Andrea Alciato

Portrait of Andrea Alciato, reproduced from the 1584 edition of his emblem book
Engraving of Andrea Alciato

Andrea Alciato (8 May 1492 – 12 January 1550),[1] commonly known as Alciati (Andreas Alciatus), was an Italian jurist and writer.[2] He is regarded as the founder of the French school of legal humanists.


Alciati was born in Alzate Brianza, near Milan, and settled in France in the early 16th century. He displayed great literary skill in his exposition of the laws, and was one of the first to interpret the civil law by the history, languages and literature of antiquity, and to substitute original research for the servile interpretations of the glossators. He published many legal works, and some annotations on Tacitus and accumulated a sylloge of Roman inscriptions from Milan and its territories, as part of his preparation for his history of Milan, written in 1504-05.[3]

Alciati is most famous for his Emblemata, published in dozens of editions from 1531 onward. This collection of short Latin verse texts and accompanying woodcuts created an entire European genre, the emblem book, which attained enormous popularity in continental Europe and Great Britain.

Alciati died at Pavia in 1550.


Emblem 189: Mentem, non formam, plus pollere (mind, not outward form, prevails)


Plenitudo potestatis nihil aliud est quam violentia.[4]


  1. Bregman, Alvan (2007). Emblemata: The emblem books of Andrea Alciato. Newtown, Pa: Bird & Bull Press.
  2. D. Bianchi, 1913. "L'opera letteraria e storica di Andrea Alciato", Archivio storico lombardo, 4th series20:47-57.
  3. Roberto Weiss, 1969. The Renaissance Discovery of Antiquity, pp 152f.
  4. "Plenitude of power is nothing else than violence." Responsum Bk 5, 23

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Alciati, Andrea". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 

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