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This is our edition of Jesus en de ziel of 1685 by Jan Luyken. In this introduction, we have limited ourselves to the essentials.

About Jan Luyken

Jan Luyken was born in Amsterdam in 1649 to a Mennonite family.1 In 1672, he married the actress-singer Maria de Oudens. She was admired and courted by many men; the young and talented poet Joan Antonides van der Goes was one of these men. Apparently, Luyken had Cupid on his side and he won the affection of his lady.

Luyken, an apprentice painter, ultimately became a poet and etcher. In 1671, his debut was published. It consisted of a collection of love poems called Duytse lier. He consistently created illustrations together with texts for the numerous books he published afterwards; each one more emblematic than the other, and always with a didactic or edifying bias aimed at guiding the readers in their social and ethical conduct. Often, his poems and pictures had a connection with everyday life. For instance, in the Spiegel van het menselyk bedryf (Mirror of the trades of men, 1694), 100 illustrations portray various crafts. His books were immensely popular in the Netherlands and abroad. Luyken's fame and interest in his books can be said to be affirmed by the existence of the many reprints and pirate editions.

Luyken was frequently assisted by his son Casper, who was also an etcher. Together, they produced approximately 3200 etchings and engravings. In principal, these etchings were designed to illustrate books of other Dutch writers. For instance, Luyken created the picturae of P. Huygen's Beginselen van Gods Koninkrijk (see: [Titlepage].

Luyken could have lived a life of riches; yet, he chose to donate most of his earnings. Being a Mennonite, Luyken was respected in Amsterdam for this lifestyle, which was part of his strict religious attitude, and for spreading the Mennonite teachings through his devotional verses and illustrations. Jan Luyken died in his city of birth in 1712.

About the Jesus en de ziel

Jesus en de ziel was Luyken's first religious emblem book. It is said to be steeped with the German mysticism of Jacob Boehme2; yet, it also contains many allusions to Vaenius's Amoris divini emblemata and Hugo's Pia desideria (1624). In this edition, we have encoded parallels found in Vaenius's Amoris divini emblemata (1615) (see: ) and in De Harduyn's Goddelycke wenschen (1629) (see: , a Dutch translation of Hugo's Pia desideria. In all probability, Luyken became acquainted with Hugo's work through Serarius's translation of Pia desideria, titled Goddelycke aandachten and printed by Luyken's brother Christoffel in 1653.

Luyken made liberal use of his sources. Undoubtedly, he studied the originals and subsequently distanced himself from them to some extent. For example, if we consider De Ziele in verlangen om ontbonden, en met Christo te zijn; Van 't Ewig Vaderlandt; Toezang; Sang [39], the last emblem from Luyken's Jesus en de ziel, a visual parallel can be drawn with the 36th emblem (see: ) from Vaenius's Amoris divini emblemata. The three main elements in the picturae - i.e. Jesus, the soul, and the wall - are similar. Yet, with a single glance, the reader becomes aware that Luyken amended these elements to suit his ideas. For instance, in Vaenius's pictura the soul works on a wall, which illustrates how strong, firm and visible her faith is. In Luyken's pictura, on the other hand, the wall represents the human body. This body then illustrates the wall that stands between Jesus and the soul coming together. Only by tearing down the wall - that is, by ignoring or disregarding the physical needs - will believers come closer to God.

Just before his death in 1712, Luyken distanced himself even more from his original sources; with a greater sense of self-reliance, he created a new series of plates for his second edition of Jesus en de ziel. In our digital edition, the differences between the individual emblems are indicated.3 If we consider the last emblem of the edition-1714 (see: Url: lu1714039De Ziele in verlangen om ontbonden, en met Christus te zyn [39] (in: Jesus en de ziel (1685)), and compare it to the original series of picturae in 1678, we see a more dilapidated wall. In no way, does it still resemble Vaenius's strong construction. In the 1714 edition, the ruinous wall now allows the soul to obtain a glimpse of Jesus. In addition, the changes in the 1714 edition provided a more evident link between the pictura and the text; more details can be observed, and topics and attributes that are mentioned in the text are now also illustrated in the pictura. What is more, one of Luyken's central themes - one should look inward if one wants to behold God - can be more clearly identified in the religious emblems in his 1714 edition. That is to say, in many picturae, the active notion of 'looking' is accented and numerous crevices in gardens invite the reader to look up at the heavens themselves. These differences can be partly explained the development of new and improved techniques; seeing as Luyken began in 1677 with his etchings, the picturae of Jesus en de ziel were among the first of his work. Besides, it was also his first religious work. These differences can also be due to Luyken's intent to distance himself from his original sources. In his later edition of 1714, he dared to focus more on his own (matured) insights.

Copy Used for This Edition

In making this edition of Jesus en de ziel we used the copy of the 1685 edition which is preserved in the Library of the Utrecht University, shelf number LBKUN: L*XVII*LAN-b-1(2)#rar. We used this edition of Jesus en de ziel because of the additional prose text "Van 't Ewig Vaderlandt" to emblem no. 39. It was not a part of the first edition of Jesus en de ziel (dated 1678), but was added by Luyken in 1685.

In the sources and parallels listed in this edition for each emblem, you will find the picturae of the 1714 edition. Shortly before he died, Luyken reworked the first series of picturae into a second series that was used by his publisher for one of the two editions published in 1714.


We transcribed the full text from the Utrecht copy and encoded this text using TEI mark-up; this allowed 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.


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 Jesus en de ziel follows here.

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This sketch of Luyken's life and work is based on and Van Eeghen, Jan Luyken.
See Visser, Seventeenth-Century Dutch Menonite Prayer Books
These notes are based on research carried out by Ellen van de Beek, BA at the University of Utrecht.