The Pinnacle of Dutch Emblem Books

Hooft, Pieter Cornelisz

Emblemata Amatoria

Amsterdam, Wilem Jansz. Blaeu, 1618.


Oblong 4to (15 x 19 cm). 171, [1 blank] pp.

SECOND EDITION (expanded from the 1st ed. of 1611).

19th-century sheepskin, marbled endpapers, red edges. With engraved title-page and 30 engraved emblems (ca. 10.5 x 13.5 cm), each with mottoes and distichs in Dutch, with translations into Latin and French by Cornelis G. Plemp and Richard Jean de Nérée. The engravings have been variously attributed to Michel and Christoffel le Blon, Jan Pinas, Simon Frisius and Pieter Serwouter.

Second edition of this landmark in the history of Dutch literature and the apogee of Dutch emblem books, written by one of the most important authors of the Golden Age, the poet and historiographer Pieter Cornelisz Hooft (1581-1648). The book was printed by Hooft’s cousin, the great Amsterdam cartographer, printer and publisher Willem Janszoon Blaeu.

Praz considers Hooft’s emblems to be “original in that they are not derived immediately from his predecessors, but are freely inspired by the same or similar themes ... Ovid is an all-pervading presence.” (p. 124) According to Landwehr, the Latin and French renderings of the original Dutch text are the work of C.G. Plemp. Praz however disagrees, stating that the title is engraved by Simon Frisius and the 30 copperplates are by Pieter Serwouters (1586-1657). Hollstein also ascribes the engravings to Serwouters.

The book is dedicated ‘Tot de ieucht’ (to the youth), explaining in an elegant and allegorical way the pleasures and dangers of courtly and worldly love.

On the title page, four couples surround an altar to Venus (who watches from above with her son Cupid, who rides a swan.) The central scene is flanked by the Muses of poetry and painting, who stand on pedestals adorned with scenes of Apollo and Daphne, and Venus holding a burning heart.

The 30 emblems are accompanied by Hooft’s mottoes and the short 2-line poems. The “Sommighe nieuwe ghesanghen, liedekens en sonnetten” (Some new songs, poems and sonnets) follow on p.73-145. Of these 48 poems, 45 were published for the first time in the original 1611 edition. There are also the following additions: On p. 136-7 is a new poem “Sang. Op de wyse: Liefde in’t secreet. etc.”; a far more substantial addition, the the first appearance in print of Hooft’s "Brief van Menelaus aen Helena" (Letter of Menelaus to Helena), follows on p. 147-171.

Hollstein (Dutch & Flemish) XXVI, p. 250, no. 59; Landwehr, Emblem Books Low Countrie 321; Leendertz 18; Praz, pp. 124-125; STCN (5 copies); De Vries, Emblemata 49.