Q. Horati Flacci emblemata. Imaginis in aes incisis, notis[que] illustrata.Antwerp, Hieronymus Verdussen,

VEEN Otto van (1607)


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Oval portrait of Horace on title-page and 103 full-page emblems by Cornelis Boël, Cornelis Galle and Pierre de Jode after van Veen.

4to (242 x 190mm). 213pp. Early 18th-century French calf gilt with arms of Samuel Bernard [Olivier 1042, fer 1] enclosed by triple fillet, spine with raised bands, elaborately tooled in gilt and with red morocco lettering-piece, gilt board edges, red page edges (slight flaking at joints, minor restoration to spine).


First edition of the artist and emblematist Otto van Veen‘s first book and one of the most popular of all emblem books; a fine copy bound for Samuel Bernard financier to the French crown and amateur draughtsman and engraver, with his coat-of-arms in gilt on the covers.

Veen’s selection of poetry from Horace, found here with verses in Latin, French, Italian and Dutch, is finely illustrated by the engravings of Boel, Cornelius Galle and Pierre de Jode.  It now appears that there were two issues of the first edition, a fact unrecognised by Praz and Landwehr. The first issue contained only the Latin verses while soon after were added ‘subscriptiones’ in Dutch and French, as found here. 

Otto van Veen (1556-1629), tutor to Rubens for a time, was one of the most distinguished of the Antwerp Romanists, a group of Flemish artists who had gone to Rome to study the art of antiquity and the Italian Renaissance. The first emblem in this collection, “shows that the humanist revival of Classical learning provided a repertory of classical moral virtues that could exist alongside the Christian message” (Manning, The Emblem, p. 31).

Veen’s work was hugely influential and went through numerous editions and translations well into the 18th century. Praz traces its influence as far as a Franciscan convent in Bahia, Brazil, decorated with tiles azulejos based on Veen’s designs. “The publication of Horatii Emblemata in 1607 was a major event in the history of the emblemata. (…) The importance of the book is due not only to its immense success but to the theoretical novelties it brought to the genre because of the main role given to the image’ (Jean-Marc Chatelain).

Provenance: Samuel Bernard (1651-1739), count of Coubert, was not only the wealthy banker to the French crown (both Louis XIV and Louis XV borrowed enormous amounts of money from him), but the son of a painter and engraver; he was also himself an amateur draughtsman and engraver who had a penchant for illustrated books, which he avidly collected.

Chatelain, Livres d’emblèmes et de devises, 63. Funck, Le Livre belge à gravures, 404: "Au point de vue iconographique, la seule édition intéressante est la première, datée d’Anvers, 1607 ; les figures y sont en tirage superbe et d’un fort joli effet". Praz p. 523.

Stock Code: 218576

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