Religious Emblem Books

Originally exhibited August 29–December 8, 2017
Entry Hall


Religious emblem books engaged readers with linguistic and visual puzzles in order to convey both Christian doctrine and moral lessons. The combination of symbolic images, poetic epigrams, and narrative explications found in emblem books was utilized in the creation of meditations, catechisms, calendars, and histories. Authors believed that readers better absorbed corrective and inspirational lessons through the active construction of meaning in the process of deciphering coded messages. Entertaining and occasionally sensationalistic in their imagery, emblem books drew upon biblical, mystical, mythological, and scientific sources to create evocative scenes. Although most popular during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the genre continued to be published well into the nineteenth century.


Bridwell Library Special Collections