Il primo libro d'Architettura... Il Secondo Libro. Sebastiano SERLIO.
Il primo libro d'Architettura... Il Secondo Libro.
Il primo libro d'Architettura... Il Secondo Libro.
Serlio’s Famous Bilingual Architectural Treatise
With A Unique Suite Of Woodcuts
Published While Serlio Advised François I On Construction Of Fontainebleau
“The First Regularly Published Scene Designs”—Hewitt
Paris, Jehan Barbé, 1545.

Il primo libro d'Architettura... Il Secondo Libro.

Folio [37.5 x 24.5 cm], (4) ff., 74 (i.e. 75) ff., including 1 blank (c8) and 1 unnumbered leaf (between i3 & i4), with 132 woodcuts, 24 of which are full page. Bound in 18th-century stiff vellum, title label on spine. Faint marginal waterstain to final leaves; leaf with printer’s mark dusty; minor repaired tear to folio 27, a few contemporary annotations in the margins; a very good tall copy.

A tall copy of the richly illustrated first edition, first issue, of the first two books of Sebastiano Serlio’s (1475-1554) famous architectural treatise. Although Serlio’s text would later appear in numerous versions, the woodcuts found here are unique to this 1545 edition from the Parisian press of Jehan Barbé, a distinction of some note considering Serlio’s primacy in the wider development of illustrated architectural treatises during the Renaissance. That the text was carefully printed in an Italian-French bilingual edition certainly relates to Serlio’s primary role in advising François I (the treatise’s dedicatee) on the construction and decoration of the Château of Fontainebleau, a project that occupied Serlio from the early 1540s. These two books, being devoted to geometry, perspective, and theatrical scenery, are not only of fundamental importance for the practical and theoretical development of Renaissance architecture, but also are considered to be “the first published account of modern theatrical practice” (Hewitt, The Renaissance Stage, p. 21).

As with the whole of the treatise, the outstanding feature of these two books lies in their overwhelmingly practical orientation, a welcome departure from the highly theoretical, even abstruse presentation found in earlier architectural works (mainly translations of Vitruvius). Indeed, the use of vernacular in place of Latin here suggests that the work was conceived from the start for the use of practicing architects, not merely learned antiquarians. Serlio’s intention was to offer architects “a pattern book in which the architect could find solutions for all sorts of problems” (Blunt, Art and Architecture in France, p. 73). Recent research continues to uncover Serlio’s influence on contemporary and later building practice, e.g., his discussion in Book I of oval geometry – a point of emphasis likely derived from his time in the atelier of Baldassare Peruzzi (1481-1536) – and its connection to the ovoid forms that became popular in late Renaissance and Baroque architecture (see Huerta, p. 230)

The work gives two methods for determining perspective, the second a form of the distance point method exemplified by its many woodcut diagrams and exercises. Book II also contains a detailed historical account of the theater Serlio built in Vicenza in 1539. The magnificent woodcuts of tragic, comic and rustic stage scenes “are the first regularly published scene designs” (Hewitt), and with their “Raphaelesque draughtsmanship” (Kemp), they likely owe something to the hand of Serlio’s teacher, Baldassare Peruzzi.

* Fowler 303; Berlin Kat. 2563; Dinsmoor, Art Bulletin 24 (l942) pp. 73-4; Schlosser p. 374; Mortimer, French, 492; Vagnetti EIIb12; Kemp, The Science of Art, p. 66; Hewitt, The Renaissance Stage, 21; S. Huerta, “Oval Domes: History, Geometry and Mechanics,” Nexus Network Journal 9 (2007) pp. 211-28;  Kernodle, From Art to Theatre, p. 181. Our copy agrees with Mortimer’s second Hofer copy in having a pasted cancel diagram on b5v, and the unpaginated “Scena comica” woodcut bound correctly between i3 and i4. 


Price: $18,000.00

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