Venice: Simon Bevilaqua, 3 Aug. 1497.
Folio: 29.6 x 20.7 cm. 94 leaves (leaf 8 blank). (1-4)8, [*]2, A-I6, K-L4, aa6, bb4, a-b6. 43 lines and head-line. Types: 107R; 105R, parts of quires G,H, aa, bb; 80Rb, inscriptions and diagrams; 80Gkb. Colophon: Impressum Venetiis per Simonem Papiensem dictum Biuilaquam Anno ab incarnatione: M.CCCC.LXXXXVII. Die Tertio Augusti".
THIRD EDITION OF VITRUVIUS’ “DE ARCHITECTURA”, with additional texts, including Sextus Julius Frontinus' “De aquis urbis Romae”.
A fresh copy in late 18th c. stiff vellum, with a red morocco spine label, gilt (re-cased, text re-sewn), binding lightly soiled, small chips to edge of label, later endpapers and flyleaves). Minor, very discreet repairs to the inner margin of the first leaf and quire E, some skilful restoration to the final leaf (no loss); a few extremely slight marginal worm-trails, again without any loss. The title leaf and opening leaves of the individual texts with rubrication. Illustrated with several woodcut diagrams and ornamental woodcut initials. Complete with all four parts.
“De Architectura” is the only text of Greco-Roman architecture that has survived from antiquity. It’s importance in the history of Western architecture from the Renaissance to the nineteenth-century is immeasurable, and it remains, to this day, fundamental to the historical study of architecture. Though not quite forgotten in the Middle Ages, Vitruvius’ treatise experienced a revival in the fifteenth-century and soon became a central text for architects and architectural theorists.
This 1497 Venetian edition of Vitruvius published by Simone Papiense, known as Bevilacqua, is one of only three editions published in the fifteenth century. The first edition was issued in Rome between 1484 and 1487 by an unknown printer. For the second edition (1496), the unnamed editor filled lacunae in the text and included variants by consulting a family of manuscripts different from that used for the Rome edition. The 1497 edition follows the 1496 text but shows the use of at least one additional manuscript. It is the only fifteenth century edition to employ Greek type; an additional woodcut diagram has been added.
Like the first two editions, the 1497 Venetian edition includes Sextus Julius Frontinus' important work on Roman aqueducts, “De aquis urbis Romae”(100 A.D.), which constitutes the only ancient Roman confirmation of Vitruvius' existence. Also included is Giorgio Valla’s translation of Cleonides’ (3rd-4th c. A.D.) work on Aristoxenus’ harmonic theory (which Vitruvius paraphrases in his book), and two important humanist studies by Angelo Poliziano, who edited Alberti's “De re Aedificatoria” in 1485. The Cleonides comes first in the volume and is announced first on the title page.
“Vitruvius appears to have seen buildings in Asia, Greece, and the Italian peninsula. He was especially acquainted with Hellenistic sanctuaries and admired antiquated building materials such as sun-dried brick and clay tiles… He certainly visited Athens, and he makes a reference to the Areopagus. Vitruvius was probably involved in designing residential structures, as the materials he discusses concern largely domestic architecture, and he praises Roman apartment buildings in the early part of the treatise.
“Also trained as an engineer and builder of war engines and artillery, Vitruvius enrolled in Julius Caesar's staff for the Gaul campaign; he mentions Gallic fortifications in his discussion of the ideal city. Between 58 and 44 B.C. he worked as a military architect; in 46 B.C. he was in Africa with Caesar… Upon his return to Rome, he found the new architecture, such as the Basilica Julia and Caesar's forum, overly monumental and ornamented… In 30 B.C., during the reign of Augustus, Vitruvius was involved in the repairs to Rome's water system. This is gleaned from Frontinus' “De aquaeductibus”.
“Based on Vitruvius' own experience and dedicated to Augustus, the treatise was the result of two separate writing campaigns. Vitruvius affirms that he spent thirty-five to forty years on the composition of his treatise. There is a sixty-threeitem bibliography, which is the only reference we have to Vitruvius' ancient sources on architecture…
“In the first book, Vitruvius discusses the elements of architecture, the siting of the town, its fortifications, its streets, and the location of its principal buildings. Book 2 is devoted to building materials but also explores the origin of buildings and the characteristics of the four natural elements. Books 3 and 4 are concerned with temples; in an earlier version they probably formed one book. At the beginning of book 3, Vitruvius offers his fundamental anthropomorphic proportional system for architecture. He discusses temple types, columns and intercolumniations, foundations, and the Ionic order. The Corinthian order, the origin of orders, and the proportions of the Tuscan order are among the subjects of book 4. In books 5 and 6, Vitruvius shifts attention toward the interior of buildings, and from sacred to functional structures. Thus in book 5 he explores the major public buildings and spaces of the Roman city, which include the forum, the basilica, the curia, the baths and gymnasia, and harbors. He compares the Greek and Roman theaters in a passage that became invaluable for Renaissance readers. Book 6, on private dwellings, is a fundamental part of the treatise. Here Vitruvius examines Roman and Greek houses, setting out their principal rooms, their proportions, exposure, size, and embellishments. These six books may have formed the original treatise in its first arrangement, which Vitruvius offered to Julius Caesar. The remaining four books were composed subsequently.
“Book 7 deals with the cladding of buildings, the finishing materials for floors, walls, and ceilings, including a discussion of decorations appropriate to wall painting. The last three books deal with technical matters; concerned respectively with hydraulics, timepieces and machinery, they seem most distant from our own interpretation of the discipline of architecture. In book 8, Vitruvius displays his great practical experience in finding, conducting, and taming water. In book 9 -the least susceptible to updating of the entire treatise Vitruvius amplified his discussion of clocks extensively with lore concerning the planets and the phases of the moon, the constellations, complicated sundials, and water clocks. Frank Brown (1981) believes that books 8 and 9 were written last…
“Book 10 is the longest chapter, ‘crowded with Vitruvius' experience’ in engineering. This book is an essential textbook of contemporary technology, to be used in peace and war. Vitruvius first considers the principles and vocabulary of mechanics. He then examines various pieces of machinery such as pulleys for hoisting, wheels and bucket-chains for raising water, sluices and millstreams, the endless screw, the force-pump, the water organ, and the odometer for the measurement of land and sea travel. Among his war engines are catapults and ballistae, battering rams, towers, and armored sheds.
“The Vitruvian text became for Renaissance architecture what biblical studies had been for theology. It became the foundational Urtext of architectural theory and practice, with a huge afterlife. His precepts were examined as valuable instruction and dependable theory for architecture in the Renaissance, when -searching for an ancient Roman source humanists and architects became interested enough to sort out his text.
“Readers attempted to understand the rules and extrapolate the principles of architecture that could guide their designs. But the text became worshiped only in the sixteenth century. Earlier, quattrocento architects, especially Alberti, wished to make a critical comparison between the Urtext and archaeological remains of antiquity; this open-minded comparative approach seems free of the inferiority complexes later felt by sixteenth-century architects, enthralled by Vitruvianism.
“Vitruvius' treatise was fundamental for the two main research interests in Roman architecture in the first decades of the sixteenth century: the archaeological verification of the Renaissance architectural style through the theory of the classical orders, and the elaboration or creation of new urban housing forms. Books 4 and 6 thus received particularly intense commentary. Other extensively studied passages in the text included the discussion of the modes of graphic representation of architecture, the origin of human shelter, the anthropomorphic proportional system of classical architecture, and the ideal planning of cities. Furthermore, each commentator on Vitruvius attempted to situate the text so as to verify current practices and architectural composition, thus using the authority of the text to justify personal or regional practices. Vitruvius became an important guide to the understanding of the archaeological remains of Rome, but a problematic one, since his descriptions often clashed with the reality of imperial Roman architectural ruins strewn about the Renaissance city.
“The troubled relationship of the most talented Renaissance architects with Vitruvius was well summarized by Raphael, who, in his revealing memo to Pope Leo X describing how he would go about documenting the buildings of antiquity, writes that "me ne porge una gran luce Vitruvio, ma non tanto che basti."(“Vitruvius gives me a great light but not so much that it suffices”). He, and most quattrocento architects, required transitional elements to help connect the reality of the ruins with the principles of Vitruvius (Pagliara 1986).
“The ambivalence of the authors whose commentaries remained in manuscript can be interestingly compared to the total devotion felt by others who managed to shepherd their writings into print. Thus at the end of the sixteenth century, Vincenzo Scamozzi is persuaded that everything that one needs for architectural knowledge is in Vitruvius, because he has dealt with all the most difficult concerns of the profession. Moreover, since the study of Vitruvius was by then linked to the definition of architectural identity, one could not pretend to be an architect, in Scamozzi's view, without close readings of the original sourcebook… The Vitruvian text fulfill[ed] the function of ideal source, historical confirmation, and method of design…
“While Renaissance architectural theory devoted itself to Vitruvian studies, the Vitruvian text was not abandoned with the passing of humanism. In his study of the treatise's publication history, Bodo Ebhardt (1918) lists 255 editions of Vitruvius published before 1918. A more recent contribution by Luigi Vagnetti (1978), entitled "Two Thousand Years of Vitruvius," underlines the continued longevity of the architectural Urtext. Vagnetti examines the massive impact of Vitruvian thought on western architecture by tracing the publishing fortunes of the book, listing 166 distinct editions. Both studies clarify the lessening architectural interest in the Vitruvian treatise, as either text or canon, after the end of the seventeenth century.”(Millard Catalogue).
ISTC ic00742000; Pr 5404; BMC V 522, XII 37; BSB-Ink C-461; GW 7123; HC 5451*; Goff C742; C 4804 (Politianus only); R 187; R 290 (Politianus only); Vagnetti, Vitruvio, 3; Cicognara 695; Fowler 392; Riccardi i: 492, 2: 609-610