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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Emblematica Collection: What is an Emblem?

A guide about the Literatures and Languages Emblematica Collection.

An Emblem Is...

Emblems are concise and complex combinations of texts and images that invite viewers to contemplate the meaning of the individual pieces as a whole. When analyzed, they show the way people from approximately 1500 to 1800 thought and the ideas that helped shape and lead their lives. Typically, an emblem is made up of a motto, an image called the pictura, and a subtext called a subscriptio and compromise one to two pages. Some emblems provide additional commentary on the emblem, thereby creating emblems with many pages.