In some cases, Paradin assigns a devise to a figure from the past, explaining as well the universal moral sense of the image for his readers.

The image of the snake and hand, with the motto, “QVIS CONTRA NOS,” are associated with St. Paul, because of the episode in his life in which God protected him from a venomous snake bite. In the 1557 edition, Paradin underscores the general message to his readers: “car veritablement à qui Dieu veut ayder, il n’y ha rien qui puisse nuire.”

In the 1557 edition, Paradin adds a devise for Joan of Arc, “la pucelle d’Orléans.” The motto, “Consilio firmata Dei,” is accompanied by the figure of the crowned sword, flanked by two fleurs de lys. Paradin explains that the image serves as a perpetual monument to the defense and protection of France.

The book’s eventual format, combining woodcut image with latin motto and brief explanation, followed the model of and capitalized on the popularity of emblem collections, whose images referred to a concept or idea, rather than characterizing an individual person. Whereas the emblème may depict a single figure or an entire scene, the personal devise limits itself to one or a small number of related figures, with no background “scene.” The devise itself included only a brief motto, although Paradin’s expanded version provides the explanatory text that makes his second edition of his Devises heroiques much more similar in format to the emblem book.

Likewise, Paradin includes examples that adhere to the visual format of the personal devise, but that in fact convey a universal theme, with no direct attribution of the figure to a specific individual in the explanatory texts of the later edition. Presumably one could choose to adopt such a devise. Without an established association with a particular individual, however, the devise in question acts rather as a universal emblem and may have served to enlarge the potential readership and use of the volume.

The hand, the royal sleeve, and the sword of “NON SINE CAVSA” signify the judicial power inherent in all government. The devise applies to all princes and magistrates, and serves to remind all subjects of the need to fear and respect the hand of justice.

The figure of the harp (“IN SIBILO AVRAE TENVIS”) symbolizes the power of music over melancholy. The divine effects of music, and of the harp in particular, are associated with David, who played to comfort King Saul, but Paradin stresses the power of music over all human souls.

The flies on the mirror of “MELIVS IN SORDIBVS HAERENT” (“Labuntur nitidis scabrisq; tenacius haerent” in the 1557 edition) represent a general moral truth about the positive effects of adversity, attributed to no particular individual but applicable to all human nature.

Paradin’s printer, Jean de Tournes, published numerous emblem books in mid-16th century Lyon. The woodcuts in Paradin’s books are attributed to Bernard Salomon, one of the most accomplished woodcut designers of the era, who provided many illustrations for Jean de Tournes.

The devises, like the other forms of the emblem genre, were popular throughout Europe and printed in numerous languages. A sixteenth-century English translation of Paradin’s work (The heroicall devises of M. Claudius Paradin […]. Translated out of our Latin into English by P.S. William Kearney. London : 1591), including a table of contents, is available from the Penn State University English Emblem Book Project.

Links to the English translations of the devises noted above:

Nutrisco, & extinguo. / I nourish, and I extinguish.
Vltus auos Troiae. / He hath revenged his forefathers quarrell, by the example of Troy.
Non inferiora secutus. / Following no meane things.
The raine bow doth bring faire weather.
Quis contra nos? / If God be with vs, who can be against us.
Consilio firmata Dei. / It is established by Gods decree.
Non sine causa. / Not without cause.
In sibilo aurae tenuis. / In the muttering of the gentle aire.
Labuntur nitidis, scabrisque tenatius harent. / Flies do fall downe from slipperie place, but stick fast vpon the hard and rough.

Internet Resources

French Emblems at Glasgow includes a facsimile and transcription of both the 1551 and 1557 editions of the Devises heroïques, along with information about Paradin, the publication history of his work, and a select secondary bibliography.