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Reviewed by:
  • Corpus Librorum Emblematum: The Jesuit Series, and: Corpus Librorum Emblematum: The Jesuit Series
  • Peter Davidson (bio)
Peter M. Daly and G. Richard Dimler, SJ, editors. Corpus Librorum Emblematum: The Jesuit Series. Volume 4 (L-P) University of Toronto Press, 2005. lxii, 332. $135.00
Peter M. Daly and G. Richard Dimler, SJ, editors. Corpus Librorum Emblematum: The Jesuit Series. Volume 5 (P-Z) University of Toronto Press. 2007. lxii, 318. $175.00

These two volumes bring the mighty task of compiling a full bibliography of Jesuit emblematics worldwide to a triumphant conclusion. They not only give us a remarkable sense of Jesuit internationalism, but also affirm a picture of the baroque world as a huge net of devolved cultural centres, each absolutely capable of moving within the private and public symbolic languages of the day. Perhaps no better pars pro toto example of [End Page 364] the working of baroque culture internationally could be found than the ubiquitous emblem book that is studied so comprehensively in these volumes.

The aims of this series are relatively simple (although the processes of research and classification that must have been involved are most complex and demanding). The Jesuit series will encompass all extant books of emblems, works illustrated with emblems, and books dealing with the theory and practice of emblematics, written by members of the Society of Jesus. Given the importance of emblems and symbolic pictures to Jesuit aesthetics and Jesuit activities, this is no small task.

Among the many wise choices that have been taken in setting the boundaries of this extensive bibliography, one of the most commendable is the very broad definition of emblem that has been applied: books about the theories of symbol and representation are included, as are books with even a minor emblematic content, such as a symbolic reading of a coat of arms.

Emblem will include books of imprese, emblematically illustrated works of theology and devotion, and theoretical works, as well as printed records of emblematically conceived and embellished festivals.

It is perhaps most useful to proceed impressionistically, pointing out a few of the remarkable range of publications listed and described. Volume 4 produces an extraordinary example of the sheer popularity of an emblem book of Jesuit origin (there have been several earlier in the series). In this case, it is the international success, Le Coeur Devot by Etienne Luzvic (1567-1640), which, after its initial Paris edition of 1626, appeared in numerous Dutch versions (for both Catholic and Protestant readers) for more than a century. It also appeared in the elegant English of Henry Hawkins, SJ, as The Devout Heart (Rouen, 1634) in several editions, and then in German, Hungarian, and Latin.

The great Jesuit educator and emblematist Claude-François Menestrier (1631-1705) alone occupies pages 77-147 of volume 4. Quite simply, he did everything that a Jesuit closely involved with the public life of a great city could do - firework displays, evening classes, funeral apparatus, equestrian spectacles, books of theory, symbolic schemes of decoration for buildings, even a magisterial history of the King expressed in emblems and medals. It is noted also that the Amsterdam edition of this medallic and emblematic history of Louis XIV (J.1014) printed in 1691, ostensibly at Paris, is in fact an Amsterdam counterfeit (which has now been studied in detail by Alison Adams) and carries additional plates of satirical and subversive medals invented in the Holland that had not forgotten the French invasions of the 1670s.

Volume 5 brings the alphabet and the project to completion. The activities of the Polish province of the society begin a volume that (as the luck of the alphabet would have it) is full of information about the [End Page 365] extraordinarily productive Central and Eastern European Jesuits. This is particularly interesting as they were operating essentially as missionaries, as well as important bearers of the culture of the empire, on the frontiers of the Orthodox world. They were not unopposed, intellectually or emblematically: the Orthodox were not slow to realize the brilliant effectiveness of Jesuit methods and responded by inventing their own rival colleges, dramas, and emblems.

Also from Central and Eastern Europe is a particularly splendid obelisk...


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