[Toronto]: The Aliquando Press, . Octavo, 23.3 x 18.5 cm. Cased in quarter tan cloth, with a narrow cloth fore-edge strip, and French marbled paper over boards. The marbled paper is coral and salmon with gold and green veining. Printed paper title label to the spine. Plain salmon endpapers. Unpaginated [pp. 40, plus ll. 6 of illustrations on Japanese paper, each printed on the recto only, interleaved and sewn into the text-block]. The case is slightly cocked, and there is a very faint horizontal crease to the lower outer corner of the last rear blank; else a fine copy. The text was set in Octavian and printed on Mohawk Letterpress text paper. Each page of verse is accented with a headline; a rich variety of digital typefaces and colours were used for the headlines. Occasional footnotes, glossing obscure words, were printed in silver. The verses are further embellished with six wood engravings by Wesley Bates. The engravings were printed from the blocks on handmade Japanese paper and interleaved with the text pages. The engravings were printed in blue, bright green, olive, bright red, oxblood, and orange. From an edition of 75 copies in three states: numbers 1 - 10 are signed and contain an additional suite of wood engravings; of these, numbers 1 -5 are slipcased and contain an original copper engraving from a seventeenth century edition of Cats. This copy is marked hors commerce (‘h/c’) and belongs to the balance of regular copies. (The Aliquando Century, BK 79). Item #309
“Between the sixteenth and the eighteenth centuries, the emblem book was extremely popular. The emblem was a symbol, an allegory, and a sermon: a visual representation to summarize a moral text. Through use and interpretation, these emblems evolved their own fixed meanings and codes.
The emblem poems were originally verse epigrams, like the poems of the Greek Anthology. The first printed emblem book, Andreas Alciato’s Emblematum liber (1531) established the format. Each page contained a short motto or phrase, followed by an enigmatic picture, and a poem explaining the picture.
Pictorial emblems were sometimes based on the classical medal and coin and were often in a circular shape within a square. Heraldic design, guild marks, personal devices, and other symbolism were closely related to the visual and verbal modes of the emblem. These simple pictures contained veiled meanings which were clarified through the verbal components.
Emblem books were produced well into the nineteenth century and they often combined the finest skills of poet, engraver, and printer. Their popularity continued because their readers enjoyed the challenge of discovering the meaning, visually hidden and verbally revealed. In one emblem book Geoffrey Whitney described their purpose: ‘under pleasant devices are profitable morals… for the wounding of wickedness and the extolling of virtue.’
The Dutch poet and didacticus Jacob Cats was born in 1577 and died in 1660. He studied classics and law in Leiden and possibly about 1602 he went to England. Cats visited Oxford and Cambridge, where he was influenced by the pietist William Perkins and the Puritans.
Returning to Holland, Cats married a rich, pious wife and settled into a comfortable life as a jurist in Middelburg. His system of draining the Dutch polders made him a very wealthy man. At the age of forty Cats began writing texts in the new literary genre of the emblem book, giving homely advice on love and marriage. These verses were complemented by the engravings of Adriaan van de Venne and other Dutch artists of the period. […]
Several years ago I was given a volume containing a number of Cats’s pamphlets. Among these texts was the 1627 text of Proteus ofte Minne-beelden Verandert in Sinnebeelden, a complex emblem book dense with Dutch, Latin, and French verses and elaborate commentary. The book contains Emblemata D. Jacob Catsii. In linguam Anglicam transfusa, a separate translation of 53 emblem poems: mostly moral poems on the nature of profane love.
How could one of Holland’s most Calvinistic poets have produced this text? G.A. van Es’s research on Cats suggests several possibilities. Cats is known to have written several dichtbundels of love poems in his youth, but this work is supposedly lost. In 1618 Cats published his Sinne- en Minne-Beelden, containing amorous themes from his youth. Perhaps Cats turned from his youthful, mildly erotic writing to the social awareness of adulthood before embarking on more religious texts in his old age, his amorous poems being transformed into symbols of divine love. In the writings of Cats’s day there was a relatively thin dividing line between the sacred and the profane. Cats takes topics of sexuality and intimacy and regulates them in socially acceptable ways for his seventeenth-century Dutch audience.” — William Rueter, from the Introduction.