THE FIRST PRINTED BOOK ON ARCHITECTURE

L’ Architettura…, tradotta in lingua fiorentina da Cosimo Bartoli gentil’huomo & accademico fiorentino. Con la aggiunta de disegni. Et altri diuersi trattati del medesimo auttore.

Mondovi, Lionardo Torrentino, 1565.

£12,500

Folio. pp. 331, (xxi). Two leaves of plates inserted. Roman letter, some Italic. Woodcut printer’s device of elephant on title, another on second title, large historiated woodcut initials, “Medallion portrait of Alberti on verso of the title. There is a similar portrait in Vasari’s 1568 Vite. Eighty-three woodcuts – diagrams, plans, elevations, architectural details, and figures demonstrating measuring instruments. Thirty-seven are full page, including six plates on three leaves, and one is double plan. The blocks are used again in the folio edition by Leonardo Torrention at Mondovi in 1565” (Mortimer I It. 12 on the first edition of 1550), two additional full page woodcuts, extensions of the upper parts of buildings, autograph ‘Di federico Ceruti’ in early hand on fly, ‘Hugh Stafford’ with price 5s? at head of title page. Very light water stain to lower margin in places, title page very fractionally dusty, rare mark or spot. A very good copy, crisp and clean with good margins, in contemporary limp vellum, yapp edges, remains of ties, stubbs from an early manuscript leaf, bands renewed, a little soiled.

A lovely copy of this most important and beautifully illustrated work, the second and more complete folio edition of Bartoli’s influential translation into Italian, with the illustrations taken from the first. “This is the first edition of L’Architectura to be issued with La Pittura.” Fowler. Alberti’s treatise on architecture was the first Renaissance work on the subject, and the first architectural work to be printed (1485). Its scope is comprehensive, ranging from the practical (including tips for lifting sculpture) to the theoretical, explicating and augmenting the classical order. His is “a complete Humanist doctrine” (Fowler) with its extensive discussion of the concept of beauty and application of humanist scholarship.

Raphael, Serlio, and Palladio were influenced by the work. As a practicing architect too Alberti exercised lasting influence; for instance, his design of the Palazzo Rucellai established the norm for palazzo facades for centuries. “His work was perhaps the most significant contribution ever made to the literature of architecture” (Krufft). Bartoli’s translation superseded Pietro Lauro’s of 1546 and became the basis of most later editions, including its translation into English. All first editions were unillustrated 1550.

“Bartoli was in the service of the Church and the Medici for the greater part of his life: his friendship with Vasari may have established his patterns of taste. His fortunate inheritance of a group of 15th-century manuscripts, among them the writings of Alberti and the Zibaldone of Buonaccorso Ghiberti, caused him to undertake one of his major enterprises – the translating of Alberti’s De re aedificatoria, which despite its fame and probably because of its profundity, was seldom published. Bartoli’s version is the first illustrated edition, and the second translation of his work. The illustrations with their emphasis on contemporary building practice, and their simple even derivative character reflect mid-century concerns on relating practice to theory. The translation would become the standard edition of Alberti’s treatise and the source of the eighteenth century Leoni folio edition.” Wiebenson I-15.

“The writer who first and most clearly rejected medieval tradition was Leon Battista Alberti (1404 – 1472), author of the De re aedificatoria. Alberti borrowed the form of the architectural treatise from Vitruvius, but could be highly critical of his model. Alberti was the more systematic of the two, and he presented architecture as an exalted pursuit, a sort of incarnate philosophy that left little room for the humble stonemasons of the Gothic. He knew the ruins of ancient Rome well, and out of the creative interplay between his archaeological and textual studies formed a more internally coherent and pristine conception of architecture than any known to antiquity. Alberti’s was only the first of a spate of architectural treatises, but no later author would espouse such grand ambitions.” Bryn Mawr College Library Special Collections. ‘Cities and Men’. A lovely copy of this beautifully illustrated and important work.

PMM 28 (1485 ed.). Adams A-488.  Mortimer, Harvard Italian 12 (1550 edn.) Fowler 8.

L2106

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