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Book of the Month

November 2006

Johann Saubert

Emblemat Dkhovnyi ko obucheniiu viery so utieshitelnymi figurami I poleznymi slovami

[Spiritual Emblems for the teaching of the faith with entertaining figures and useful words]

Sp Coll S. M. Add. 331

November's Book of the Month, Emblemat Dkhovnyi ko obucheniiu viery so utieshitelnymi figurami i poleznymi slovami, is an unusual and rare item: a Russian emblem book. While emblems were extremely popular and widespread in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries, they were less common, although still popular, in Russia. Russia's relative cultural isolation meant that the genre developed there in a specifically Russian manner, as can be seen in the book we are looking at here.

Title Page of Emblemat Dukhovnyi

The emblem is a literary form that encompasses both text and image. It was  extremely widespread in Europe in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, during which time over three thousand separate editions by more than seven hundred authors were produced in a wide range of languages. Most often an emblem consists of three parts: a motto, a picture and an explanatory text. Although many similar items existed previously, the first compositions to be called emblems were produced by Andrea Alciato in 1531. The emblem's interdependent combination of picture and text was used to teach a moral or ethical truth.

The scholar Anthony Hippisley has commented that the emergence of the emblem in Russia was "too little too late". Emblems did in fact reach Russia much later than they did the rest of Europe, Poland and Ukraine being the first Slavic countries to encounter the emblem before it filtered through to Russia. One may surmise that this late development is a result of Russia's relative isolation and the fact that it experienced very little of the cultural development which enveloped Europe- at least until the time of Peter the Great who implemented a programme of Europeanisation. Before the mid seventeenth century emblematic devices were used in heraldry and this probably contributed to the development of the emblem in Russia. The first and most well known emblem book in Russian is Symbola et Emblemata; first published in 1705 in Amsterdam under Peter the Great, it was republished in 1788 with an introduction by Nestor-Maksimovich Ambodik. Ambodik's book attempts an explanation of the meaning of emblems and translates them into several languages. He also makes the first definition of Emblems in Russian: "An Emblem is a witty representation, or an enigmatic picture, that presents to the eye any natural being or particular story, with a purposeful inscription attaching to it that consists of a brief utterance of words. There are various kinds of Emblems, namely: divine, spiritual, historical, political, heraldic, moral, mystical, etc."

Although the emblem reached Russia late, it had great influence, particularly upon architecture and art in early St. Petersburg (founded in 1703), the city at the heart of Peter the Great's programme of Westernisation. The writer Ivan Turgenev was aware of this emblem book and includes it in his novel A Nest of the Gentry. Other writers such as Karamzin, Derzhavin and Gogol have also used emblems in their works. Emblems appeared almost everywhere in Petrine Russia: on ships, in architecture, in the decorative arts and in firework displays put on to celebrate important public events. The emblem was seized upon by later rulers, most significantly Catherine the Great in the eighteenth century; she, like Peter, sought strong links with Europe. The emblem therefore enjoyed popularity in Russia, albeit later than Europe.

Several emblem books, like Symbola et Emblemata were imported from the West; however, they existed alongside an indigenous Russian tradition: the lubok. Lubki existed in many different forms, but often looked similar to emblems owing to the arrangement of text and picture. Their subject matter ranged from the religious and mythological to contemporary political satires or portraits of the royal family. Emblemat Dukhovnyi, in the opinion of Pedro F. Campa, forms a link between this tradition and the European emblem heritage. The format of Emblemat Dukhovnyi is very different to the original German edition and so Campa states that "in a small way the newly acquired European emblem had made inroads into the popular Russian religious culture".

             Detail of emblem sixteen

Emblemat Dukhovnyi is a Russian version of an original German emblem book entitled Duodekas Emblematum Sacrorum, first published in Nuremberg in 1625 by Johann Saubert. Saubert (1592-1646) was a theologian who published many sacred works. He was born in Nuremberg and studied Greek and Latin at Altdorf. He studied theology under Osiander and Hafenreffer, later becoming pastor of St. Lorenz (1628) and then St. Sebaldus in Nuremberg. He also took up the prefecture of the city library, and as part of his work there compiled the first catalogue of incunabula. His published writings, which come to some fifty works, include exegetical and educational works as well as sacred emblem books. He also collaborated on a Jena edition of scripture with Salomon Glasius and Johann Gerhard; it was published in 1640-1.

This copy is an addition to the Stirling Maxwell Collection of emblem books and it was acquired in 1988 with the assistance of the Local Museums Purchase Fund (now the National Fund for Acquisitions). Several other copies are known to be in the Russian National Library in St. Petersburg, but there are no records of any other existing copies. There are some variations between the copies, some using different plates. It would seem that the copy owned by Glasgow University came fairly late in the print run, as demonstrated by the relatively poor quality of some of the plates used. It was owned by Trifilii Vasilevich Kedrov, a deacon at the Nikolaevskii Cathedral in the small town of Novaia Ladoga, which is near St. Petersburg. Kedrov has signed the book in the bottom margin of the first seven pages. His son, Nikolai has added his name also. Apart from this information, the book's provenance is unclear. There is some evidence to show that T. V. Kedrov is related to Nikolai Nikolaevich Kedrov (1871-1940), who is recorded as having been born into a family of a priest. He was a composer and singer who founded a vocal quartet and wished to spread the message of Orthodoxy. He emigrated to Berlin and then Paris after the revolution. The evidence for this relationship is, however, only circumstantial.

Detail of emblem two

Emblemat Dukhovnyi
was printed in 1743 and there is no place of publication on the book itself. The book contains forty emblems, each consisting of a motto, picture and accompanying text. The language used is Church Slavonic: a language related to Russian which is used in the Russian Orthodox Church. This Russian version was engraved by Ivan Liubetskii and the images are rather more crudely drawn than the German original; in some cases the images are reversed and the layout of each plate differs from Saubert's version. Some of the emblems from the German edition are missing from the Russian copy. The German inheritance is shown in the non-native architecture shown in some plates: for example, plate twenty, which shows a distinctly non-Russian style of dress and architecture. While the translation is mostly competent, in some instances the text is mistranslated from the German. There is evidence of two different hands in the text, and there are frequent misspellings.

                                               Detail of emblem fifteen


Emblem fourteen of the Russian version Emblem two of the German original

In both the plates - shown above and below - the Russian image on the left has been reversed during the copying process and it is clear that the German original is more expertly engraved. The layout also differs: the German original contains some verses that have not been translated into Russian, as well as a Latin motto which has not been transferred to the Russian version.

Detail of Emblem forty three of the Russian version

Detail of Emblem eleven of the German original

This emblem is entitled "Thoughts occurring in Prayer" and the text concerns the difficulty people find in concentrating on their worship. The engraving shows two contrasting views: a man outside waves frantically at birds which fly overhead, symbolising the man disturbed in contemplation; inside, a pious family are seated at a generously lain table, engaged in peaceful prayer. The reader is advised that a person may, however, learn to banish distractions and be once again close to God.  Anthony Hippisley points out the mistranslation in the Russian text: the German original suggests that just as a person cannot stop birds flying around overhead, so one cannot stop unheeded thoughts appearing in their minds while they pray. However the Russian translation misses this negative particle with the result that the Russian suggests that one can make birds stop flying around one's head, so confusing the meaning of the text.


Detail of emblem four



Emblem four: Thoughts occurring in prayer

Detail of emblem fifteen: Suffering, sorrow and need bring one quickly to God

The text of emblem fifteen describes the route of men to heaven. The entrance to heaven is compared to the warm welcome a traveller receives upon reaching an inn; this is explicitly shown in the engraving which shows the traveller, in various stages of his journey: traversing bad weather, relaxing beneath a tree and passing a walled garden. Finally, in the foreground he is shown reaching his destination and is welcomed into the inn by a group who offer him rest and sustenance. The text tells us that misfortune and failings delay the entry of the faithful to heaven. This is unfortunately another mistranslation of the original German text, which, in fact, states the opposite: that trials and tribulations bring a person to heaven faster. Thus the motto which reads, "Suffering, sorrow and need bring one quickly to God", is flatly contradicted by both the picture and the text.

The emblem book attempts to cover all aspects of spiritual development and this is shown in emblem 24. It is entitled "All Christians need music" and the text concerns the sacred nature of music. It quotes Psalms 96 and 97 and also Judith 16:2. The picture is less figural than most emblems in the book and seems to include much symbolism. It shows all four voices (clockwise from left: tenor, alto, soprano, bass) as different parts of the church. The bass holds the crucifix upon which Jesus hangs. This is significant: the bass, the lowest of the four voices, which forms the foundation upon which they rest, is seen here holding the most basic and vital symbol of the church.  The word "soprano" rests on an altar upon which there are hands clasped in prayer and containers of incense, perhaps symbolising the congregation's devotion. The book, upon which is written the word alto, is held by a bird which seems to also be holding a quill. The tenor is accompanied by a large heart, surrounded by hands and feet, and there is also a face which is enveloped by light. This emblem is interesting since the imagery in the picture is rather deeper and less simply illustrative than most of the others. The picture seems to suggest that as the four voices of the choir fit together to form the foundation of music, so they also form the foundations of Christian belief and worship.


Emblem twenty four: All Christians need music

Emblem twenty seven: Do all people endeavour to love?


The text in this emblem refers to the Christian necessity of loving one's enemies. It encourages the reader to wish upon both friends and enemies that which they wish for themselves and to abandon their rage. The two quotes at the bottom are from Luke 6:32 "for if ye love them that love you, what thanks have ye? For sinners also love those that love them." and 1 John 3:14: "Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer."


The engraving depicts a man standing on clouds, as though about to embrace the world, upon which stand many figures in different positions; most of them are on the outer circumference and may be embracing. This at first strikes one as a very modern motif and it is one that seems to have universal resonance. The sun appears to smile down on both the planet and the man, beaming through the clouds. The sun, as Nestor Maksimovich Ambodik notes, is a "symbol of truth, divine wisdom, providence, fruitfulness, and the abundance of the fruits of the land." The design of the engraving is striking and it effectively enhances the idea that the Christian must embrace all people, no matter their sins or failings.

Title page of part two

This Russian emblem book, with its mixing of European and Russian Orthodox culture, allows us an important glimpse into the religious culture of seventeenth century Russia.

Detail of emblem twenty one

It shows the historical uniqueness of Russia in the baroque period and so forms a unique niche in emblem studies, one which has not yet seen full attention from Western emblem scholars.

Nestor Maksimovich Ambodik Symbola et Emblemata, Emvlemy i symvoly izbrannye St. Petersburg, 1788. Sp Coll S. M. 1567

Emvlemy i symvoly: The first Russian Emblem Book, edited, with translation and introduction by Anthony Hippisley. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1989. Sp Coll S.M. Add. q94

Johann Saubert Duodekąs emblematum sacrorum Nuremberg: 1625 Sp Coll S.M. 1815

November 2006 also sees the launch of the French emblems at Glasgow website: 27 French emblm books digitised in their entirety.

For more details on Slavonic realted material we hold, see our Slavonic resources web page.

The following were useful in compiling this article

The Emblem in Renaissance and Baroque Europe: Tradition and Variety, ed. by Alison Adams and Anthony J. Harper. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1992. Sp Coll S.M. Add q.105

Pedro F. Campa 'Heraldry, Insignia and the Rise of the Russian Emblem', Emblem Studies in Honour of Peter M. Daly Baden-Baden: Koerner, 2002. Sp Coll S.M. Add q160

Anthony Hippisley 'The Russian Emblem Book Emblemat Dyuchovnyj', The European Emblem: Selected Papers from the Glasgow Conference 11-14 August, 1987 ed. by Bernard F. Scholz et. Al. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1990. Sp Coll S. M. Add q100

John Manning The Emblem London: Reaktion Books, 2002. Sp Coll S. M Add q157

A.A. Morozov 'Emblematika barokko v literature I iskusstve petrovskogo vremeni', Problemy Literaturnogo Razvitiia v Rossii pervoi treti XVIII veka Moscow: Nauka, 1974.  Level 6 Main Library: Slavonic G491 VOS 

Charles Moseley A Century of Emblems: An Introductory Anthology Aldershot: Scholar Press, 1989. Sp Coll S. M. Add q98



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Samantha Sherry (Graduate Trainee on placement in Special Collections) November 2006