Livre de perspective. Jean COUSIN.
Livre de perspective.
Livre de perspective.
Livre de perspective.
Livre de perspective.
Livre de perspective.
Livre de perspective.
Livre de perspective.
Livre de perspective.
Livre de perspective.
Livre de perspective.
Livre de perspective.
Livre de perspective.
Livre de perspective.
“The first treatise to include material on the drawing of the architectural orders” – Millard, French Books, #57.
Paris, Le Royer, 1560.

Livre de perspective.

Folio [41.5 x 28.5 cm], (72) printed leaves, of which 5 are folded double leaves signed as single leaves, final leaf blank; with the often missing overslip tipped to C3v. With a spectacular titlepage, 58 woodcut illustrations in the text, 16 of them full page and 5 folding, all finely engraved by Jean Cousin himself. Bound in its original vellum. Right edge of D2 a bit frayed and soiled, barely affecting one edge of the image, blank lower corner of n2 torn off. Discoloration due to the quality of the paper on the titlepage. A very large wide-margined unsophisticated copy with occasional mild toning. Generally very good. Housed in a book box.

A very attractive and genuine copy of the first edition (and only early one) of this work- rarely found complete, as offered here- on perspective, which Updike calls "one of the handsomest volumes of its time."  It is through this work that Jean Cousin became known as the major theorist of artists' perspective in sixteenth-century France, and was credited with perfecting the tiers points technique that was somewhat confusingly described by Pelerin at the beginning of the century. In his hands the tiers point technique "became a reliable, comprehensive and substantially accurate method for tackling the construction of space and the foreshortening of solid bodies" – Kemp, The Science of Art.  Cousin’s work was not republished again until 1974.

“Cousin’s book is oriented toward the artist and the craftsman in the fields of painting and architecture…Cousin’s is the first treatise to include material on the drawing of the architectural orders” (Millard, French Books, #57), a fundamental skill in the toolkit of Renaissance architects. 

Le Livre is composed of 58 chapters ( in 141 non-numbered pages) and follows a plan in 3 parts. He starts with the easier problems which become more complex gradually, with several options and great clarity, due also to the large format of the illustrations and the elegance of their execution, engraved by Cousin personally.

The large woodcut frontispiece of the Livre de perspective is well known and often reproduced.  It is "singularly inventive with its foreshortened perspective, displaying five polyhedrons set in a framework supported by acrobatic nudes.  Later generations elaborated such frameworks in the painting of baroque ceilings. While the woodcut's architectonic perspective gives it added dimension in depth, it suggests the decorative schemes in wood, paint and plaster relief of Rosso and Primaticcio at Fontainebleau, or an engraving of a ceiling by a follower, Fantuzzi" – Wick, Sixteenth Century Architectural Books, 30.

Jean Cousin the Elder (1501- c.1560), a true Renaissance man, was also a painter of considerable significance: "the most important of the painters working independently of the Fontainebleau school" (Blunt, Art and Architecture in France, p. 112).  A native of Sens, he was active in Paris by 1538, where he enjoyed considerable success as a painter and designer of stained glass. Works securely attributed to him include Eva Prima Pandora (now in the Louvre), the tapestries of the life of St. Mammes in the Cathedral of Langres, and at least two of the stainglass windows in the Cathedral of Sens. His advanced knowledge of Italian painting (again Rosso, but also Leonardo) seems to have been acquired directly rather than through the intermediary of the Ecole de Fontainebleau.

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OCLC: Getty, NYPL, Duke, Columbia, Harvard, NGA.

Other copies: Paris B.N., Bayerische Staatsbibl., Berlin Staatsbibl., Leiden, Sweden N.L.



* Mortimer 157; Berlin Katalog, 4690; Millard, French Books, 57; Didot, Cousin, pp. 113-118; the catalogue of the exhibition organized by the Bibliotheque Nationale, En Francais dans le texte: dix siècles de lumieres par le livre: #58: Morison, Four Centuries of Fine Printing, with reproductions of no less than 6 leaves. Valerie Auclair in Architectura: http://architectura.cesr.univ-tours.fr/Traite/Notice/ENSBA_Masson403.asp?param=

Price: $38,500.00

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