Montenay. Emblemes

Georgette de Montenay. Emblemes, ou, Deuises chrestiennes

Georgette de Montenay


(Click on the call number to view the digital facsimile of the book.)

Gordon 1571 .M65

Emblemes, ou, Deuises chrestiennes, composees par Damoiselle Georgette de Montenay.

A Lyon : Par Jean Marcorelle, 1571.

Georgette de Montenay (1540 – ca. 1581) intended her emblem book for religious ends and points out in her dedicatory epistle that she believes hers to be the first Christian emblems.

Alciat feit des Emblémes exquis,
Lesquels voyant de plusieurs requis,
Desir me prit de commencer les miens,
Lesquels ie croy ester premier chrestiens.

Her dedication of the book to Jeanne d’Albret, queen of Navarre, clearly signals the author’s Calvinist sympathies.

Recurrent themes from the emblems include the role of Christ, faith, grace, the sins of pride and hypocrisy, and the virtue of humility. In keeping with the popular emblematic format, the poet’s huitains, all in decasyllabic verse, explain the accompanying image and Latin motto.

Grace portrayed as Christ’s fountain of blood.


Faith is the basis of--and more important than -- good works.

Like the Gospels, the bell tower calls all, but only God’s chosen come.

The sin of pride illustrated with an overboiled pot.

Montenay. Emblemes

Georgette de Montenay. Emblemes, ou, Deuises chrestiennes, frontispiece

Gordon 1571 .M65

The beautiful engraved figures by Pierre Woeriot represent the use of new copperplate engraving in printed books, and this is the first French emblem book to use the new technique instead of woodcut illustrations. The rare engraved portrait of the author, inserted before the title page, is dated 1567, and lends support to the theory that Georgette de Montenay’s work was ready for publication prior to 1571, but its printing was delayed, due to the turmoil of the French Wars of Religion.

In fact, the Bibliography of French Emblem Books (Geneva: Droz, 2002) identifies one copy of the first edition that is dated 1567. That copy, located in Denmark, has an “Au Lecteur,” dated 1 February 1567, on b4ro, which is blank in the copies dated 1571 (including the Gordon copy). The “Au Lecteur” in the 1567 state of the first edition, as reported by the editors of the BFEB, states that “although the text was ready in 1561, production was delayed by the religious wars, the engravings in particular having only been completed in 1565 or later, partly because of the presence of the plague in Lyon in 1564 and 1565.” (Entry F.437, BFEB)

Print facsimile editions:

Montenay, Georgette de. Emblemes, ou devises chrestiennes. Ed. Christopher N. Smith. Menston: Scholar Press, 1973. (Facsimile of 1571 edition)

Régine Reynolds-Cornell, ed. Witnessing an Era: Georgette de Montenay and the Emblèmes ou devises chrestiennes. Birmingham, Alabama: Summa Publications, 1987. (Reproduction of emblems from the 1571 edition, with an introduction)

Further Reading:

For an in-depth analysis of Georgette de Montenay’s Protestant (Calvinist) faith, see chapter 2 (“Georgette de Montenay: A Biblical Subtext”) of Alison Adam’s study, Webs of Allusion: French Protestant Emblem Books of the Sixteenth Century (Geneva: Droz, 2003).

Internet Resources

French Emblems at Glasgow includes a facsimile and transcription of  the 1571 edition, as well as of the later 1584 edition (a Latin translation added to the French poems), along with information about Georgette de Montenay, the publication history of her work, and a select secondary bibliography.