Venice: Apresso Bartolomeo Carampello, 1581.
Folio: 30.2 x 20.5 cm. A2, B-I4, AA-KK4 (with blank leaf KK4), [AAA]-FFF4; AAAA-RRRR4 (-blank leaf RRRR4)
SECOND EDITION (1st 1570), seen through the press by Palladio’s son, Silla.
Bound in 18th-century speckled calf, spine tooled in gold (extremities worn, a few scrapes to the boards, corners bumped, small losses to gilding on spine and label.) A fine, crisp copy internally with minor faults: the slightest hint of discoloration in some signatures, occ. marginal blemishes, light soiling to upper margin, a little light soiling to the title, and marginal stain to leaves 4k3-4 marginal stain; blank corners of C4, D2 with nat. paper flaw not touching the text.
The book boasts four elaborate architectural title pages incorporating Domenico de' Franceschi's “Regina virtus” device (this device also appears above the colophon.) The text is profusely illustrated with hundreds of fine, extremely detailed woodcuts of architectural elements, plans, cross-sections, and elevations of ancient and modern buildings (including some of Palladio’s own projects), a large number of which occupy the full page. The chapter on the Pantheon is famous for its double-paged elevation of the monument.
“Andrea Palladio, the author of the most studied of the architectural treatises of the Renaissance, the third great work of the sixteenth-century after Serlio and Vignola, was the most distinguished practicing architect of the second half of the sixteenth-century. The most effective representative of the new principles of architecture in northern Italy, his architectural practice and his architectural theory are equally balanced in his work, offering a coherent expression in its corpus of ideas and buildings. Superior to Vignola’s in richness and importance, Palladio’s treatise was the most popular publication by any architect.
“Palladio’s ‘Quattro Libri’ is divided into four distinct parts. In the first book he deals with the fundamental principles of architecture and with building materials. The core of the first book is the description of the five orders of architecture, followed by a discussion of the main parts of buildings, and an account of different room types… In its devotion to private dwellings, particularly the villa, the second book of Palladio’s treatise is a singular and novel contribution. Palladio illustrates numerous of his own built or projected domestic designs, which are related to his research to reconstruct the houses of the ancient Greeks and Romans… In Book III, Palladio is concerned with the construction of the city, devoting special attention to bridges, streets, gates, and constituent public buildings such as basilicas. His chapter on bridges has been praised as ‘the most comprehensive treatment of the subject before the eighteenth-century’ (Boucher 1994)… In the fourth book of the treatise, Palladio turns to ancient architecture, specifically the architecture of ancient temples, which he considers the most important buildings of a city, echoing Alberti’s earlier assertion.”
“The ‘Quattro Libri’ is the most handsome of the principal Renaissance treatises on architecture, with the most successful integration of word and image… The rigorous and coherent principles of the illustrations in the ‘Quattro Libri’ have often been remarked upon. Palladio acquired firsthand knowledge of ancient Roman buildings through the intense study and drawing of ruins in Rome. He made detailed drawings of the ancient monuments and his drawings attempted to reconstruct the ancient buildings. Unlike Serlio, Palladio drew to scale in orthogonal projection, using shaded sections rather than perspective drawings, and his drawing style matured with successive trips to Rome. Showing himself a scientist, Palladio draws transparent illustrations, effectively offering an anatomy of architecture…
“Palladio’s careful pages, where text and illustrations are coherent and neatly separated, are a thorough departure from the typographical layout adopted by Serlio, ‘who mixed orthogonal and perspectival elements’ and ‘fitted commentary around the illustrations’ (Boucher 1994).”(Millard, Italian Books).
Millard, Italian Books, No. 66; BAL RIBA 2384; Censimento 16 CNCE 23738; Cicognara 595; Fowler 213