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First Published:  4 February 2020
Revised (substantive):  n/a

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A NOTE ON THE DIGITAL TRANSCRIPT THAT FOLLOWS:
   Geoffrey Whitney (1548?–1600/01) first presented a manuscript version of his famous emblem book to his patron, Robert Dudley (1532/3–1588), earl of Leicester, at the end of 1585. In 1586, when both men were residing in the Netherlands (Whitney as a student at the new University of Leiden, and the earl, serving as governor-general in the Low Countries), Leicester persuaded Whitney to have his manuscript printed at the famous Plantin press. Accordingly, Whitney revised his scribal manuscript, which swelled to 248 illustrated emblems after he incorporated the work of continental emblematists, such as Achille Bocchi’s Symbolicae Quaestiones (1555, 1574), borrowing liberally from Plantin’s editions of Alciati, Junius, Sambucus and Paradin, including 202 of 248 woodcuts which were taken from the same blocks (Corbett and Lightbown, The Comely Frontispiece, 19). Whitney dedicated the final published work, A Choice of Emblemes and other Devises, to Leicester, who by then had several large building projects ongoing at his estates.
   Emblems were primarily intended for use by craftsmen (painters, goldsmiths, founders, etc.), who would insert sententious images in inlaid work on walls, pavements, and vessels, including small square stones, cut and worked, in which pictures were to be seen interwoven. (Corbett and Lightbown, 16)
   As Whitney explained, “this worde Embleme signifieth ... in Englishe as To set in, or to put in: properlie ment by suche figures, or workes, as are wrought in plate, or in stones in the pavementes, or on the waules, or suche like, for the adorning of the place: havinge some wittie devise expressed with cunning woorkemanship, somethinge obscure to be perceived at the first, whereby, when with further consideration it is understood, it maie the greater delighte the behoulder. And althoughe the worde dothe comprehende manie thinges, and divers matters maie be therein contained; yet all Emblemes for the most parte, maie be reduced into these three kindes, which is Historicall, Naturall, & Morall. Historicall, as representing the actes of some noble persons, being matter of historie. Naturall, as in expressing the natures of creatures, for example, the love of the yonge Storkes, to the oulde, or of suche like. Morall, pertaining to vertue and instruction of life, which is the chiefe of the three, and the other two maye bee in some sorte drawen into this head. For, all doe tende unto discipline, and morall preceptes of living.” (Whitney, A Choice of Emblemes, 1586, sig. **4r)


Emblem No. 185


Scripta non temerè edenda

We should not publish
our works in haste

facsimile of late-16th-century engraving

^  Woodcut, plate 185 from Geoffrey Whitney’s A Choice of Emblemes and other Devises (Leiden, 1586).

[  The accompanying gloss for this picture is in verse, and reads:  ]

Opening quotation mark

LO, here  Q U I N C T I L I U S  sittes, a grave and reverende sire:

And pulles a younglinge by the arme, that did for fame desire.

For, hee with pace of snayle, proceeded to his pen;

Lest haste shoulde make him wishe (too late) it weare to write againe.

And therfore still with care, woulde everie thinge amende:

Yea, ofte eche worde, and line survaye, before hee made an ende.

And, yf he any sawe, whose care to wryte was small:

To him, like wordes to these hee us’d, which hee did meane to all.

My sonne, what worke thou writes, correcte, reforme, amende,

But if thou like thy first assaye, then not  Q U I N C T I L I U S  frende?

The fruicte at firste is sower, till time give pleasante taste:

And verie rare is that attempte, that is not harm’d with haste.

Perfection comes in time, and forme and fashion gives:

And ever rashenes, yeeldes repente, and most dispised lives.

Then, alter ofte, and chaunge, peruse, and reade, and marke:

The man that softlie settes his steppes, goes safest in the darke.

But if that thirst of fame, doe pricke thee forthe too faste:

Thou shalt (when it is all to late) repente therefore at laste.
 

Closing quotation mark


SOURCE:  Emblem No. 185, Scripta non temerè edenda [in English: We should not publish our works in haste].
Transcribed from A choice of emblemes, and other devises, for the moste parte gathered out of sundrie writers, Englished and moralized. And divers newly devised, by Geffrey Whitney. A worke adorned with varietie of matter, both pleasant and profitable: wherein those that please, maye finde to fit their fancies: bicause herein, by the office of the eie, and the eare, the minde maye reape dooble delighte throughe holsome preceptes, shadowed with pleasant devises: both fit for the vertuous, to their incoraging: and for the wicked, for their admonishing and amendment. Imprinted at Leyden: In the house of Christopher Plantyn, by Francis Raphelengius, M.D.LXXXVI [1586].