Architectura von den funf seulen.

Prague, [s.n.], 1600.


FIRST EDITION. Large folio, in 2s. Engraved t-p, 5 unnumbered ff., 28 plates (1-26 + 2 unnumbered). Large Gothic letter. Engraved architectural t-p, 28 engraved plates showing columns, capitals, façades and ornaments, decorated initials. Lower margins a bit finger soiled, slight yellowing. A very good copy, unbound, as issued.

A very good copy, in fresh impression, of this very rare series of elaborate plates illustrating the five architectural orders. Gabriel Krammer (1564-1606) was a skilled wood-worker, cabinetmaker and engraver in Zurich. This series of plates on the five orders of columns and capitals was first work, which he presented to the Emperor Rudolf II in 1600. It reprised the Renaissance tradition, led by Serlio, of illustrated books on classical architecture. Except for the first five leaves, with a descriptive German text, the remaining 26 portray columns, capitals and façades the importance of which lies more in the proposed decoration than its practical achievement. Indeed, Krammer followed the new avenues opened by German ‘Saülenbücher’ (column books) by artists like Vredeman and Dietterlich, in which the five orders were no longer part of pragmatic architectural contexts, but were ‘invitations to free-ranging interpretations purely imaginary and artistic in inspiration’ (Kruft, ‘History of Architectural Theory’, 171). Krammer’s training as cabinetmaker encouraged his focus on ornament. In ‘Architectura’, he devised complex columns with vivid grotesque figures, eagle heads, sphynxes, cornucopiae and tendrils transforming into half-putti. He even portrayed himself on plate 3 as a male figure in armour supporting a marble structure, among Tuscan columns. His work was ‘a useful and timely contribution to contemporary architectural discourse’ as it coincided with the revival of C16 experiments on the use of anthropomorphic decoration in relation to the five orders—a way to reconcile the traditional architectural classicism with the changing tastes in Northern Europe (Petcu, ‘Anthropomorphizing the Orders’, 349, 363). The influence of his imaginative work was still felt a century later in the dragon-head decorations adorning churches built in Peru (Rodríguez-Camilloni, ‘The Jesuit Rural Churches’, 254). A handsome epitome of northern Mannerism.

No copies recorded in the US.

Berlin Cat 1944. Not in Brunet or Fowler.


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