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Hadrianus Junius's Emblemata,
Antwerp, Christophe Plantin, 1565


This work is reproduced from Glasgow University Library: SM658

This is the first edition of the Emblemata of Hadrianus Junius, published in 1565 by Christophe Plantin in Antwerp. Both in form and style the emblems are modelled on Sambucus’ learned Emblemata, published one year before. A new feature was Junius’ addition of an extensive commentary, with detailed information about metre, picture, and the argument of the epigram. Two years after the first Latin edition, Plantin published a version in French and one in Dutch. Junius’ Emblemata were strongly influential, and together with the works of Alciato and Sambucus frequently form the emblematic canon in prefaces of their successors.

Hadrianus Junius (1511-1575)

Junius (Adriaan de Jonghe) was a Dutch humanist and physician, born in Hoorn. He studied in Louvain and Bologna, then worked as a preceptor and doctor for the aristocracy in Bologna, Paris and London. Junius returned to the Low Countries in 1550, where he spent the rest of his life, except for a brief, unsuccesful attempt to gain patronage at the Danish court. His publications include linguistic manuals, such as the Adagia (1558) and his polyglot dictionary Nomenclator (1567), and an important historical work about the province of Holland, Batavia (published posthumously 1588).

Junius knew Alciato personally from his period in Bologna, and even mediated between him and the Paris publisher Christian Wechel for a new edition of his emblem book. Junius was also in personal contact with Joannes Sambucus, who had visited the Southern Netherlands in 1563-1564. Sambucus’ emblematic activities seem to have triggered Junius’ publication. Indeed, the preliminaries of Junius’ collection include a letter by Sambucus praising Junius’ emblems. Like Sambucus, Junius used the emblem form as an instrument to strengthen his social network. He dedicated the collection as a whole to Arnoldus Cobelius, treasurer of the province of Holland, while addressing nineteen individual emblems to important (mostly Dutch) politicians, diplomats, and fellow humanists.

Publication History

(for more information see Voet 1476)

After the first edition of 1565, the Latin version was reprinted six more times, in 1566, 1569, 1575, 1585 by Plantin, and in a slightly expanded version published by the officina Raphelengiana, in 1595, and 1596. Furthermore, as in the case of Sambucus, Plantin commissioned Marcus Antonius Gillis van Diest to make a Dutch translation, and Jacques Grévin to produce a French version, both of which were published in 1567. The French edition was subsequently reprinted two more times, in 1570 and 1575, while the Dutch version saw one re-edition in 1575.

Jacques Grévin (1538-1570) was born in Clermont-en-Beauvaisis and studied medicine in Paris, where he became a disciple of Pierre de Ronsard. As Ronsard, he advocated classical forms in French poetry. His plays included the tragedy César (1560), modelled on Marc-Antoine Muret’s Julius Caesar. Some of his erotic poetry was published in the collection Olimpe in 1560, followed by Gélodacryes, a collection of satyrical sonnets, in 1561. Grévin’s Calvinist convictions caused a break with Ronsard and his intellectual milieu. This break and Grévin’s subsequent outsider’s position might explain why his contribution to the emblems is nowhere mentioned. In 1561, he became physician at the court of Margeret of Savoy in Turin, where he died in 1570.

Hadrianus Junius’s Emblemata, Antwerp, Christophe Plantin, 1565

The emblems reproduced here are from the first Latin edition, published by Christophe Plantin in 1565. They include 58 emblems, accompanied by woodcut illustrations. These picturae were designed by Geoffroy Ballain and Pieter Huys, while the woodblocks were cut by Gerard Janssen van Kampen and Arnold Nicolai.

Each emblem, each in sophisticated arabesque typographical borders, consists of a motto, a woodcut illustration , and an epigram.

GUL: SM658: C7r. Actual page height: 164mm.
GUL: SM658: C7r. Actual page height: 164mm.

The section of emblems is preceded by preliminary pages, including Junius’ dedicatory letter to Cobelius and a letter of Sambucus to Junius praising the latter’s achievement. The commentary is printed separately after the part containing the emblems, and takes up about half of the book. The volume concludes with one quire consisting of versified riddles, entitled Aenigmata, and extracts from the printer’s privileges.

Select Secondary Bibliography

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, 1476.

Hadrianus Junius, Emblemata, 1565, introductory note by Hester M. Black (Menston: Scolar Press, 1972). Facsimile reprint.

Hadrianus Junius, Emblemata, ad D. Arnoldum Cobelium; Aenigmata, ad D. Arnoldum Rosenbergum (Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 1987). Facsimile reprint.

Hadrianus Junius, De Emblemata van Hadrianus Junius, herdruk der Plantijnsche uitgave, van de oorspronkelijke houtsneden afgedrukt; net een voorwoord van Max Rooses (Antwerpen: Museum Plantin-Moretus, 1902)

Alison Adams, ‘An expensive compositorial misreading: the reset gathering in Hadrianus Junius’ Emblemata’, The Library, sixth series, 17 (1995), 345-348.

Alison Adams, ‘Jacques Grévin et sa traduction française des Emblemata d’Hadrianus Junius’, De Gulden Passer 73 (1995), 37-66.

C.L. Heesakkers, ‘Hadriani Iunii Emblemata’, in: Enenkel-Visser, Mundus Emblematicus (Turnhout, 2003), 33-69.

Page written by Arnoud Visser


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