The Ornaments in Swedenborg's Theological First Editions
Jonathan S. Rose, M.Div., Ph.D.


Emanuel Swedenborg's theological first editions are rich with ornaments. Swedenborg sent his theological contribution into the world heavily and consistently adorned with graphic decorative touches. Yet few know of their existence. Although every theological word penned by Swedenborg has long ago been translated into English, although subsequent Latin editions, and translations into thirty-four languages, have brought his unique thoughts and experiences before the world, the ornaments that formed an integral part of his original publications have been all but lost."1

These graphic touches were evidently important to Swedenborg. Although his eighteen theological titles occupied twenty-five quarto volumes that range in size from 23 to 695 pages, although these volumes came out in one of two cities in two countries over a span of twenty-three years, whether long or short, early or late, from London or Amsterdam, every single volume contained ornamentation. Ninety-two different ornaments from six categories of ornamentation appear a total of five hundred seventy times in the theological first editions.2 As those editions comprise 7,296 pages in total, an ornament appears on average every thirteen pages from one end of the set to the other.

The average volume contains twenty-three instances of ornamentation with a minimum of two (Last Judgment, Intercourse between the Soul and Body) and a maximum of seventy-five (Arcana Coelestia vol. 1) per volume. Many of the ninety-two different ornaments are repeated. Each occurs on average on six different pages of the first editions. If you were to leaf through Swedenborg's first editions chronologically from start to finish you would see new ornaments appearing with some regularity. Even towards the end of those 7,296 pages you would find ornaments you had never seen before. Twenty-two of the twenty-five volumes contain new ornaments, even small works like Brief Exposition and each of the so called Four Doctrines, and volumes late in the eight volume set of Arcana Coelestia. Only three volumes of Swedenborg's theological first editions contain no new ornaments, all their ornaments being "recycled" from earlier volumes (Last Judgment, White Horse, and Intercourse between the Soul and Body). Even with these zeroes the average is four new ornaments per volume with a maximum of fourteen. Nor are all the new ornaments at the beginning of a work. Although the first five pages of a volume are generally an ornamental hotbed, late in a given volume you would quite often come across one you had never seen before. In fact two thirds of ornaments' first appearances occur after the first five pages of their volumes; even some headpieces and an initial first occur late in their volume (Headpieces 11, 12 and 16, and Initial 06).

The ornaments come in six different categories. The categories are quite distinct; only three ornaments appear in more than one category, and they are all title page ornaments that double as tailpieces (Title Page Ornaments 01, 03, and 04, which double as Tailpieces 13, 15, and 16 respectively).

First Page: Ornaments | Next Page: Scanned Versions of Ornaments