During the Renaissance, European royalties and noblemen and their wives bore imprese to express their aspirations as marks of distinction. Cosimo de' Medici, for example, had nine, whereas Rudolf II had sixteen imprese. An impresa (French devise, English device) consisted of a motto, a picture, and an explication in either verse or prose in which the bearer was named and his intention explained by both the word and the image. Collections of imprese were printed to preserve the marks of nobility (similar to heraldry) and became patterns for painters and artisans who put pictures on paintings, frescoes, and tapestries, even on ceiling and floor tiles. Using this Index, a tourist may find a phoenix on a tapestry to be the impresa of Alienor of Austria, Queen of France, on page 89 of a collection by Claude Paradin. Paradin's "Devises heroiques", like a few other collections (by Giovio, Simeoni, Pittoni, Ruscelli, Contile, Camilli, Cappacio, Bargagli, and Typotius), has no index of any kind, making serious study of its imprese difficult. Some do have indices, but these do not meet the standards of modern research.
This Index covers 1,866 imprese and includes indices of mottoes with English translations, pictures, significance, bearers, and subjects, along with cross-references to standard handbooks of Valeriano's "Hieroglyphica" (1602), Picinelli's "Mondus symbolicus" (1694), and Henkel and Schone's "Handbuch zur Sinnbildkunst des XVI. und XVII". Jahrhunderts (Stuttgart: J.B. Metzler, 1967, 1976, 1996). The Handbuch has become an indispensable tool in emblematic studies; it covers 40 emblem books with references to imprese from all ten collections indexed here. But without an impresa index of its own, it cannot identify an emblem by an impresa it has referenced. Appendix C of this Index, with references both from imprese to emblem books and from emblems to impresa books, will boost the usefulness of both research tools. This Index will be useful to impresa and emblem scholars, art and cultural historians, and even inquisitive tourists.