Regola delli cinque ordini d’architettura. [with] Alcune Opere d’Architettura di Iacomo Barotio da Vignola.

Rome, G.B. de Rossi, [1625-80?] (with) Rome, [F. Villamena], 1617


Large folio. 2 parts in one, 55 plates (incl. separate t-ps, 2 folding), engraved architectural t-ps, framing author’s portrait on first, and surrounding text on second, else with sections of columns, arches and capitals, geometrical diagrams, façades and portals, 2 folding with bird’s-eye view and plan of Palazzo di Caprarola. Few plates thumbed, scattered wormholes affecting some (backed), minor tear to lower blank margin of pl. 21, C18 annotation to gutter of pl. 34, paper flaw to lower outer corner of second folding plate, old reinforcement at gutter of pl. 52, faint ink mark to pl. 39, pls 50 and 51 bound upside down. Very tall, fresh copy, on thick paper, in contemporary vellum, raised bands, autograph ‘Ja Nasmith’ to upper cover, modern bookplate to front pastedown.

Handsome copy, with plates in good clear impression, of this major, much reprinted work in the history of architecture. Jacobo Barozzi da Vignola (1507-73) was at the centre of the Renaissance European architectural world. As influential as Serlio and Palladio, he was employed by royalty (at Fontainebleau by Francis I), the nobility (at the Farnese’s Roman villa) and the most influential religious (at the Jesuits’ Chiesa del Gesù). Intended as a collection of plates rather than a book, ‘Regola’ focused on the practical rendition of the five classical orders. As examples Vignola chose ornaments which ‘can be seen in the antiquities of Rome’, especially ‘those which according to the common opinion appear most handsome and gracious to the eye; those which bear a plain correspondence and proportion to numbers’. Despite the printing privilege imposed by Pius IV through a ‘motu propriu’—one of the earliest instances of copyright including fines on transgressors (Casotti, ‘Giacomo Barozzi’, 512)—the first edition was pirated. Plate III—with the five orders drawn from Serlio’s ‘Libri’—first appeared in an early unauthorised copy. It remained in subsequent editions, albeit paradoxically going counter to Vignola’s ‘regola’ which saw illustrations not as models to be copied but as exemplary representations of geometric and proportional principles to be adjusted proportionally. (Thoenes, ‘La “Regola”’, 270, 272). The original copperplates of ‘Regola’ were purchased c.1617 from Vaccario, the printer of the 1607 edition, by the Roman printer Francesco Villamena. The latter’s ‘Opere’, conceived as a companion to ‘Regola’, featured façades, plans and portals of buildings by Vignola and a few attributed to Michelangelo. After Villamena’s death, these copperplates were bought by Giovanni Battista de’ Rossi, whose name appears in the t-p of this copy. His workshop continued to issue the two works together. The bibliographic features of this copy suggest it was probably a later reissue of BAL 3447 n.21. BAL mentions the existence of ‘several variant imprints’ of this edition (3447 n.21), like the present, and extends its dating from 1625 to probably 1680, whilst attributing to Villamena the 1617 edition usually assigned to de’ Rossi. In this copy, the continuous numeration of the plates in ‘Opere’, unrecorded in major bibliographies and absent in Villamena’s originals, points to a consolidated practice of publication (Casotti states that this edition always included both ‘Regola’ and ‘Opere’, ‘Giacomo Vignola’, 544 n.12). But it was not printed so late as to lose the freshness of the plates.

In this copy, ‘Regola’ features XXXVI numbered plates: XXXII drawn from the originals of the first edition of c.1562 (see Type A, Fowler 351a), and four comprising three portals and the Farnese mantelpiece. The original plate XXXVII (the Farnese portal) appears in ‘Opere’ as plate 41, as in other cases (Fowler 356). ‘Opere’ features 18 plates, numbered 37 to 52 here (plus 2 unnumbered folding). Plates 50-51, the latter dated 1619, illustrate Michelangelo’s Ionic capital for the Capitol, engraved by Villamena.

James Nasmith (1740-1808) was an English clergyman, antiquary and Cambridge scholar. A Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, he devoted his spare time to cataloguing Archbishop Matthew Parker’s mss housed in Christ Church college. The resulting ‘Catalogus librorum manuscriptorum’ was published in 1777. He also published pamphlets on Poor Laws (1799).

KU, St Mary, JHU and Cornell with 55 plates as here.

BAL 3447 and 3481; Berlin Catalog 2581 and 2655; BL STC It. C17 (together), p. 77; Fowler 356 (together). C. Thoenes, ‘La Regola dei cinque ordini del Vignola’, in Les traités d’architecture, ed. J. Guillaume (Paris, 1988), 269-79; M. Walcher Casotti, ‘Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola’, in Trattati di architettura, ed. P. Cataneo (Milano, 1985), 499-578.


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