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date: 17 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The early modern tradition of the emblem book offers a fertile ground to uncover the renewal of legal ethics during the Renaissance. Andrea Alciato was first and foremost a lawyer, and juridical themes abound in his Emblematum libellus. Later emblematists forged visible figures of norm and law, which stage and enact the rites and harmony of a living legal visual tradition. Inserted into the body of law reference texts or used as ingenious mnemonic devices, emblems played a role in the ars memorativa deployed by legal educators. In the case of Johannes Buno, visual images were designed especially to help fix the order of titles in the Digest and their contents. Emblems and symbolic places would serve as topical frameworks, headings for the reference texts, and notable visual commonplaces to highlight important issues. The emblematic quality of memory images was valuable for the jurist, who could reconstruct an entire legal text, speech, or case. The importance of emblems in transmitting law and the imaginary representation of legality was key to building a professional ethos in the humanist respublica jurisconsultorum. Emblem books provided shared judicial values, norms of conduct, and signs of office. The early history of legal emblems requires being attentive to the profound multivalence of their form and structure: their prolixity of applications and the variegated ways in which images and texts illuminate each other and provide numerous examples of making, seeing, and saying judicial ethics.

Keywords: emblems, ars memorativa, legal visual mnemonics, legal visual argumentation, early modern jurists, legal symbolism, judges’ ethics

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