Professor of German, University of Munich,
Trans. Marshall Billings, MA, UIUC
The present contribution treats only some of the diverse problems encountered during my
work on the Munich emblem database.The first question to be clarified was whether or not
the emblem book constitutes an independent, clearly defined genre.Then criteria had to be
established to distinguish emblems from emblem-like illustrations. Encoding the meaning of
an emblem posed further difficulties. Even the description of the pictura, or emblem image, is
not unproblematic, considering the semantic relevance, on the one hand, and the possibilities
for its visualization, on the other.This applies particularly to complexly structured images.
The classification of textual elements in emblem books can be considered a further difficul-
ty. If a way of treating these problems can be drawn from the problems described here, then
it is the following: an emblem database should have as much data as possible - even if only as
an image file - and the designers and managers of the database should rely on the acumen
of the users.
ideal emblem, image descriptors, encoding meaning, problems of genre, imprese.
his paper presents some of the various problems which arose during work on the
Munich Emblem Database and which, we believe, can only be resolved and clarified by
making pragmatic decisions.
The decisions are pragmatic in the sense that they both
necessitate a readiness to make concessions and also a willingness to do without a logical and con-
sistent terminological system which could then be translated into realistic best practices.This dis-
cussion is by no means restricted to questions of a purely theoretical nature nor can it be ignored
as mere terminological hairsplitting, rather this discussion entails fundamental decisions of an
essential nature. In our case these pragmatic decisions led the evaluators of the Deutsche Forschungs-
gemeinschaft (German Research Foundation) to reject the arguments of the applicants of the
Munich project, and to recommend continuation for only six months after having initially
approved a two-year funding period.
Problems first begin to arise in the initial phases of planning an emblem database, at a stage when
the structure of the database and its technical realization have received little, if no, attention. Fun-
damental questions arise: From what sources do we acquire our data? What is an emblem book?
Is the emblem book an independent genre at all? Years ago in a discussion of the concept of
"applied emblematics," I attempted to demonstrate that the choice of titles for a given work should
in no way definitively decide its status as an emblem book and that it would be useful to differen-
tiate between "emblem books" and "books with emblems," whereby these oppositions are under-
stood as extremes with the possibility of some flexibility and overlap.
As an example of an emblem
book in the narrower sense I introduced Johann Mannich's Sacra Emblemata (Nürnberg 1624),
The author would like to thank
Marshall Billings for his translation of
this paper from German into English.
See Dietmar Peil,"Zur Diskussion
über `angewandte Emblematik'," Ger-
manisch-Romanische Monatsschrift 29
See Emblemata. Handbuch zur
Sinnbildkunst des XVI. und XVII.
Jahrhunderts, ed.Arthur Henkel and
Albrecht Schöne (1967; Stuttgart/
Weimar: Metzler 1996) XLVIII; see
also John Landwehr, German Emblem
Books 1531-1888.A Bibliography
(Utrecht: Dekker & Gumbert 1972)
no. 416; and VD 17, 1:078927E;VD
17 = Das Verzeichnis der im deutschen
Sprachraum erschienenen Drucke des 17.
Jahrhunderts available at http://www.
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