Geoffrey Whitney

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Born: c. 1548, Coole Pilate

Died: c. 1601


Geoffrey Whitney was an English poet. He was educated at the school of Audlem. He then attended Oxford, and Magdalene College, Cambridge, leaving the university without a degree. On 1 March 1586 he began to attend the newly founded university of Leyden, in the Netherlands, and later in the year he published at Plantin's press his emblem book Choice of Emblems. His 248 emblems, one or more stanzas of six lines (a quatrain followed by a couplet), have a device or woodcut with a motto.

Addressed to his kinsmen or friends, or to a notable contemporary, they give information of persons, places, and things not often to be found elsewhere. Twenty-three of the devices are original, and 23 are suggested by, and 202 identical with, those of Alciati, Paradin, Sambucus, Junius, and Faerni.

The work was the first of its kind to give to Englishmen an adequate example of the emblem books from the great continental presses. It was mainly from this book that Shakespeare gained the knowledge of the great foreign emblematists of the sixteenth century. Whitney's verses are often of great merit, and always show extensive learning.

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Settings of text by Geoffrey Whitney


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