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Book of the Month

February 2001

 Otto van Veen
Amorum Emblemata

with manuscript additions by Tristan l'Hermite 
Antwerp: Hieronymus Verdussen, 1608

Sp Coll S.M. Add. 392

The February 'book of the month' is a copy of the 1608 edition of Otto Van Veen's Amorum Emblemata, bought by the library in 1997 with support from the National Fund for Acquisitions, administered by the National Museums of Scotland. It is unique in having contemporary manuscript additions of poems in French, some of which have been attributed to the early seventeenth century playwright and poet Tristan (François) l'Hermite (1601?-1655). 

emblem p.43: 'Au milieu plus seur' ('Fly in the middest')

The Amorum Emblemata is considered to be one of the most important and influential of all emblem books. The collection was designed by Otto van Veen (1556-1629) and first published in Antwerp in 1608 in three polyglot versions:  Latin, French & Dutch; Latin, Italian & French (as in this copy); and Latin, English & Italian. Its success and popularity lead to many further editions and adaptations, while its images were subsequently used by decorative artists throughout Europe.

In producing a book of love emblems, Van Veen was following a trend which began in  Amsterdam in 1601 with the publication of  Quaeris quid sit Amor, a compilation of twenty-four love emblem prints produced by the artist Jacques de Gheyn with accompanying Dutch verses by Daniel Heinsius. Van Veen's volume is far more comprehensive, consisting of 124 emblems. The  amorous maxims which accompany and interpret the pictures are mostly, but not always, taken from Ovid.  Addressed to young people, the book depicts love as an overruling power which should be followed to gain happiness. 

Our copy is enhanced by interleaving - that is, a blank page has been deliberately bound in between each printed page to allow the owner of the book to make his own additions and comments; personalisation of books in this way was not uncommon in the seventeenth century. In this case, fifty-three pages bear annotations in at least two discernable hands. The appearance of the signatures 'Tris' 'Trist' and 'Tristan' throughout the volume first suggested that one of these hands might be that of Tristan l'Hermite. This theory was considerably strengthened by analysis of the contents of the 'Tristan hand'  material  which revealed twenty-seven pages of verse known - through printed sources - to be by Tristan, plus a further thirteen previously unrecorded poems. The style and vocabulary of these unknown poems suggest that they too are by Tristan.   

opening with interleaving facing emblem on p. 71 'Loyal & secret' (Loves secrecie is in silence)

It is particularly interesting that all the manuscript additions are linked in some way to the printed love emblem nearest to their transcription. In the opening shown above, the signed 'Tristan' poem entitled 'Leale, e secreto' is found opposite the emblem 'Loyal & secret'. This poem was previously unrecorded, and Laurence Grove has suggested that it may have been composed specifically with the Amorum emblemata in mind. Its title corresponds exactly to Van Veen's printed Italian title, while the last line of the poem refers to the emblem; as Grove explains, 'although the poem has the external context of the 'je' persona, the last two lines clarify the play between the poem's specific situation and the emblem's general import. Devoid of the Van Veen context this particular poem would lose a layer of meaning, the interplay between  general truth and the specific cause of the poet's suffering' .
While the discovery of 'new' poems by Tristan are undoubtedly exciting, many of those already known which appear in manuscript in this volume are equally important in providing variants from the published versions. For example, the sonnet published as 'Les songes funestes' facing the picture for the emblem 'Nuit, & jour' was printed in 1638 in Tristan's collection Les Amours.

Corrections in the last two lines of the manuscript poem shown here correspond to the place where it differs significantly from the  published version.

emblem p. 149: 'Nuit, & jour' (Love night and day attendant)

interleaved page with sonnet facing emblem
'Nuit, & jour'  on p. 149

Although the crossed out version of the last line is difficult to read, it  would appear to be compatible with the printed text which reads 'Mais ne m'annonce point la fin de son amour' . According to Alison Adams, the purpose of these lines is to bring out the paradox that the end of life is preferable to the poet than the end of his mistress's love.

Corrections and emendations such as this suggest that in these manuscript additions we are witnessing a thoughtful creative process. 

Even before the discovery of these manuscript additions,  Leonard  Johnson had suggested that certain verses of Tristan's 410 line poem 'Maison d'Astrée', celebrating the Marquis de Puisieux's newly enlarged château at Berny to the south of Paris, were composed with Van Veen's emblems in mind.

interleaving facing emblem 'Tousiours de mesme' on p. 231 (slightly enlarged)

emblem  on p. 231 'Tousiours de mesme' (Always the same)

This theory is confirmed by the manuscript shown here, which corresponds to the beginning of stanza 22 of  'La Maison...' while clearly relating to the emblem 'tousious de mesme'. 

Although this poem was not published until 1648, the château at Berny underwent enlargement in the 1620s, so it is possible that the poem might have been composed then.

opening with interleaved page facing text:  p.128 (rondeau in the 'non-Tristan' hand)

As well as the 'Tristan' hand material, there are a further six poetic compositions and two prose pieces  added in manuscript in this volume. Of the poems, three are rondeaux identified  as the works of Vincent Voiture and Claude  de Malleville. Shown here is the rondeau by Voiture, relating to the emblem 'Amour fait mout, argent fait tout'. 

This important book will be on display at the Tristan l'Hermite exhibition at the Bibliotheque Mazarine, Paris, from 6 April to 29 June 2001.

This piece has drawn on and quoted from five articles discussing the S.M. Add. 392 volume in Emblems and the manuscript tradition including an edition and studies of a newly discovered manuscript of poetry by Tristan l'Hermite edited by Laurence Grove  (Glasgow emblem studies vol.2) Glasgow: Glasgow Emblem Studies, 1997: Sp Coll S.M. Add. 400; see also Leonard Johnson 'Amorum emblemata: Tristan l'Hermite and the Emblematic tradition' in Renaissance Quarterly, 21 (1968), 429-441

Other editions/copies of Amorum Emblemata in Special Collections: Antwerp, 1608: Sp Coll S.M. 1050 and Sp Coll S.M. 1050.1 & 1050.2; Paris, [16--?]: Sp Coll S.M. 1492; [Paris?], [16--?]: Sp Coll S.M. 1866 & 1867; Amsterdam, 1618: Sp Coll S.M. 1051; Brussels, 1667: Sp Coll S.M. 1054; Brussels, 1715:  Sp Coll S.M. Add. 214
Facsimile: 1608 edition, with introduction by Karel Porteman (Scolar Press, 1996): Sp Coll S.M. Add. q136

Editions/copies of Van Veen's Emblemata Horatiana: Antwerp,1607: Sp Coll S.M. 1868 & 1869 & 1874 & 1875; Antwerp, 1612: Sp Coll S.M. 1497 & Add. q41 & Sp Coll Robertson Bf75-a.25 & Sp Coll c.3.20; Brussels, 1672: Sp Coll S.M. 1879; Amsterdam, 1683:  Sp Coll S.M. 1058; Brussels, 1683: Sp Coll S.M. 1878 & Sp Coll BD16-b.11; Amsterdam, 1684: Sp Coll S.M. 1059 & 1059.1; Amsterdam, 1701: Sp Coll S.M. Add. f36; Amsterdam, 1733: Sp Coll S.M. 1880; The Hague, 1755: Sp Coll S.M. 1061 &1061.1; Florence, 1777:  Sp Coll S.M. 1873 & 1870 & 1871

Editions/copies of Van Veen's Amoris divini emblemata: Antwerp,1615: Sp Coll S.M. 1053 & S.M. 1053a; Paris, 1620: Sp Coll S.M. 500 & 500a; Antwerp,1660: Sp Coll S.M. 1493, 1494 & Add. q12; Amsterdam, 1711: Sp Coll S.M. 1056; Amsterdam, 1717: Sp Coll S.M. 670; Paris, 1719: Sp Coll S.M. 1057; Amsterdam, 1724: Sp Coll S.M. 640 & 640.1; Amsterdam, 1727: Sp Coll S.M. Add. 12; Amsterdam, 1737: Sp Coll S.M. Add. 30; Utrecht, 1749: Sp Coll S.M. 640a

Other works by Van Veen: Emblemata siue symbola a princibus, viris ecclesisaticis, ac militaribus, alijsque usurpanda. Deuises ou emblemes pour princes, gens d'Eglise, gens de guerre, & aultres. Brussels,1624: Sp Coll S.M. 1495 & 1495a; Historia septem infantium de Lara ... Antwerp,1612: Sp Coll S.M. Add. 14

Of related interest: Daniel Heinsius  Quaeris quid sit Amor, quid amare, Cupidinis et quid castra
sequi? chartam hanc inspice, doctus eris. Haec tibi delicias hortumque ostendit Amorum: inspice; sculptori est ingeniosa manus
Amsterdam: ca 1607 Sp Coll S.M. 567


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Julie Coleman February 2001