A Choice of Emblemes and Other Devises (1586)

Cover page of 'A Choice of Emblemes. ..,' by Geoffrey Whitney, Leiden 1586. Cover page of 'A Choice of Emblemes. ..,' by Geoffrey Whitney, Leiden 1586.

A Choice of Emblemes and Other Devises by Geoffrey Whitney is an English/Dutch emblem book, which was used as a source of inspiration for emblem embroidery in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. The book was dedicated to the Earl of Leicester, who at the time was the Lord Lieutenant of the English forces fighting against the Spanish who were occupying the Low Countries.

Geoffrey Whitney accompanied Leicester’s household to Leiden, The Netherlands, in 1585/86. While in Leiden, Whitney worked with Francis Raphelengius, the son-in-law of the famous publisher, Christoffel Plantijn, in order to put together a book of emblems, based on the wood block illustrations from other books published by the firm. Whitney’s book used 232 emblems from books and sixteen new emblems devised by Whitney himself. Whitney’s book was not initially designed to be an embroidery pattern book, but the illustrations quickly became popular for this purpose.

The full title of the book is: A Choice of Emblemes and other Devises, for the moste parte gathered out of sundrie writers, Englished and Moralised, and divers newly devised, by Geffrey Whitney. A worke adorned with varietie of matter, both pleasant and profitable, wherein those that please, may finde to fit their fancies: Because herein, by the office of the eie [eye], and the eare [ear], the minde may reape dooble-delighte throughe holsome preceptes, shadowed with pleasant devises, both fit for the Vertuous, to their incoraging and for the wicked, for their admonishing and amendment.

The book was reprinted in a facsimile edition in 1866 by Henry Green, with the title of Whitney’s “Choice of Emblemes” (London: Lovel, Reeve & Co.). The book can be downloaded here.

Source: SILCOX, Mary V. (2008). 'Strangely familiar: Emblems in early modern England,' in: OSTOVICH, Helen, Mary V. SILCOX and Graham ROEBUCK, The Mysterious and the Foreign in Early Modern England, Newark: University of Delaware, pp. 281-297.

Digital source of illustration (retrieved 4th July 2016).


Last modified on Friday, 05 May 2017 09:21