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This is our edition of Quaeris quid sit amor?, (later titled: Emblemata amatoria)) of c. 1601, the very first love emblem book ever written in Dutch. In this introduction, we have limited ourselves to the essentials.

About Daniël Heinsius

Daniël Heinsius was born in Ghent, a town in the southern Netherlands, in 1580.1 He lived there for only three years. His parents then fled from the Spanish Inquisition, and Heinsius was consequently raised and educated in the northern Republic. After his studies at the Franeker and Leiden universities (where his father wanted him to study law, while Heinsius himself was devoted to the classical literature and philosophy), Heinsius started working as a classicist in Leiden. As a professor, he edited many Latin and Greek works and composed Latin and Dutch poetry, almost right up to his death in 1655.

About the Quaeris quid sit amor?

The Quaeris quid sit amor? was the very first love emblem book in the Dutch language. When this emblem book was first published, probably in 1601, it had no specific title. Consequently, these days it often carries two titles; either Quaeris quid sit amor?, after the first words on the titlepage, or Emblemata amatoria, after the title it was given in reprints. The author of the 1601 edition identified himself as Theocritus à Ganda. This turned out to be the pseudonym of Daniël Heinsius, a riddle most of his (literary) peers would probably be able to solve; in Greek, Theocritus means Daniël and à Ganda is the French translation of from Ghent.

Heinsius’s emblems have a rich and complex printing history.2 This edition is based on one of the few copies of the 1601-impression that survived, in possession of the Royal Library of The Hague.3 New and enlarged editions of the Emblemata amatoria appeared in 1608, 1612, 1613 and 1619. The 1608-edition is published elsewhere on this site, see: on this site. The love emblems were also included in Heinsius's Nederduytsche poemata, first published in 1616 and reprinted many times.

In the preface to the Nederduytsche poemata, written by Heinsius’s friend Petrus Scriverius, it becomes clear that Heinsius was not the only author of the love emblems. When they were first published in 1601, Heinsius was in fact presenting the work of a group of (unidentified) Leiden humanist who wrote the subscriptions of the emblems in cooperation. Hugo de Groot was probably part of this group, since his name surfaces in some of the emblems. The pictures of this first edition were made by the engraver Jacques de Gheyn.4

The Emblemata amatoria consists of twenty-four emblems which all have the same appearance: on the right-hand page the picture surrounded by one of the subscriptio’s and the motto, and on the left-hand a repetition of the motto and another subscriptio.5 Twelve of the mottoes are in French, eight in Latin and four in Italian. The subscriptio shown in the picture is always a two-lined poem in Latin, the other on the left-hand page an eight-line poem in Dutch.

The visual unity of Emblemata amatoria is also established by the presence of the Cupid figure on all emblems but three (A autruy mort, a moy vie [6], Cosi de ben amar porto tormento [8], Solatium, non auxilium [16]). Most of the the time he has a rather passive role in either the foreground or background of the pictures. The (lonely) lover and his adored mistress are also frequently present.

B. Becker-Cantarino has stated that the emblems are ordered according to a number of principles.6 First of all, Emblemata amatoria opens and ends with emblems about the power of love over life (Omnia vincit amor [1]) and death (Noctua ut in tumulis, super utque cadavera bubo [24]). In between, there are two strings of similar emblems. The first string consists of emblem 2 through 16, with elements of nature as their focal point (2 Au dedans je me consume [2] to 8 Cosi de ben amar porto tormento [8] are centered around the element fire, emblems 9 Ni spirat, immota [9] and 10 Inter omnes [10] discuss the cosmos, emblems 11 Je reviens de mon gré aux doulx lacqs qui me serrent [11] and 12 O l’estroit eslargir [12] represent the lover as a caved bird, emblem 13 De douceur amertume [13] and 14 Te stante virebo [14] are centered around elements of flora and fauna, and emblem 15 Et piu dolsi [15] and 16 Solatium, non auxilium [16] show the lover as a hunted deer). The second string contains emblems 17 through 23, with aspects of daily life as a focus. The arbitrary unity of this section is discussed in the Dutch introduction to the 1608-edition of Emblemata amatoria.

Forster, in his study on Petrarchism in Renaissance literature, The Icy Fire, has identified many of these principles and elements as typical for the literary tradition of Petrarchism.7 In this edition, Petrarchist elements in Heinsius's emblems are listed as one of the search options.


As can be concluded from the number of reprints and adaptations of Emblemata amatoria Heinsius's emblems were appreciated by a large audience. Also, this book inspired other - Dutch as well as foreign - poets to write emblems with a similar appearance and purpose. The Amorum emblemata by Otto Vaenius, published in 1608, were clearly influenced by Heinsius, as were Emblemata amatoria (1611) by P.C. Hooft and Sinne- en minnebeelden (1618) by J. Cats.

Copy Used for this Edition

In making this edition of Emblemata amatoria we have used the copy of the edition of 1601 conserved in the Royal Libray (The Hague), shelf number 1121 F 61 (Amsterdam 1601). This copy shows some defects, as described in Landwehr, Emblem and Fable Books. The defects are corrected in this webedition (emblem headings number 9, 11 and 15). The enlarged images images you find in this edition, derive from another - coloured- copy of Emblemata amatoria, kept in the library of the Amsterdam University, shelf number UBM: OK 62-9700.


We have transcribed the full text from the The Hague copy and encoded this text using TEI markup, to allow for flexibility in presentation and non-destructive editorial enhancement of the text. The full project guidelines for transcription, editorial intervention and indexing of the text are available elsewhere on this site.

Editorial Additions

More specifically, we have added normalisations of spacing and interpunction (always allowing the viewer the option to view either the normalised or the original text), and we have normalised the orthography of the Dutch texts with respect to the use of u, v, w, i and j. Here again the viewer may choose between the original and the re-spelled text (using the 'Preferences' option on the menu).

We have added translations to modern Dutch and English of all mottoes and subscriptions. These translations are made by Jan de Boer, Jan Bloemendal, with thanks to Boukje Thijs and Pim van Tent. A lot of references to parallels (in Vaenius's Amorum emblemata or elsewhere) have been added. In each emblem, we also point to some literature. Again, this is something we're still working on.


The full Emblem Project Utrecht bibliography may be accessed using the menu option at the left side of this (or any) window. A selection of literature relevant to Heinsius and his Emblemata amatoria follows here.

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This brief sketch of Heinsius's life is based on Becker-Cantarino, Einleitung [to Heinsius's Nederduytsche poemata]
This section on the printing history of Emblemata amatoria is based on Landwehr, Emblem and Fable Books
See Landwehr, Emblem and Fable Books
See: Fontaine Verwey, Notes
In one case, in the last emblem Noctua ut in tumulis, super utque cadavera bubo [24], the motto given on the left page is only part of the text as it is given in the picture.
Becker-Cantarino, Emblemata Amatoria
See: Forster, Icy Fire