CONCLASS FOR THE
As more and more of our cultural heritage is being digitized, a major question becomes ever
more urgent: how do we give access to the subject matter of the products of the visual arts?
This paper addresses this issue with the help of one of the most important sources of early
modern cultural history, the emblem book. It demonstrates in a very practical manner how
the Iconclass system can be used to classify the themes and motifs we find in them.
book illustration, systematic iconography, subject access, guided navigation,
applied emblematics, emblems.
I n t ro d u c t i o n
he text found below is a modified version of a paper delivered at the working confer-
ence held at the Herzog August Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel, 10 - 13 September 2003,
under the title,"Emblem Literature: Digital Modeling of the Interrelationships between
Texts and Images."
I left Wolfenbüttel with some new ideas and a few of my older ideas modified. I also carried
one old idea unchanged back with me, namely that one hour is not enough to clarify all the impli-
cations of the use of Iconclass to index the picturae of emblems.The subject is simply too rich to
be dealt with in an hour. I decided, therefore, to rewrite my contribution to the Arbeitsgespräch and
add some further observations about the applicability of Iconclass. I also decided that it would be
more useful to integrate these addenda into the text than to simply append them to it.
On various occasions in the next pages you are invited to follow hyperlinks.These usually lead
you to the Website of the collection of Illuminated Manuscripts of the Museum Meermanno-
Westreenianum. Soon these will be replaced by hyperlinks to our own Mnemosyne site.
In the field of the digitization of historical sources, in general, and of pictures, in particular, it
is far too early to reach a consensus about the giants upon whose shoulders we can stand. For the
time being, therefore, you are invited to choose your own champion.The first candidates are in
Illustration 1: Alciatus, Emblematum libellus. Paris:
Christian Wechel, 1534, Emblem 22,"Mutuum
auxilium" (The halt leading the blind).
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