BOOKS ON ARCHITECTURE
||Description de les cinq colomnes...
||Antwerp, P. I Verbist, 1619
||Marseille, Bibliothèque municipale, RES 21901
The very rare 1619 edition, which Fernand Von Ortroy did not know about, (we know of only one another copy of it in the University of Granada library), is the first of a rather long series of bilingual versions, French and Dutch, of the treatise on columns by Hans Blum. It is enlivened by five etchings borrowed from Wendel Dietterlin’s Architectura (1598) (six in the later editions).
Several publishers, Verbist in Antwerp, Blaeu and Visscher in Amsterdam, divided up the market, sufficiently profitable to create real competition. Pierre Verbist was the first to publish a bilingual version in Antwerp ; its French title was Description de les cinq colonnes, asçavoir, la tuscane, dorique, ionique, corinthique et composee... on a adjousté aussi aucunes colomnes ornees tirez de... Wendel Dieterling. But the same year, Willem Jansz Blaeu published a Dutch version in Amsterdam, Beschryvinghe van de vijf colomnen van Architecture…, in which he complains of being a victim of unfair competition coming from his colleague in Antwerp, and he warns his reader about him. This text reappears (in Dutch only) in the headword of the bilingual edition which came out in Amsterdam at Claesz Jansz Visscher’s shop in 1623. Visscher, assuring the reader that he has done everything possible to create an excellent book, observes that Verbist published the same book in Antwerp at the same time, and he specifies that Verbist used fake engravings, of bad quality, made by an apprentice in order to deceive the buyer and make a profit at his expense.
The rivalry between the two publishers continued through the first half of the 17th century. Similar versions appeared in Amsterdam in 1623 and 1634 at Visscher’s shop and at Verbist’s in 1642 in Antwerp. In spite of Visscher’s recriminations, all these editions are very similar. Although shorter that the corresponding Dutch texts, the French versions are practically identical in all the editions, whether printed in Antwerp or Amsterdam. Here, it is a new translation, different from the one published by Hans Liefrinck in Antwerp in 1551. The general layout was revised, in order to insert the new copperplate engravings, which generally take up the right half of the page and the left half of the next page, leaving room for the text in the remaining space. The formatting varies slightly from one edition to another in the distribution of French text and Dutch text. Whatever the title pages may say, the copperplates hardly surpass the quality of the 16th century woodcuts, but their precision makes up for their smaller format. A few graphic details (different geometric indications, inversions) nevertheless show that the engravings are not the same in Amsterdam and in Antwerp. But on the whole these editions are very similar to each other.
Yves Pauwels (Centre d’études supérieures de la Renaissance, Tours) – 2012
Y. Pauwels, “Les éditions françaises du traité de Hans Blum aux Pays-Bas (XVIe et XVIIe siècles)”, In Monte Artium (Journal of the Royal Library of Belgium), 1, 2008, pp. 123-134.
F. Van Ortroy, “Les Verbist, enlumineurs et cartographes anversois”, De Gulden Passer, 7, 1929, pp. 1-31.