BOOKS ON ARCHITECTURE



Author(s)

Vitruve
Perrault, Claude
Le Clerc, Sébastien (engraver), et alii.

Title
Les dix livres d’Architecture de Vitruve... Seconde edition reveuë, corrigée, & augmentée
Imprint Paris, J.-B. Coignard, 1684
Localisation Besançon, Bibliothèque municipale, 11604
Subject Architecture, Hydraulic, Machines
Transcribed version of the text

French

     Eleven years after the first edition of the annotated and illustrated translation of Vitruvius published in 1673 at the presses of Jean-Baptiste Coignard, Claude Perrault offered to the public an enlarged and enriched edition, quite as luxurious as the preceding one.  Meanwhile he had published the Abrégé by Vitruvius (1674) and the Ordonnance des cinq espèces de colonnes (1683) which had allowed him to answer his detractors, in particular François Blondel who had certainly criticized him in his Cours d'architecture (1675).  Perrault's unconventional position on the artificial character of architectural proportions and his irrevocable condemnation of the Vitruvian optical corrections had in fact caused him to be hated by people in the profession.  The second edition offered him a new forum to respond notably to the Director of the Académie d'Architecture (p. 205, n. 1).  Moreover he refers the reader to the Ordonnance (p. 3, n. 6 ; p. 82, n. 24 ; p. 205, n. 1...), but also to his Essais de physique which had both come out in the meanwhile (p. 158, n. 8 ; p. 161, n. 15 ; p. 258, n. 14...). It was also the occasion to bring his notes up to date and to introduce three new copperplates (indicated in the Foreword).  The captions of the existing plates were developed (p. 33, pl. V ; p. 42, pl. VI ; p. 106, pl. XXIII) and the plates themselves were enriched with supplementary figures (p. 58, pl. VII ; p. 82, pl. XVII). More rarely does Perrault correct a previous interpretation (p. 31, n. 4).  It was also in a more delicate way the possibility of refining his conception of architecture, by criticizing contemporary or past practices while at the same time praising the work with which he himself was associated (Colonnade du Louvre, 1667-68 ; Observatoire, 1667-72 ; arc de triomphe for the place du Trône, partially completed).  He scoffs at Gothic architecture for its fantastic element, with its columns "très-longues & tres-menuës, pour soutenir de grandes voutes qui retombent sur des impostes en cul-de-lampe suspendües en l'air" (p. 42, n. 2). The doubling of columns censured by Blondel (1675, IIIrd part, l. I, ch. 10-12, pp. 228-240) thus gives rise to a very long note (pp. 79-80, n. 16) which responds to the justifications presented the preceding year in the Ordonnance.  It is not a matter of a "licence" but on the contrary of a modern invention.  For the doubling of the support allows the establishment of a sixth arrangement, which must be added to the the five described by Vitruvius: pycnostyle, systyle, eustyle, diastyle and aræostyle (pp. 78-80, n. 16).  Moreover the "Moderns", the Italian and French, liked them (p. 80, n. 16).  The Ancients did not adopt them for the sole reason that they did not have access to the technical means to implement architraves with long spans, nor machines allowing them to transport stones, raise them or position them smoothly (p. 339, n. 4).
Although the 1684 edition came out again at the shop of J.-B. Coignard in an identical format (folio), it is less meticulous than the first.  There are errors of pagination and some surprising typographical errors (Ruscovi for Rusconi, Beruin for Bernin).  Finally the copperplates are of lesser quality (which could explain the success of the 1673 edition).  Only the added engravings, indicated by asterisks, are of fine workmanship, such as the elevation in perspective and the plan of the Piliers de Tutelle in Bordeaux attributed to Pierre Le Pautre (p. 219, pl. **), which in this case inspired some drawings done by Perrault himself during his trip to Bordeaux in 1669 (Paris, BnF, ms. Fr. 24713, ff 127v°-128).  Today it is the most complete representation of that distinguished edifice which had just been sacrificed by Louis XIV, with the whole neighborhood, in order to develop a new citadel replacing the Château Trompette.  In choosing the antique building in Bordeaux to give the image of an entablature with no frieze or cornice, Perrault means to correct the well-known illustrations left by Androuet du Cerceau (Paris, BnF, Ed. 2b) and Élie Vinet in his supplementary side notes on Ausone which came out in 1574 (pp. 217-218, n. 8). Two other illustrations on copper (pl. **** and pl. ****) were added in book IX between plates 64 and 65.  The first (p. 337) represents a machine he invented to fire bombs (p. 333, n. 2); the second (numbered page 339 by mistake instead of 341) combines the two machines which were used to transport the necessary stones to the Colonnade of the Louvre as well as a third which had been proposed for this building site but not retained, and which he had probably invented.  The voluminous note accompanying the plate (p. 339, n. 4) this time, probably permitted him once more to attract attention to one of the most prestigious realizations in which he participated.  In doing this, he furnishes, with an astonishing plethora of details, one of the rare "technical" images of the art of builders of the 17th century. We regret all the more that plates which should have been indicated (*) and (***) were not completed.  Several xylographs were added in the accompanying notes.
Perrault died four years after this second edition.  Charles had just fallen out of favor with Colbert, not long before the minister's disappearance, and he did not manage to gain the confidence of Louvois, the following Superintendant of Royal Buildings. If the unabridged edition of Vitruvius did not meet up with the international success of the Abrégé, the complete text of 1684, hardly modified, was used again by numerous publishers during the 19th and 20th centuries, among which one can at least cite the book of the Collection des auteurs latins directed by Charles Nisard (Paris, 1866).  This popular edition, which also contained the writings of Celsus, Censorinus and Sextus Julius Frontinus, contributed a great deal to the survival and the circulation of Perrault's Vitruve.

Frédérique Lemerle (Centre national de la recherche scientifique,
Centre d'études supérieures de la Renaissance, Tours) – 2011

Critical bibliography

G. Germann, Vitruve et le vitruvianisme. Introduction à l'histoire de la théorie architecturale, Lausanne, Presses polytechniques et universitaires romandes, 1991 (1st ed.: Darmstadt, 1987).

W. Herrmann, La théorie de Claude Perrault, Brussels/Liège, Mardaga, 1980 (1st ed.: London, Zwemmer, 1973).

F. Lemerle, La Renaissance et les antiquités de la Gaule, Turnhout, Brepols, 2005, pp. 103-104.

F. Lemerle, "Vitruve, Vignole, Palladio et les autres: traductions, abrégés et augmentations au XVIIe siècle", Architecture et théorie. L'héritage de la Renaissance, Tours, Cesr, June 3-4, 2009/Paris, École d'architecture de Paris-Malaquais, June 5, 2009.

F. Lemerle, "D'un Parallèle à l'autre. L'architecture antique: une affaire d'État", Revue de l'Art, 170, 2010-4, pp. 31-39.

F. Lemerle, "La face cachée du Vitruve de Claude Perrault (1673, 1684)", M. Chaufour & S. Taussig (eds.), La cause en est cachée, Études offertes à Paulette Choné par ses élèves, ses collègues et ses amis, Turnhout, Brepols, 2013, pp. 447-455.

A. Picon, Claude Perrault, 1613-1688 ou la curiosité d'un classique, Paris, Picard, 1988.