Emblem Books Project Overview

Project Overview

An emblem book contains images and text. An emblem creates dialogue or tension between image and word. Frequently allegorical in theme, emblems were designed to engage, challenge, and instruct the audience.

Today, emblem books seem to be an unfamiliar textual form. An emblem book represents a particular kind of reading. Unlike today, the eye is not intended to move rapidly from page to page. The emblem arrests the sense, leads into the text, both image and word, to the richness of its associations. An emblem is something like a riddle, a "hieroglyph" in the Renaissance vocabulary -- what many readers considered to be a form of natural language.

The English Emblem Book Project of the Penn State University Libraries' Electronic Text Center makes this older form of text, the emblem book, available within a newer form of text, the World Wide Web.

This project benefits from the expertise and cooperation of many Penn State resources. The following contributors have been instrumental in the process of planning and implementation:

  • The former Library Computing Services consulted on methods for project implementation, and will maintain the image archive server.
  • Rare Books and Special Collections of the University Libraries is providing expertise and access to their emblem book materials.
  • Sue Kellerman, the University Libraries' Preservation Librarian, has consulted on issues of imaging standards. Preservation Staff is providing the imaging production service.
  • John Harwood, Emeritus Professor of English with a specialization in 17th century literature and retired Associate Vice Provost for Information Technology, provided early funding for project staff.
  • Faculty from the departments of English, Art History and Integrative Arts who use original materials in research and teaching have expressed an interest in using the archive in teaching.


In addition to support from these partnerships, the English Emblem Book Project benefited from the work of individuals whose contributions are noted in the "Credits."

This prototype English Emblem Book Project was completed in late 2004.