École Impériale Polytechnique, I.ere Division, Epurés–1810, Gilberton [title from label on upper cover]. Charles-Gilbert GILBERTON.
École Impériale Polytechnique, I.ere Division, Epurés–1810, Gilberton [title from label on upper cover]
École Impériale Polytechnique, I.ere Division, Epurés–1810, Gilberton [title from label on upper cover]
École Impériale Polytechnique, I.ere Division, Epurés–1810, Gilberton [title from label on upper cover]
École Impériale Polytechnique, I.ere Division, Epurés–1810, Gilberton [title from label on upper cover]
École Impériale Polytechnique, I.ere Division, Epurés–1810, Gilberton [title from label on upper cover]
École Impériale Polytechnique, I.ere Division, Epurés–1810, Gilberton [title from label on upper cover]
École Impériale Polytechnique, I.ere Division, Epurés–1810, Gilberton [title from label on upper cover]
The Revival of Technical Drawing
in the Engineering Schools of Early 19th-Century France
A Student’s Competition Album
With 30 Refined Full-Page and Double-Page Designs
[Manuscript Drawings] / [Civil Engineering] / [Architecture].
[Paris & Metz], [1808-11].

École Impériale Polytechnique, I.ere Division, Epurés–1810, Gilberton [title from label on upper cover].

Folio [52.1 x 27.5 cm], with (28) full-page and double-page drawing in black ink, color ink, and wash, with a further (2) such double-page drawings inserted loosely. Quarter bound in vellum and pink painted pasteboards, gold-stamped morocco title label laid to upper cover. Rubbing and edge wear to boards, some damp staining to endpapers. Drawings remarkably well preserved, with colors fresh and vibrant, the occasional very minor stain, a few short marginal tears.

Extraordinary folio album of 28 fine full-page and double-page drawings executed by the student Charles-Gilbert Gilberton (b. 1788- d. after 1853) at the Paris École impériale polytechnique during the academic years 1809-10. The portfolio provides a valuable visual record of how young engineers and architects were trained in the graphic arts at this elite school before they were assigned to specialized roles in the French civil service. Also included here are 2 further drawings (inserted loosely) which Gilberton finished in 1811 after joining the prestigious École impériale d’application d’atillerie et du génie in Metz, just before he entered public service as an officer-engineer in the Corps impérial du génie, the unit of expert military masons, carpenters, architects who concentrated on matters of fortification and anti-fortification. Instruction in the various genres of technical drawing had long been a component of a broad engineering education, but by the turn of the 19th century this art had apparently begun to languish in France as more analytical, numerical methods came to the fore of engineering. This album is representative of a formal attempt to revive the graphic arts in this context.

The pedagogical regimen at the École polytechnique (founded 1794) is rather well documented, and it is fascinating to see how closely Gilberton’s portfolio corresponds to the year-by-year changes to the school curriculum. In 1806 the department of the Ponts et Chausseés expressed concern that graduates of the École Polytechnique assigned to them had not been given sufficient instruction in technical drawing, and the École de Metz suggested that Polytechnique students should no longer be given engraved diagrams as part of course work, but instead should be forced once more to produce all drawings themselves (Fourcy, p. 310). This prompted the Polytechnique to redouble their efforts by tweaking course offerings and, in 1809, by establishing student prizes and exhibitions for the most accomplished portfolios (Fourcy, pp. 278-9). The Gilberton album presented here apparently is the formal presentation of his finished drawings (called épurés) for this inaugural competition, with drawings that include the geometrical construction of irregular masonry profiles, graphical representation of complex joinery problems, horological constructions, architectural drawing (elevations, plans, profiles), project drawings for the grading of roadways, route-finding cartography (the plotting of flat routes, mountainous routes, and canals), cartography related to new theories of fortification, and subtle procedures for shading architectural and mechanical drawings with washes.

Published records from the Polytechnique show that at the time it offered a “Cours d’application de géométrie descriptive aux arts relatifs aux services publics,” which dealt with drawing and fortification, architecture, and public works (Hachette, vol. 1, pp. 6-7); other courses dealt with “application of shadow theory to machine drawing,” calculation of stone cutting; and new concepts of fortification (Hachette, vol. 1, pp. 13-14, 103), all of which are treated here by Gilberton. Gilberton signed each of the drawings, which are certified by the school’s ink stamp and countersigned by members of the faculty who taught the courses just mentioned (e.g. Durand [architecture], Sganzin [public works]). The 2 loosely inserted drawings from Gilberton’s time at Metz are an elevation map of the terrain surrounding a fortification and a diagram for a leveling platform, presumably to position artillery.

Gilberton began his military service during the Peninsular War (1807-14) and rose to the rank of colonel, becoming a Chevalier de l’Ordre de Saint-Louis and Chevalier de la légion d’Honneur (Fourcy, p. 433; Marielle, p. 98), presumably having been served well by his early instruction in drawing presented here.

* A. Fourcy, Histoire de l'École Polytechnique; C. P. Marielle, Répertoire de l'École impériale polytechnique, p. 98; M. Hachette, Correspondance sur l'École impériale Polytechnique, vols. 1-2.

 

Price: $4,500.00

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