16 July 2014
ALCIATUS, Andreas (1492-1550). Emblematum liber. Augsburg: Heinrich Steiner [for Conrad Peutinger to whom the work is dedicated], 28 February 1531.
8° (147 x 100mm). Title within a richly ornamented border of birds and insects, 98 woodcut emblems attributed to Jörg Breu, including 28 with ornamental and figurative side-borders. One woodcut initial. (Occasional light soiling and light waterstaining, some leaves with light creases.) Late 19th-century vellum, manuscript title on spine, black morocco box. With a letter signed by Alciatus ('Alciatus tuus') to Domenico Francesco Calus (bookseller in Rome), 13 June 1521, arranging letters of introduction for a friend in the city, 7 lines on one page, tipped in (sold Sotheby's 21 July 1916 for £6 10 according to the inserted catalogue description). Provenance: Latin elegiac couplet on verso of final blank, comparing Vergilius Maro and Polydore Virgil -- Allan Heywood Bright (ex libris).
BRIGHT COPY OF THE FIRST EDITION. On 6 April 1531 another edition of the book was published at Augsburg with the same collation and woodcuts. Alciati and Peutinger created this Renaissance class of learned literature by integrating for each emblem a motto, a picture and epigrammatic verse; they not only illustrated virtues and vices, but drew on history, mythology and nature to create elegant examples of insignia of practical use to painters, sculptors and goldsmiths. Peutinger's role in publishing the first two editions explains the choice of Augsburg as its original place of printing. Green lists 127 editions of Alciatus up to 1600 (some speculative), most the output of the great publishing centers at Lyons, Paris and Antwerp. No other secular work of the 16th century enjoyed greater publishing success, and this small recreational book brought Alciati far more lasting fame than his important and prolific work on jurisprudence. As Vinet states 'Ce prodigieux succès démontre à quel degré le XVIe siècle fut amoureux du symbole et de l'allégorie'. The cuts are now attributed to Jörg Breu, though Green (p. 65) thought them to be by either Heinrich Steiner or Hans Schäufelein. VERY RARE. Not in the Henry Yates Thompson collection catalogue (1880) which lists 41 editions up to 1781. Adams A-601 (6 April edition); Brunet I, 147: édition très peu connue'; Green 2; Landwehr German, 23; Praz p. 248; VD16 A-1641; Vinet 835.
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