52 Weeks of Inspiring Illustrations, Week 32: the emblem book of Sebastián de Covarrubias y Orozco (1610)

A example of a standard two-page spread from Sebastián de Covarrubias y Orozco’s Emblemas morales (1610), displaying a woodcut emblem, a Latin motto and a verse explanation in Spanish (St Andrews copy at r17 PQ6398.H78).

A example of a standard two-page spread from Sebastián de Covarrubias y Orozco’s Emblemas morales (1610), displaying a woodcut emblem, a Latin motto and a verse explanation in Spanish (St Andrews copy at r17 PQ6398.H78).

This week’s illustration post focuses on perhaps the most popular illustrated genre of the Renaissance: the emblem book. Emblem books were a genre developed in the early 16th century as digestible and curious works which combined an image, a motto and an explanatory text. This genre remained popular on the continent well into the 17th century, although, strangely, it never found any real footing in the U.K. The illustrations were most commonly woodcuts and the mottoes Latin, however Greek and vernacular mottoes were common as well.

Emblem 6: "Ibi manebit" (Remain there), from Covarrubias’s Emblemas morales (1610).

Emblem 6: “Ibi manebit” (Remain there), from Covarrubias’s Emblemas morales (1610).

Emblem 38: "Amas distancia mas peso" (roughly translated to: Distance makes love stronger), from Covarrubias’s Emblemas morales (1610).

Emblem 38: “A mas distancia mas peso” (More weight to more distance), from Covarrubias’s Emblemas morales (1610).

The intention of most emblem books was to deliver a moral lesson through text and image, but often the connection between these two elements is obscure. There are many projects that have developed over the last decade to provide a digital repository for these books worth exploring (Emblematica Online [Univeristy of Illinois and Herzog August Bibliothek], University of Glasgow and the Emblem Project Utrecht are good examples).

Emblem 72: "Ne spem deponas" (Do not lay aside hope), from Covarrubias’s Emblemas morales (1610).

Emblem 72: “Ne spem deponas” (Do not lay aside hope), from Covarrubias’s Emblemas morales (1610).

Emblem 39: "Comer y llevar" (Eat and carry away), from Covarrubias’s Emblemas morales (1610).

Emblem 39: “Comer y llevar” (Eat and carry away), from Covarrubias’s Emblemas morales (1610).

The title page of Covarrubias's Emblemas morales (1610).

The title page of Covarrubias’s Emblemas morales (1610).

Although St Andrews 17th century holdings remain largely unexplored, I did come across a wonderful example of a Spanish emblem book published at the height of the genre’s popularity. This week’s post features the emblems from Sebastián de Covarrubias y Orozco’s Emblemas morales (1610). This work was published under the direction of Don Francisco Gómez de Sandoval, 1st Duke of Lerma, shortly after Covarrubias had recovered from a serious illness. This is perhaps Covarrubias’s most popular publication on emblems, but he is most well-known for his Tesoro de la lengua castellana o española (1611).

Emblem 30: "Stabit ut cunorum cadat" (  ), from Covarrubias’s Emblemas morales (1610).

Emblem 30: “Stabit ut cunorum cadat” (motto unclear: can you help us translate this?), from Covarrubias’s Emblemas morales (1610).

Emblem 19: "Nulli sua mansit imago" (None kept his own image), from Covarrubias’s Emblemas morales (1610).

Emblem 19: “Nulli sua mansit imago” (None kept his own image), from Covarrubias’s Emblemas morales (1610).

From the beginning of this book it is quite obvious that the author’s roots, both as a canon in the Catholic Church and as a keen lexicographer, are quite influential. However, Covarrubias does stray off into the weirder and esoteric world of the emblem books of the day: dragons, serpents, snake-eating deer and oversized-tops (above, which look like the ship from Flight of the Navigator to this blogger). Covarrubias also draws on everyday scenes of fishermen and farmers toiling in the field to root this emblem book in the real-world.

Emblem 90: "Occido et manduco" (Kill and eat), from Covarrubias’s Emblemas morales (1610).

Emblem 90: “Occido et manduco” (Kill and eat), from Covarrubias’s Emblemas morales (1610).

Emblem 74: "Tot sententiae" (Many opinions), from Covarrubias’s Emblemas morales (1610).

Emblem 74: “Tot sententiae” (Many opinions), from Covarrubias’s Emblemas morales (1610).

I’ve sampled here some of my favourites from this book, however a full scan is available at Emblematica Online. This work was not Covarrubias’s first foray into the world of emblem books, in 1589 he published a work, also entitled Emblemas morales, which provides almost 100 pages worth of text about emblems and their origins and then provides 100 examples afterword (none of which are repeated in his 1610 work). This work was republished in 1604 with the same text but with new woodcuts.

Emblem 24: "Ne pars sincera trahatur" (No pure part removed), from Covarrubias’s Emblemas morales (1610).

Emblem 24: “Ne pars sincera trahatur” (No pure part removed), from Covarrubias’s Emblemas morales (1610).

Covarrubias’s 1610 Emblemas morales, however, is a completely new work, featuring new emblems and mottoes with shorter verse explanations.

DG

2 responses to “52 Weeks of Inspiring Illustrations, Week 32: the emblem book of Sebastián de Covarrubias y Orozco (1610)

  1. Remember studying one of Covarrubia’s emblems volumes for a History of the Spanish Language essay. Fascinating.

  2. Pingback: 52 Weeks of Inspiring Illustrations, Week 32: the emblem book of Sebastián de Covarrubias y Orozco (1610) | Special Collections Librarianship | Scoop.it·

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