VITRUVIUS, Marcus Pollio. De architectura libri dece traducti de latina lingua in vulgare

Como, Gottardo da Ponte for Agostino Gallo and Aloisio Pirovano., 15 July 1521

Folio (396 x 269 mm.), Collation: [π8]; A-Z8; 192 leaves. Roman type, a few words in Greek, text with commentary surround. Privileges from Pope Leo X and Francois I on verso of title, errata and editors’ note at end (Z8r). 117 woodcuts (including one small repeated cut), of which 10 full-page, printer’s large woodcut swan device on title, smaller device on Z7v, large historiated and foliated white-on-black woodcut initials, small foliated initials. Binding: early 17 century Italian plain boards, manuscript title at foot of spine. Provenance: Charles Otway Esq. of Romden, Kent (ex libris). A pale waterstain in the upper margin, first and last leaf reinforced in the gutter a few restorations in the white margins, overall a good copy.

First edition in Italian and first edition in any modern language of one of the finest illustrated books of the Italian Renaissance. ‘This handbook on classical architecture is the only Roman work inspired by Greek architecture that has come down to us. It is therefore important as our prime source of many lost Greek writings on the subject and as a guide to archeological research in Italy and Greece. By exemplifying the principles of classical architecture it became the fundamental architectural textbook for centuries. Vitruvius, who lived during the time of Julius Caesar and Augustus, and probably composed his book prior to 27 BC, was basically a theoretical rather than a practising architect and his only known work is the Basilica at Fano. ... His influence on practical architecture during the Middle Ages was obviously small, ... but it was with the Renaissance that Vitruvius’ influence began. Alberti, Bramante, Ghiberti, Michelangelo, Vignola, Palladio and many others were directly inspired by Vitruvius.’ (PMM) This edition was translated into Italian and commented by Cesare Cesariano who, Vasari reports in his life of Bramante, ‘Enraged at not having received the reward which he had expected [for the present work], Cesare refused to work any more, and, becoming eccentric, he died more like a beast than a man.” He stopped the work after an argument with the publishers in May 1521 and, as a result, his commentary ends after chapter 6 of book IX; the remainder was completed by Benedetto Giovio da Como and Bono Mauro da Bergamo. An autographed note by Cesariano in the copy of the Biblioteca Melziana supplies details of the publishing contract, including the edition size of 1300 copies. The fine illustrations, of which many were cut by Cesariano himself (one, on folio X6r, is signed with his monogram and dated 1519), clearly show the influence of Leonardo da Vinci, and Kristeller believed them to have been the work of one of his pupils. Although some of the woodcuts follow the classical models of the previous editions, others show water-wheels and various mechanical devices. The plates showing plans and elevations of the Milan Cathedral are said to be ‘the earliest authentic representations of Gothic architecture in a printed book.’ (Fowler). The present copy shows the earlier version of the errata with ‘tuta’ for ‘tutta’ in the headline.

Adams V-914; Berlin Kat 1802; Cicognara 698; Fowler 395; Mortimer Italian 544.

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