Maybe You Already Know This

But I didn’t. Not until fairly recently, at least.

Filippo Picinelli’s famous Mundus symbolicus is on line pretty much all over the place. And Book IV, treating the emblematic use of birds, is hugely productive, and hugely under-exploited, font of information about the “properties,” real and imagined, of birds and their meanings.

There is Some.Very.Weird.Stuff in here.

Northern Lapwing

Northern lapwings, for example, can stand for the words of the heretic, attractive at first but foolish and obscene when examined by the intellect. Or they can be the soul cleansed in baptism that falls back into sin. And so on, depending on what you happen to want it to mean.

Note that the Mundus is not an emblem book itself but rather an encyclopedia serving as an index. I’ve found it pretty difficult all in all to track down the actual emblemata Picinelli describes, but practice makes slightly better.

Have fun!