Emblemata

Emblem books are collections of cryptic text and images. This literary genre was introduced in the first half of the 16th century and soon gained popularity among scholars. Emblem books had a great influence on the culture and daily life of the 16th and 17th century and they also had a significant impact on the painting and poetry of the period.

Emblem books on love were particularly popular in the Low Countries. They included provocative text and imagery that was intended to teach the reader in a playful manner about subjects such as love, heartbreak, marital fidelity and choice of partner. The practical impact of emblem books on love reached its height when Jacob Cats published his Sinne- en minnebeelden in 1618.

The rise of emblem books on love in the Low Countries came about thanks to the active literary ties between the Northern and Southern Netherlands. The first Dutch translations of the emblem books were launched in Antwerp by Plantijn with great success. From around 1600, this was followed by the equally successful publication of the original Dutch works in Leiden and Amsterdam. Emblem books played an integral role in Dutch – and European – culture of the 16th and particularly 17th century.

Utrecht University Library has a fine collection of emblem books, largely thanks to the thorough research and education in language and culture studies at Utrecht University. The collection was diligently sourced in the 19th and 20th centuries and used in education and research from scholars including W.S. Heckscher, B.F. Scholz, J. Becker, H. Luijten and A. Gelderblom.

Sinnepoppen (1614), LBKUN: RAR LMY VISSCHER 1

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