Author(s) Androuet du Cerceau, Jacques
Title De architectvra... opus...
Imprint Paris, B. Prévost, 1559
Localisation Besançon, Bibliothèque municipale, 11612
Subject Castles, Gardens
Transcribed version of the text


     In 1559 Jacques Androuet du Cerceau published the Livre d’architecture in French and Latin (De architectura… opus). To tell the truth, the French version differs from the Latin version only in the printed text, since the engraved copperplates are the same, with the captions in Latin – all of which could lead one to believe that the work was created in that language first. The two works, printed by Benoît Prévost the same year, are very close. The print and certain initials are identical. The address is slightly more developed in the Latin edition: "Imprimé à Paris par Benoist Prevost, rue Frementel. 1559" becomes "E typographia Benedicti Prævotii, ad clausum Brunellum, via Frementella, sub stella aurea, 1559".
We know that Androuet du Cerceau readily resorted to Latin. As early as 1549, the collection of arches (Quinque et viginti exempla arcuum) was presented in that language. But if it is understandable that the books devoted to works from antiquity, which were written for humanist readers, were edited in Latin, it is more surprising in the case of the Livre d’architecture, for neither the practical and concrete text nor its natural clientele imposed the use of the ancient language. Moreover, the translation poses a number of problems: du Cerceau had to specify, for example, that “toise” was translated by the Greek word “orgyia”, which obviously cannot be the exact equivalent, except if it is completed by “gallica”. Likewise, the systematic use of Roman numerals doesn’t make reading complicated and precise “toisages” any easier; thus the next-to-last project put at “VIIIMDCCCX org.”, is less legible than “8810. t.”.
Actually, rather than looking for prestige (the author would claim to be a humanist architect) the publication in Latin fell within the province of a marketing strategy. It allowed the work to be distributed outside the French-speaking world and to find a clientele, if not in Italy where the models would be judged too Nordic with their sloping roofs and dormer windows, at least in the northern European countries and the Empire, where architectural typologies were close to the French norms.

Yves Pauwels (Centre d’études supérieures de la Renaissance, Tours) – 2009

Critical bibliography

J. Androuet du Cerceau, Les trois livres d’architecture : Paris, 1559, 1561, 1582 (facsimile edition), Ridgewood, N. J., Gregg Press, Inc., 1965.

J. Androuet du Cerceau, Les plus excellents bastiments de France…, D. Thompson (ed.), Paris, Sand & Conti, 1998 (documentary, chronology and general bibliography, pp. 310-316).

F. Boudon, "Les livres d’architecture de Jacques Androuet du Cerceau", J. Guillaume (ed.), Les traités d’architecture de la Renaissance, Paris, Picard, 1988, pp. 367-396.

H. von Geymüller, Les Du Cerceau. Leur vie et leur oœvre d’après les nouvelles recherches, Paris/London, Rouam/Wood & Co, 1887.

D. Thompson, Renaissance Architecture. Critics Patrons Luxury, Manchester/New York, Manchester UP, 1993.

D. Thomson, "Les trois Livres d’architecture de Jacques Ier Androuet Du Cerceau, à Paris en 1559, 1561 et 1582", S. Deswarte-Rosa (ed.), Sebastiano Serlio à Lyon, Architecture et imprimerie, Lyon, Mémoire Active, 2004, pp. 449-450.