Andrea Alciato (1492-1550)

Alciato was born in Alzate near Milan. He is famed not only for his emblems but as a legal scholar. He studied in Milan, Pavia. Bologna and Ferrara, and taught law both in Italy and at different periods in France, including a stay in Bourges from 1529-1534 at the invitation of François I. His interpretative work on Roman law is still of interest to legal historians today.

Publication History

Alciato's emblems were first published in Augsburg in Germany (two editions in 1531 and one in 1534); from 1534 onwards publishing shifted to France and remained there for the next thirty years. Chrestien Wechel at first produced Latin editions (from 1534), like those in Augsburg. He can be said to have set the standard for clear presentation of emblems, with each emblem beginning on a fresh page, featuring the motto or title, the pictura below that, and then the subscriptio or verse text [= 'primary text' in our search engine]. In 1536 there appeared the first French version of Alciato's emblems, by Jean Lefevre. Wechel went on publishing Alciato until the late 1540s, producing further Latin editions, editions including Lefevre's French, and indeed also a similarly conceived German/Latin edition, with the translation by Wolfgang Hunger, in 1542. After an unillustrated pirated Lyons edition by Denys de Harsy, probably dating from late 1540, the main focus of publication for emblems shifted more firmly to Lyons from the mid 1540s, with editions of Alciato first by Jacques Moderne (1544, pirated), by the celebrated Lyons printer Jean de Tournes, and then, with a programme of editions, by Guillaume Rouille and Macé Bonhomme from 1548 onwards. At the same time, the total number of Alciato's emblems had been growing. In particular 86 new emblems were published in Venice in 1546, and others enter the corpus piecemeal. The 1550 Latin edition by Rouille is the first to have 211 emblems (the whole corpus, apart from the so-called obscene emblem 'Adversus naturam peccantes') illustrated. The Rouille/Bonhomme programme of editions included not only a French translation, but also versions in Italian and Spanish. Rouille also published in 1573 the Latin Commentaria in Andrea Alciati emblemata, by the Spaniard Francisco Sanchez de las Brozas. The 1615 Declaracion magistral was published in Spain, and the commentaries, by Diego Lopez, are in Spanish. There are later editions of the work published in Valencia, but with different illustrations, in woodcut.

Andrea Alciato and Diego Lopez, Declaración magistral sobre las Emblemas de Andres Alciato, Najera, Juan de Mongaston, 1615

This quarto edition demonstrates the change in emphasis found in many Alciato editions by the late 16th and early 17th century: the lengthy and learned commentaries (even though they are in the vernacular) dominate over the emblems proper. This edition contains 210 emblems (all except 'Adversus naturam peccantes' and 'Desidia'); it is mostly illustrated with engravings rather than woodcuts (the exceptions are the tree cuts), modelled on the Rouille set and mostly in mirror image. Read a Bibliographical Description. Their quality however is decidedly inferior both in execution and, in this copy, in printing. For emblem 50, 'Dolus in suos' two engravings are superimposed. Although the commentaries, by Diego Lopez, are in the vernacular, they full of classical and biblical allusions and quotations in Latin.

GUL SM 1225 Rr4vo-Rr5ro. Actual page height: 217mm
GUL SM 1225 Rr4vo-Rr5ro. Actual page height: 217mm.

Diego Lopez (d. 1655) was a schoolmaster from Valencia de Alcantara, near Cáceres.

The commentaries have not been transcribed, but can be viewed in facsimile, following links on the transcribed page.

Selected Secondary Bibliography

Henry Green, Andrea Alciati and his Book of Emblems. A Biographical and Bibliographical Study (London: Trübner, 1872), 142.

John Landwehr, French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese Books of Devices and Emblems 1534-1827 (Utrecht: Haentjens Dekker and Gumbert, 1976), 487.

Pedro F. Campa, Emblemata Hispanica. An Annotated Bibliography of Spanish Emblem Literature to the year 1700 (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1990.


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