Georgette de Montenay
on the call number to view the digital facsimile of
Emblemes, ou, Deuises chrestiennes, composees
par Damoiselle Georgette de Montenay.
A Lyon: Par Jean Marcorelle, 1571.
Georgette de Montenay (1540 – ca. 1581) intended her emblem book for religious ends and points out in her dedicatory epistle that she believes hers to be the first Christian emblems.
Alciat feit des Emblémes exquis,
Lesquels voyant de plusieurs requis,
Desir me prit de commencer les miens,
Lesquels ie croy ester premier chrestiens. (a4v)
Her dedication of the book to Jeanne d’Albret, queen of Navarre, clearly signals the author’s Calvinist sympathies.
Recurrent themes from the emblems include the role
of Christ, faith, grace, the sins of pride and hypocrisy,
and the virtue of humility. In keeping with the popular
emblematic format, the poet’s huitains,
all in decasyllabic verse, explain the accompanying
image and Latin motto.
Grace portrayed as Christ’s
fountain of blood.
Faith is the basis of--and more important
than -- good works.
Like the Gospels, the bell tower calls all, but only God’s chosen
The sin of pride illustrated with an overboiled
The beautiful engraved figures by Pierre Woeriot represent the use of new copperplate engraving in printed books, and this is the first French emblem book to use the new technique instead of woodcut illustrations. The rare engraved portrait
of the author, inserted before the title page, is
dated 1567, and lends support to the theory that Georgette
de Montenay’s work was ready for publication
prior to 1571, but its printing was delayed, due to
the turmoil of the French Wars of Religion.
In fact, the Bibliography of French Emblem Books
(Geneva: Droz, 2002) identifies one copy of the first
edition that is dated 1567. That copy, located in
Denmark, has an “Au Lecteur,” dated 1
February 1567, on b4ro, which is blank in the copies
dated 1571 (including the Gordon copy). The “Au
Lecteur” in the 1567 state of the first edition,
as reported by the editors of the BFEB, states that
“although the text was ready in 1561, production
was delayed by the religious wars, the engravings
in particular having only been completed in 1565 or
later, partly because of the presence of the plague
in Lyon in 1564 and 1565.” (Entry F.437, BFEB)
Print facsimile editions:
Montenay, Georgette de. Emblemes, ou devises chrestiennes.
Ed. Christopher N. Smith. Menston: Scholar Press,
1973. (Facsimile of 1571 edition)
Régine Reynolds-Cornell, ed. Witnessing
an Era: Georgette de Montenay and the Emblèmes
ou devises chrestiennes. Birmingham, Alabama:
Summa Publications, 1987. (Reproduction of emblems
from the 1571 edition, with an introduction)
For an in-depth analysis of Georgette de Montenay’s
Protestant (Calvinist) faith, see chapter 2 (“Georgette
de Montenay: A Biblical Subtext”) of Alison
Adam’s recent study, Webs of Allusion: French
Protestant Emblem Books of the Sixteenth Century
(Geneva: Droz, 2003).
French Emblems at Glasgow includes a facsimile and transcription of the 1571 edition, as well as of the later 1584 edition (a Latin translation added to the French poems), along with information about Georgette de Montenay, the publication history of her work, and a select secondary bibliography.
1584 : http://www.emblems.arts.gla.ac.uk/french/books.php?id=FMOb&o=
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