The emblem, a Renaissance literary genre which combined text and image, conveyed erudition, admonishment, propaganda, and piety with unparalleled concision and economy. It arose out of humanist circles in the early sixteenth century and quickly became established as a staple tool in religious, political, and social discourses across the major European languages. In recent years the emblem has come to be regarded by scholars working in all areas of the humanities and cultural studies as an interdisciplinary matrix of extraordinary utility in gaining insights into the mentalities and preoccupations of the early modern era. Within its apparently slender frame, the emblem embraces questions of foremost philological, semiotic, and iconographical importance, and encompasses ideas and assumptions of exceedingly far range and reach. This collection of essays attests to the pervasiveness of the emblem, both within Renaissance and Baroque Europe, and in those parts of the wider world where European influence came to bear.
It seeks to follow the development of the emblem from its beginnings in various forms of bimedial artefact, from early illustrated books and hieroglyphs, to medals and ancient coins; we then witness its deployment as a propagandistic tool in the temporal and confessional disputes of Europe. Thereafter, the emblem appears in non-European contexts, emerging as a place of cultural exchange as it became assimilated within indigenous visual traditions. The latter parts of the book concentrate on the often subliminal role emblems played in diverse literary texts, as well as their ongoing vitality in praxis or in the burgeoning area of emblem scholarship within early modern studies.