Starting in 1516, Holbein designed decorative borders and illustrations for the Basel printer Johann Froben. This imagery, often derived from classical sources, was intended to appeal to a cultured clientele but did not directly relate to the text itself. Here, the shield in the left border contains the initials HH, which stand for either Hans Holbein or Hans Herman, the blockcutter who translated Holbein’s drawing into a relief woodblock for printing. Facing the title page is Froben’s printer’s mark, the trademark of his press. The caduceus (staff ) of the god Mercury represents industry and commerce, while the dove and serpents are derived from Matthew 10:16, which is printed in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew: “Be you therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”

Horapollo (5th century AD)
Woodcut by Hans Herman (act. 1516–23), after a design by Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/98–1543)
Basel: Johann Froben, 1518
Getty Research Institute, Special Collections, Los Angeles; 2864-782

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