chapter  9
10 Pages

On the Interpretation of Emblems

We think we know that the emblem writer was usually not directly involved in the making of the illustrations. Andrea Alciato was not consulted, as far as we know, when Heinrich Steyner published in 1531 the rst editions of Alciato’s emblems that received pictures. If we are not mistaken Alciato simply delivered epigrams. Normally, illustrators worked for a publisher, who usually retained the wood blocks or metal plate engravings, and oen reused them. In most cases we simply do not know what instructions the artist received or even from whom. ose instructions could have been spoken or written, from the publisher or the writer of the texts. We oen assume that the writer had some say in the matter. It is a sensible assumption, but seldom supported by hard evidence. Or did the illustrator take his cues from the texts that he was illustrating? In many instances that would assume an ability to understand the oen erudite Latin, or the provision of a vernacular version of the texts for the illustrator. But by whom would those have been made?