Cabinet 11: Inhabited Initials

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Inhabited Initials

Historiated initials can be inhabited. Inhabited initials are those which incorporate an image of a spiritual being, human or animal into the decoration of the initial. These images are often found in the background decoration and some can be seen, as Robert G. Calkin describes, to "...spill over into the foliage and have become enmeshed in the vine scrolls, struggling against them and with each other". This inhabited initial in Appello Caesarem appears to be a stylised depiction of a hunting scene. The hunter with his horn can be seen in the top right corner while his dog is in the bottom left. Both dog and hunter blend into the ornate floriated background.

Richard Montagu, Appello Caesarem : a just appeale from two unjust informers. London : Printed by H. L[ownes] for Mathew Lownes, 1625. DeBeer Eb 1625 M

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Zoomorphic Initials

'Zoomorphic initial' is the term used to describe an inhabited initial that is decorated with an image of an animal. Beginning with a lively-looking frog tucked behind a giant R, the decorative initials in Alessandro Donati’s Roma vetus are good examples of printed zoomorphic initials. So too is the owl depicted behind the N in Michel Giuseppe Morei's Michaelis Josephi Morei Carmina.

Alessandro Donati, Roma vetus ac recens utriusque aedificiis ad eruditam cognitionem expositis. Romae : M. Manelphij, 1639. DeBeer Ib 1639 D


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Michel Giuseppe Morei, Michaelis Josephi Morei Carmina. Romae : Typis Jo. Zempel prope Montem Jordanum, 1740. Shoults Itb 1740 M