"Emblems were a genre that deployed word and image for rhetorical, ethical and/or educational purpose. They exhibited an economy of expression, typically in the three-part form of motto, allegorical image and explication, that served to contain their baroque piling-on of detail in a tight, formalist forcefield."These wonderful engravings from 1567 by Marcus Gheeraerts come from Edouard de Dene's important Dutch publication, De Warachtige Fabulen der Dieren (essentially: 'Animal Fables').
The book is interesting in a number of respects if my reading of poor translations is accurate. Firstly, it is not strictly one of the European emblemata; rather, it is a combination of emblem book and a compendium of fables. In this way, it acts as a kind of a bridge between the antiquities from whence fables originate and the newer style of allegorical picture books - the emblemata. The words 'Proverb' and 'Psalm' are frequently seen below the illustrations.
Gheeraert's engravings draw somewhat (as did so many publications) from Gesner's animal book which had been out 12 years by the time the Fabulen was released. But the animal depictions here are reasonably accurate without too much embellishment for the mostpart. Many editions of Fabulen were issued over the next couple of centuries and the engravings were often either directly copied or used as source material by other authors and engravers.
The complete De Warachtige Fabulen der Dieren is online at the University of Leiden's Ursicula website (thumbnail page) - great site: easy to navigate - including the >60 Gheeraerts illustrations.
This site (Dutch) has the most information I could find online (translator page)
By the by, Edouard de Dene also released a renowned treatise on the art of rhetoric, some years before the Fabulen and Gheeraerts was also acclaimed because of his map engraving skills.
I regard finding this book as an early xmas present - one to be shared. Enjoy!