L‘ architecture et art de bien bastir, traduicts de latin en francois, par deffunct Ian Martin, parisien.

Paris, par Iaques Keruer, libraire iuré, demourant aux deux Cochetz, rue Sainct Iaques, 1553.


FIRST EDITION thus. Folio. ff. [8], 228, [2] [a⁸, a-f⁶, g⁸, h-z⁶, A-F⁶, G⁸, H1, H-N⁶, O⁸.] Roman letter, some Italic. “Title border of scrollwork with grotesque figures, with Kerver’s initial’s at the head. Woodcut medallion portrait of Alberti,.. on verso of the title-page. Ninety-four woodcuts, forty-five of which are full page blocks. The cuts include diagrams, plans, sections and full illustrations. Six of the blocks are printed as plates, recto and verso of leaves B6, E3, and G1, included in the foliation. In addition there are two plans not included in the signatures, one bound after leaf E2, and a second, a folded leaf numbered 185 and signed H, bound between G8 and H1. .. Fine large initials in white against black arabesques, from the set designed for Kerver’s 1546 ‘Hypnerotomachie’. Three headpieces, including one in the style of the initials. Kerver’s unicorn device (Renouard 515, this volume cited) on leaf O8v.” Mortimer Harvard I no. 12. Autograph “Ch. Lexar 1871” and G lexar on fly. Light age yellowing, light waterstain to upper outer corner of last three quires, t-p and following leaf a little dusty and spotted, occasional light mostly marginal spotting. A very good copy in c1700 sheep, spine with raised bands, rebacked with original spine laid down, olive morocco label gilt lettered.

Beautifully printed and illustrated first edition in French, translated by Jean Martin, who had died shortly before publication; the work contains the first printing of an important epitaph by Ronsard as well as other dedicatory poetry, and a dedication to Martin by Denis Sauvage. Sauvage himself probably finished the translation and supervised the printing of the work, and the selection of the images. Jean Martin, secretary to Cardinal de Lenoncourt, also translated Vitruvius’ ‘Architecture ou art de bien bastir,’ to great acclaim and the works of Serlio. “The French translation of De re ædificatoria was Jean Martin’s last literary occupation. It came out in 1553, at the presses of Jacques Kerver, a short while after Martin’s death, as his old friend and collaborator Denis Sauvage reveals in his preface. We do not know where, when or how Martin translated Alberti’s ten books. The privilege dated August and September of 1551 indicates that he was still alive, still secretary to the Cardinal de Lenoncourt at that time. .. The work is illustrated with 95 xylographs, 69 of which were carefully copied from Bartoli’s Florentine edition. At least one of them, the drawing of an Ionic volute, could be original work by Martin. Among the other sources appear Serlio’s Terzo libro (1540, 1544…), the Vitruvian edition of Fra Giocondo (1511), through the likely intervention of Martin’s French translation of Vitruve (1547), in which many of these images had already been used.” Mario Carpo ‘Architectura. Textes et Images XVIe – XVIIe siecles”

Leon Battista Alberti (1404 – 1472) was an Italian author, artist, architect, poet, priest, linguist, philosopher, and cryptographer, and general Renaissance humanist polymath. He is often characterized as an architect but “to single out one of Leon Battista’s ‘fields’ over others as somehow functionally independent and self-sufficient is of no help at all to any effort to characterize Alberti’s extensive explorations in the fine arts.” James Beck, ‘Leon Battista Alberti and the ‘Night Sky’ at San Lorenzo’ Alberti’s life was described in Giorgio Vasari’s ‘Vite de’ più eccellenti pittori, scultori, e architettori.’ Alberti defined in theory the new artistic ideals of the Renaissance: his ‘de Pictura’, written in Latin and translated into Italian by Alberti himself, expounded the theory of perspective that had just triggered a revolution in Florentine painting. In his De statua, he developed a theory of proportions based on the observation of the measurements of the body of man, in accordance with the practice of Ghiberti, Michelozzo and Donatello. But architecture was, in his eyes, the art ‘par excellence’, the art that best contributes to the public interest. In the 1440s, at the request of Lionello d’Este, Alberti made a commentary on De Architectura de Vitruvo. Faced with the obscurities and inconsistencies of the text, he decided to rewrite a treatise on architecture, inspired by the Roman architect, but adapted to modern needs and thought. The De re aedificatoria, is divided into ten books, in the same way as the Vitruvian treatise. It is the first Renaissance treatise on architecture, and its author was quoted by humanists, such as Rabelais (Pantagruel, chapter VII), as not only the equal of Vitruvius, but also of Euclid and Archimedes. In the introduction, Alberti discusses the social role of architecture. The first three books are devoted respectively to drawing, materials and structural principles. In books IV to X, Alberti deals with civil architecture: the choice of site, the typology of civil, public and private buildings. Its ideal city has a rational plan, with buildings regularly arranged on both sides of wide and straight streets. This new conception of urbanism, breaking with medieval practices, is probably linked to the unprecedented growth of the city-republic.

A very good copy of this beautiful and important architectural work.

BM STC Fr. C16th p. 7. Brunet I 130-131. Brun, p. 138. Fowler 7. Berlin Catalog 2553. Cicognara 374. Mortimer Harvard I no. 12. “The Alberti portrait and the majority of the  woodcuts are close copies of the blocks used in the first edition of Cosimo Bartoli’s Italian translation of Alberti, ‘L’architectura’, printed at Florence by Lorenzo Torrentino in 1550, “con la aggiunta de Designi”. .. Some of the Italian blocks were omitted by Kerver and a number of additions made to the series.


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