I Qvattro Primi Libri Di Architettvra Di Pietro Cataneo Senese: Nel Primo De' Qvali Si Dimostrano le buone qualita de' siti, per l' edificationi delle citta & castella, sotto diuersi disegni: Nel Secondo, Qvanto Si Aspetta alla materia per la fabrica: Nel Terzo Si Veggono Varie Maniere di tempii, & di che forma si conuenga fare il principale della citta: & dalle loro piante, come ancora dalle piante delle citta & castella, ne sono tirati gli alzati per ordine di Prospettiua: Nel Qvarto Si Dimostrano Per diuerse piante l' ordine di piu palazzi & casamenti, uenendo dal palazzo regale & signorile, come di honorato gentilhuomo, sino alle case di persone priuate.
Venice: Heirs of Aldus, 1554.
Folio: 34.5 x 23.4 cm. (ii), 54, (ii) leaves. π2, A-O4
An attractive, unsophisticated (i.e. with no interventions) copy in its original limp vellum binding (binding soiling, a bit rumpled, and with nicks to vellum on the spine). The text overall is in very nice condition with broad margins, very genuine, with some marginal damp-staining to scattered leaves - more pronounced on in gathering G and lvs. E2&4, H1, M1, and M4- marginal foxing to the edges of a few leaves, and some insignificant marginal soiling (largely confined to the free endpapers). With a woodcut Aldine device on the title and last page, woodcut initials. The text is illustrated with 43 woodcuts with architectural and perspectival plans and views, of which 7 are full-page.
“This work of the Sienese architect and mathematician, Pietro Cataneo, together with that of Antonio Labacco, were the most important of their kind to appear in Italy between Serlio’s Book V (1547), and Vignola’s ‘Regola delli Cinque Ordini’(1562)” (Fowler, n. 82). It “took its place on the shelves of all important libraries of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.”(Millard)
The work is divided into four books. The first treats of the siting and laying out of cities with their fortification; the second of building materials; the third outlines the principles of ecclesiastical architecture while the last gives plans for ‘palazzi’.
“The illustrations in this first book, especially the larger ones, are dramatic and confident; they mostly share the page with the text. (Even though there is some attempt to form the text into paragraphs, each of the numbered and titled chapters constitutes, in effect, a paragraph.) While Cataneo adopts the plan as his principal mode of representation, many designs are presented in an influential "oblique" perspective unusual at the time-which was to become widespread in seventeenth-century fortification treatises. The author's confidence is also expressed by another form of illustration, the use of classical references in pointed moderation. His anecdotes are supplied by Pliny the Elder on Nero boiling water for drinking, Vitruvius on the story of Alexander and Dinocrates, and Tacitus' conclusion that Rome became less healthy after Nero widened its streets.
“The author, military architect, mathematician, and administrator, Pietro Cataneo was the quintessential Renaissance polymath. He is best known for his two principal publications, the ‘Quattro libri’(1554) and the ‘Pratiche delle due prime matematiche’ (Venice 1546), but his professional life is poorly documented. This scarcity of documents has prevented a precise placement of Cataneo's contribution within the artistic environment of his time. He seems to have known the manuscript Trattati of Francesco di Giorgio Martini and may have studied design with the painter Domenico Beccafumi, to whom he was related by marriage. Trained also in the circle of Baldassare Peruzzi, with whom he was in contact, Cataneo possibly supervised construction projects left unfinished after Peruzzi' s death in 1536. He is critical of both Sebastiano Serlio, whom he accused of plagiarizing Peruzzi' s inheritance, and Bernardo Rossellino, whose work in Pienza he qualifies as ‘unintelligent.’
“Beginning in 1542 Cataneo was employed as fortification architect by the Sienese government formed by the Imperialists, and in that capacity he visited many outlying towns of the republic, such as Talamone, Capalbio, Campagnatico, and Sinalunga. For the next decade he was responsible for fortifications around Monte Argentario, which included Porto Ercole, Santo Stefano, and Orbetello. By 1552, however, Cataneo had changed sides, abandoning the Imperialists in favor of Enea Piccolomini's party, which revolted against the Spanish. About ninety drawings attributed to Cataneo survive (Uffizi, nos. 3275-3381).
“The ‘Quattro primi libri’ is dedicated to Piccolomini, descendant of Pienza's founder, Pius II Piccolomini, whose courage Cataneo praised. This treatise was probably produced in 1553, under Cataneo's supervision, during a lull in the Sienese wars. His publishers were Aldo Manuzio's heirs, expert editors but also political opponents of Emperor Charles v. The treatise is deeply rooted in the political circumstances of its time, as is the second edition of 1567 dedicated to Francesco de' Medici, heir of Cosimo I, grand duke of Tuscany. While in the dedication to the first edition there is special emphasis on the importance of modern fortification, in the Medici dedication, fortifications are mentioned together with palaces, temples, and porticoes. All political references have been replaced by praises of the Medici.
“Cataneo's ‘Quattro libri’ has been labeled the ‘last of the comprehensive’ treatises that dealt with both civil and military architecture. In the intellectual spectrum of architectural theory based on Vitruvius, he occupies a place between the humanist generalists of the fifteenth century and the professional specialists of the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Cataneo is one of the only eight Italian authors compared in Roland Freart de Chambray's ‘Parallele de l'architecture antique et de la moderne’. Although he did not enjoy the publishing successes of Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola and Andrea Palladio, Cataneo's urban designs were influential in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries when the precepts of planning the ideal city were appropriated for the design of the ideal fortress. Among the widely flung new towns with a military mandate modeled closely on his designs are Valetta (Malta), Gyor (Hungary), Zamosc (Poland), and Savannah, Georgia (U.S.).
“The four parts of the ‘Quattro primi libri’ address, respectively, fortification and city planning, construction materials, churches, and palaces and private houses. The longest and most original of these is the first book, on military architecture. Illustrating his ideal city, with orthogonal street layout, bastioned fortification, and regular polygonal outline, Cataneo drew upon his experience in actual fortifications for the Sienese wars. He was indeed the last of the Renaissance architectural treatise writers to regard both military and civil architecture as inextricably linked together. Thus his work marks an important moment before the specialization of architects deepened.
"’Surely the most beautiful aspect of architecture deals with the city,’ wrote Cataneo in his dedication to Piccolomini. ‘Since modern cities are now threatened by artillery it would not be presumptuous for me to show how to build them in a new way.’ Since this association between architecture and the city had been made earlier in published and manuscript treatises by such fifteenth-century writers as Leon Battista Alberti, Antonio Averlino, known as Filarete, and Francesco di Giorgio Martini, the novelty of Cataneo's idea consisted in making urban design the central assignment of the architect and, more significantly, in linking city planning with military architecture. In appropriating the defense of the city and its design for architecture, he formalized a practice suggested two generations earlier by Francesco di Giorgio Martini and Leonardo da Vinci. Thus Cataneo's program posits urban design as the best part of architecture and military defense as the principal problem of urban design (Kruft 1986).
“The first book takes up half the length of the entire treatise and is divided into twenty chapters. In addressing the skills required of an architect, and in sharp contrast to Vitruvius, Cataneo pronounces philosophy, astrology, music, and law unnecessary for the practice of architecture. But he insists on an understanding of basic medicine, which will help determine whether the site of a city is a healthy one; considers good draftsmanship fundamental since drawings will save the greater cost of making a model; demands the mathematical skills that are needed to estimate the cost of building; and finally suggests that knowledge of history will enable the architect to direct the decorative work of the painter and the sculptor and thus control the eventual appearance of the building.
“A good site is as important for a city as sound foundations are for a building. This site ought to be healthy, fertile, defensible, convenient, and attractive. Health is determined through air and climate, water and vegetation; as a Sienese, Cataneo clearly prefers hill sites, finding that even the water is better there since it flows faster. In his discussion of hill or plain, sea or river sites, Cataneo opts for a port as the one most strategically situated and aesthetically most pleasing, even during siege (he writes that war in port cities is more elating than inland because it is more moving to see the approach of boats than to see a large number of running horses), giving Lisbon, Rome, and Alexandria as examples of great maritime cities. (Consulted in 1547 in the planning for the expansion of Orbetello, Cataneo provided a design and a ragionamento that would have turned it into a mighty sea-fort, with an arsenal more important than that of Venice.) He suggests further that the capital of a kingdom be placed at the geographical center of its territory, giving Carthage, Corinth, and Capua as examples of such great towns -destroyed by the Romans who feared their ascendance- and that the dedicatory rituals of towns and buildings should include foundation medals commemorative of their builders.
“Cataneo develops regular square and polygonal cities and proposes the gridiron plan for the layout of their streets. The form of the walls is not followed in the arrangement of the interior of the city -where it meets the fortified edge, the checkerboard is simply cut off. The pomoerium or open area that Cataneo requires between the houses and the city walls separates their differing geometries. Within the city, he insists on the importance of well-designed squares and streets. The center should be occupied by the main square, entirely or partly porticoed with magnificent colonnades. Each side of this square should be connected by a straight street to a main gate; along each of these streets there should be one or more squares (according to the size of the city) smaller than the main square. The width of the streets should be determined by the climate (wider streets for colder climates) rather than questions of defense (in Alberti's prescriptions, the streets are part of the defense), but there should be at least one wide and straight street, which allows for greater pleasure in its buildings. Wide streets also impress strangers by analogy to the Roman Campo Marzio and by displaying the wealth of the city. Cataneo's chapter on streets (1.iv) as well as the title of his treatise were closely adapted, almost plagiarized, by Palladio, who acknowledges their acquaintance and their discussions about the Doric order (Quattro libri III.ii, cat. 65).
“Cataneo describes in detail the design and function of each kind of square. If the city is a port, the main square should be next to it. All secular public buildings should have a place on the main square (city hall, treasury, archive, arsenal, police, prison), while the religious structures of the city should not be far from the main square. The food markets and parish churches should be on the smaller squares, while the animal markets should take place in the pomoerium. Among public structures related to entertainment, Cataneo prescribes the porticoed water-theater for the naumachie (the fabled water battles of the ancients that fascinated sixteenthcentury antiquarians), and mentions the desirability of a university, but he is persuaded that -given the invention of print- public libraries are no longer necessary.
“Cataneo discusses and illustrates in detail four regular polygonal city plans -square, pentagonal, hexagonal, and heptagonal- providing precise dimensions, numbers of bastions and gates, and exact placement of squares. This geometrical and measured layout is determined by the length of cannon fire, which is used in calculating the curtain wall between two bastions. In describing the citadel and its fraught relationship to the town it simultaneously protects and menaces, Cataneo offers two examples (Piacenza and Milan) where the citadel turned against the rulers of the city. Here he touches upon a delicate political subject investigated earlier by Machiavelli. His most elaborate town plan, for a princely city, solves these problems by making both elements as powerful as possible, juxtaposing a decagonal city with a pentagonal citadel, and thus establishing an association between military strength and the geometry of the pentagon that survived through the next two centuries. He recognizes, however, that a hereditary sovereign like the king of France need only fortify the frontiers of his state, whereas less confident rulers must fortify every part of their domain.
“The second book, on building materials, is an excellent summary of this appealing subject. The materials include brick and stones of various kinds, their origin, properties, weaknesses, and best use in construction. Of the twelve chapters, four are dedicated to a passionate discussion of trees. Cataneo effectively recalls Italian landscapes, provides an inventory of trees held in great esteem by the ancients (who dedicated them to various deities), and defines their uses and properties; perhaps influenced by its name, he devotes a small treatise to the chestnut -the most perfect tree since it serves both as food and as building material.
“Book 3, on churches, displays Cataneo's erudition: his examples of great churches are the Pantheon, of course, but also the temple of Diana at Ephesus and Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem. Summarizing Solomon's experience in building the temple, Cataneo concludes that in building for God one cannot build too magnificently. His own designs include plans based on the Latin cross, the Greek cross, the octagon, and the circle and are based variously on a proportioning system proposed by Francesco di Giorgio Martini, on Peruzzi's suggestions for elaborate polygons, and on Bramante's design for the Tempietto in Rome.
“Book 4, on houses and palaces, is equally conservative. Here his precedents include Pienza, which he considers magnificent though designed by an unintelligent architect, and Giuliano da Sangallo's design for Poggio Reale. The legal ranking of the palace as the residence of the ruler (palatium) has been abandoned; the palace has emerged as an important residence, dominant in size and decoration, but within reach of the private aristocrat. Indeed, the house is established again (following Alberti and Serlio) as the important retreat of men, especially princes who receive and those dedicated to study. It is fundamental for women of high rank, for whom the home is the only appropriate place (‘convenirsi molto più alle donne honorate che a gli huomini stare in casa’).
“Cataneo's compositions seem determined by geometry rather than function. This is especially clear in the case of the octagonal palace, where he reuses the plan of the cross house, joining the four projecting wings with diagonal walls. Thus the outline of the building and its interior subdivisions operate at separate levels, provoking a discontinuity similar to that of his towns, where a checkerboard plan is rigidly placed within a pentagonal or heptagonal wall enclosure.”(Millard Catalogue).
Renouard 159:8; UCLA 463; Mortimer, Harvard 113; Berlin Kat. 2576; Adams C-1024; BM STC It. p. 158; Cicognara 465; Millard Catalogue, Spanish and Italian (NGA), number 31.