The University of Illinois has amassed the largest collection of emblem books in the United States, and beginning in 1998 it embarked on a rather ambitious project to digitize a number of fine titles for public access via the web. As the website notes, "Emblem books can possibly be looked upon as the multi-medial publications of the 17th and 18th centuries." These books link together three elements: a motto, a woodcut or engraving, and an explanatory poem. The rather intriguing interplay between these respective parts is complemented by the wide array of source material these works draw upon for their inspiration, such as fables, mythology, and the Bible. Currently, users can browse through fourteen different titles such as the Emblemata Politica (created by Peter Isselburg in 1617) and the Mundi lapis Lydius (created by Antoine Bourgogne in the 16th century). Each page of these respective works has been digitally scanned, and along with high resolution viewing, visitors can obtain detailed page descriptions as well. The site is rounded out with a nice section that provides visitors with information about emblems and offers some publications that have been produced during the development of the project.
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