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  • Emblemata Sacra: Emblem Books from the Maurits Sabbe Library, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven [Exhibited in the] Francis A. Drexel Library, Saint Joseph's University
  • Alison Saunders
Emblemata Sacra: Emblem Books from the Maurits Sabbe Library, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven [Exhibited in the] Francis A. Drexel Library, Saint Joseph's University. With a Preface by Joseph F. Chorpenning, O.S.F.S. Introduction by Rob Faesen, S.J., and Catalogue of the Exhibition by Ralph Dekoninck, Agnès Guiderdoni-Bruslé, and Marc van Vaeck. (Philadelphia: Saint Joseph's University Press. 2006. Pp. xiv, 103. $45.00 paperback.)

This volume could be described as an exhibition catalogue, but to do so would seriously undersell a scholarly study of the early modern use of printed images within Catholic spirituality, and in particular of their exploitation by the Society of Jesus for both meditational and devotional but also for pedagogic purposes. The main body of the text is contributed by leading specialists in these areas, Marc van Vaeck from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, and Frank Dekoninck and Agnès Guiderdoni-Bruslé from the Université Catholique de Louvain.

In the preface Joseph Chorpenning, from Saint Joseph's University Press, explains that the year 2006 commemorated three significant dates for the Society of Jesus—the 450th anniversary of the death of its founder, Ignatius Loyola (1491–1556), and the 500th anniversary of the births of Ignatius's first two companions, Francis Xavier (1506–52) and Peter Faber (1506–46). In celebration of these anniversaries, Saint Joseph's University organized the remounting in the Francis Drexel Library of an exhibition of some seventy devotional emblem books and allied works from the Maurits Sabbe Library of the Faculty of Theology of the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven which had been mounted in Leuven in 2005 to complement an international conference on "Emblemata Sacra": Rhetoric and Hermeneutics in Illustrated [End Page 154] Religious Literature. This present volume is based on the catalogue of that exhibition.

The Maurits Sabbe Library is, as Rob Faesen explains in his introduction, particularly rich in Jesuitica, and this emphasis is reflected in the works discussed here, which are virtually all by Catholic, and predominantly by Jesuit writers, although some non-Jesuit writers, such as Augustin Chesneau and Abraham à Sancta Clara, both Augustinians, are also included. Protestant emblematists, however, hardly figure here. (Cramer, for example, is mentioned only twice, while Montenay and Bèze figure not at all.) The works described are primarily those published in the Netherlands (mainly Antwerp) and in France (mainly Paris).

The main part of this volume is divided into a number of sections, the first of which (contributed by Dekoninck) focus primarily on the use of emblematic images for meditational purposes, but particularly interesting here is the section on the circulation of images demonstrating that not only were engravings originally designed to illustrate Bibles used subsequently in meditational emblem books, but engravings designed originally for emblem books (such as those of Hugo, Vaenius and Nadal) could also thereafter be re-used in Bibles. The central sections on "Emblems of Divine Love," "Heart Emblems," "The Emblematic Drama of the Soul," and "Emblems of the Saints" are contributed by Guiderdoni-Bruslé, after which the focus changes from devotional to the pedagogical and commemorative exploitation of emblems in the final sections, in which Van Vaeck discusses their use in Jesuit colleges in the Netherlands. In "Commemorative Emblem Exhibitions" he discusses seventeenth-century manuscript compilations of emblems created by students to be displayed annually around the college, as a visible testimony to the rhetorical skills inculcated in them by the Jesuit educational program, while in "Dispersed Images: Recuperating Illustration Material" he examines the way in which engraved images originally designed for books were also printed in individual sheets and bought by students to incorporate into dictated lecture-notes. The work concludes with a brief section by Guiderdoni-Bruslé on "Theological and Theoretical Foundations of the Emblem" focusing on the Theologica symbolica of the German Jesuit Maximilian van der Sandt.

The work is lavishly illustrated and includes a solid bibliography. Slightly surprising is the small attention paid to the prolific and influential seventeenth-century French Jesuit emblematic theorist and practitioner, Claude-François Menestrier, and to studies...


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