In the first two decades of the seventeenth century the house of the merchant Roemer Visscher (1547-1620) on Geldersekade, Amsterdam, was a meeting-point for the Amsterdam cultural elite. The Dutch poet Vondel referred to the ‘blessed Roemer's house’ as a place:

Whose floor is daily trod, whose threshold e'en worn bare
By painters, artists, poets, by singers everywhere.

This eulogy formed the ending lines and climax of Het Lof der zeevaert (1623). Roemer Visscher, being a successful merchant, had amassed a fortune. Yet this aspect did not induce Vondel to represent him as the paragon of Amsterdam merchants. Visscher was well versed in Latin, Italian and French literature, and insisted on an artistic education for his daughters Anna and Maria Tesselschade. He was a leading member of the poetic circle called ‘Flourishing through love’ and although the form of his own poetry was still couched in the shackles of contemporary rhetoric, its message already belonged to the Renaissance and Humanism. Short poems were his forte: rhymed anecdotes and puns (epigrams) as well as emblems. Emblem books were a favourite genre in the sixteenth an seventeenth centuries, and had an illustration, an aphorism, and an explanation (usually in rhyme) on every page. No single element of this triad could be understood without the other two. In 1612 a number of Visscher's poems were printed in Leiden without his knowledge. In reply he commissioned the Amsterdam publisher Willem Jansz Blaeu, especially famous for his atlases, to publish his Sinnepoppen. This collection contained first of all the sinnepoppen (emblems) themselves, followed by Roemers Brabbeling, ofte Ghenoeghelicke boerten (Roemer's Gibberish or Entertaining banter). The latter included poetry published before: 't Lof der Mutse (In praise of the bonnet, i.e. being in love)’ - starting with ‘Rejoice, oh mirth, our cat has given birth’ - and* 't Lof van een blaeuwe scheen *(In praise of getting the mitten, i.e. being rejected as a suitor). The emblem on the opposite page represents a Dutch lock that ‘exonerat & arcet’ (drains and checks) the water, just as a ‘pious prince cleanses the country from riff-raff by means of the law’.

Two previous owners have written their names on the front fly-leaves of the present copy, the eighteenth-century scholar and man of letters Balthazar Huydecoper, and the nineteenth-century, now forgotten poet Adriaan Bogaers.

Sinnepoppen. Roemer Visscher. - Amsterdam, Willem Jansz, 1614. 4º oblong. - 341 C 4, p. 19

Sinnepoppen.Roemer Visscher. - Amsterdam, Willem Jansz, 1614. 4º oblong. - 341 C 4, p. 19


Roemer Visschers Sinnepoppen. Naar de uitgave van 1614 bij Willem Jansz. te Amsterdam (ed. L. Brummel). 's-Gravenhage 1949
G.S. Overdiep, 'Roemer Visscher en zijn dochters', in: De letterkunde van de renaissance tot Roemer Visscher en zijn dochters. Antwerpen 1949, p. 406-414 (Geschiedenis van de letterkunde der Nederlanden, dl. III).