Grinding fools

Many of Douce’s prints of fools are emblems from Dutch and German books, like the etching below:

Anonymous, Quale granum talis et farina, c. 1577-1627, etching (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford)

The scene is set in a watermill, where an elegantly dressed man is startled at the sight of batches of little fools being ground by two millers. The print was published in Cologne by Johann Bussemacher. Douce wrote on the verso that he had got if from Coram in April 1816. However, the entries for that month in theĀ Collecta only refer to one print purchased from Coram, which Douce describes as ‘A print after O. Vaenius by Gisb. Vaenius. Allegorical’.

The inscription in Latin on the top left corner reads: “Quale granum talis et [sic] farina” (“From such wheat, such flour”). We have a similar saying in Spanish (“From such flour, such bread”), but here the source is, of course, the biblical proverb “Though thou shouldest bray a fool in a mortar among wheat with a pestle, yet will not his foolishness depart from him” (Proverbs 27:22).

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