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Emblematic Exhibitions (affixiones) at the Brussels Jesuit College (1630-1685): A Study of the Commemorative Manuscripts (Royal Library, Brussels).

Karel Porteman. Trans. Anna Simoni. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 1996. 25 pls. + b/w illus. + 200 pp. $50 (cl), $30 (pbk). ISBN: 2-503-50561-3. Hardcover book with CD-ROM (Leiden: IDC Publishers) $800, available from their U.S. office: 800-757-7441.

The Illustrated Incunabula Short- Title Catalogue on CD-ROM. 73-page user's guide and two CDs. Chicago: Primary Source Media and London: British Library, 1997. $2,995.

Emblematic exhibitions described in Karel Porteman's book and available page by page in the accompanying CD-ROM were once displayed on the "open days" of the Jesuit College in Brussels, fastened to tapestries or draperies in the inner courtyard. There are 45 manuscripts in the collection, including a few from Courtrai, with iconographic references to Erasmus, Alciato, Visscher, Rollenhagen, Cats, Jesuit drama, various saints, and many other sources. Scholars will develop a multitude of approaches to this material, including stylistic comparison of the border designs, literary analysis of the Latin poetry, and study of the multivalent nature of symbolism throughout the seventeenth century.

Anna Simoni's straightforward English translation of the essays has made a wealth of bibliographic information available to the scholarly community. As Karel Porteman explains in the acknowledgments, the present book consists of a descriptive catalogue with brief essays on the Jesuit emblem manuscripts; a systematic index "of the more than 2,000 mottoes and illustrations has had to be dispensed with and preference was given to a repertory of pupil emblem writers" (appendix 2). He expresses the hope that this "first exploration" might encourage support for such an index.

Emblematic Exhibitions documents the many connections between the Jesuit College and public festivities in the city of Brussels. In his preface, Pierre Cockshaw mentions the entry of Leopold William and the annual procession for the Sacrament of the Miracle. In the "Introductory Study," Porteman describes several others, especially in relation to the college and city. This study places the college in its spiritual and political context, as well as in the emblematic fervor of Antwerp publishing from the mid-sixteenth to the early seventeenth century. Porteman's expertise in both emblem studies and history of the Netherlands has provided the ideal background for his interpretations of the usefulness of visual imagery in the Jesuit College. The "affective power of illustrations" proved indispensable for prayer, meditation, and mnemonics in the Jesuit educational system.

Color plates in this volume graphically prove Porteman's points. Grouped together on 24 pages (plus the frontispiece), the artfully appealing nature of these illustrations and mottoes easily persuades the reader that such picturae would have impressed the "open day" visitors to the Jesuit College, not to mention the students themselves. Unfortunately, the dozens of black-and-white illustrations throughout the book are printed too light for some of the texts to be read. Another problem with the physical presentation of the book is that the bibliography at the end contains only secondary sources; the reader is instructed to see the footnotes for primary printed and archival sources.

Porteman's "Catalogue and Comments" (81-177), draws upon his erudition in humanism, hagiography, and other learned disciplines to produce a catalogue of enduring value. The collection is further enhanced by Dirk Sacre's contributions on the Latin verses, Elly Cockx-Indestege's short piece on the bindings, and Marcus de Schepper's brief remark on the provenance.

Emblematic Exhibitions is being marketed by IDC with a CD-ROM, but nowhere is this partnership mentioned in the book. The CD-ROM (requiring 8 MB of disk space for installation) has used 450 MB to record all the manuscripts, leaving 200 MB free onto which the hoped-for iconographic index might eventually be placed. While readers should be cautioned that some video drivers can cause the images to "crash," and other drivers can create problems while loading a full-page image, the powerful video drivers in library systems should load the CD-ROM effortlessly. Viewers can "zoom in" to 150 percent on full-page images, which allows illegible handwriting to be clearly visible and often readable.

Another CD-ROM currently available is The Illustrated Incunabula Short-Title Catalogue on CD-ROM. Art historians who analyze early printed books may see the word "illustrated" relating to incunabula and expect to consult the Illustrated ISTC on CD-ROM for primary material, but the purpose of this publication is purely bibliographical. As such, the ISTC database with approximately 10,000 images on CD-ROM is an impressive cataloguing and research tool for librarians, other scholars, and dealers attempting to identify and describe items printed before 1501. The majority of these images is not pictorial, but rather reproductions of pages selected as "key-pages" containing information about title, contents, text, and scattered illustrations. Searching by generic terms such as "colophon" or "prelim" retrieves records illustrating these elements.

Powerful and versatile search protocols of the Illustrated ISTC crowning years of scholarly research spent expanding the original ISTC database have created an harmonious union of technology and thought. Proposed in 1979 by Lotte Hellinga as a computerized register, the database became available on-line in 1984 via the British Library's BLAISE service, RLIN in North America, and PICA in Europe. Lotte Hellinga also directed the plan to illustrate the ISTC on CD-ROM, launched in 1994 as Project Incipit, managed by Margaret Meserve. The Illustrated ISTC is now managed by Marian Lefferts at the British Library and directed by Martin Davies. Images of incunabula were provided by the British Library; the Instituto da Biblioteca Nacional e do Livro, Lisbon; Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale and the Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Rome; Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague; and, Bibliotheque Royale, Brussels.

Most users will probably begin consulting the database with browsing lists, established as the index to each field and functioning as alphabetical lists. Terms from the lists can be copied into the search form as part of a search request. Search results can then be saved for printing, with approximately a half-minute loading time for an image to print. Each page of the print-out displays full bibliographic information at the top, including the name of the library holding copyright. Special features of on-screen viewing include "zoom in" magnification of up to nine times the original size, especially useful for studying details of typography.

Full installation of the database requires 66Mb of hard disc space, and the database can reside on a networked volume for sharing. Optimal viewing is achieved with SVGA monitors configured at 800 x 600 resolution with 256 colors (for the occasional image of illuminated printed pages). Future releases on CD-ROM are planned to expand the coverage by 2,000 editions (ca. 10,000 images) annually.

I am grateful to Philip M. Law III, a computer consultant at the Pierpont Morgan Library, for his gracious help in testing these CD-ROMs.

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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Sider, Sandra
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 22, 1998
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