We wound up the Durning-Lawrence Trust Fund recently, purchasing an emblem book; Philip Ayres’s Emblemata amatoria, or Emblems of Love (1683), the last successful emblem book proper to be published in seventeenth-century England. Emblem books are basically pictorial metaphors. Each emblem consists of a motto and an image, with a verse in Latin and often at least one vernacular language which comments on the image to make a moral or political point. Starting in 1531, emblem books were popular in Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Durning-Lawrence believed that Francis Bacon was involved in the production of Continental emblem books, which he used to demonstrate to the initiated his authorship of Shakespeare’s plays and poems. Durning-Lawrence therefore owned a number of fine emblem books, by such major writers as Andrea Alciati, Jean Baudoin, Jacob Cats, and Francis Quarles in several editions, and by minor authors. Acquiring a new one enhanced this strength of the collection.
Philip Ayres (1638-1712) was a poet and translator, and a tutor for the Drake family of Amersham. His writing before Emblemata amatoria, had focused on translations. Emblemata amatoria is a landmark work and it is important for the afterlife of Ayres, as one of the two literary works for which he is chiefly remembered. It is also the last English emblem book to achieve popular success, appearing in one French and two English editions in 1683, and five more editions over the next thirty years. Senate House Library is delighted to have this edition, complementing ownership of the other English edition from 1683, and later editions from 1700 and 1714.