Cambray, Knight of

Title Maniere de fortifier de Mr. de Vauban...
Imprint Amsterdam, P. Mortier, 1689
Los Angeles, The Getty Research Institute, UG 400. C 36 1689

Military architecture

Transcribed version of the text


     Lacking writings by Vauban who always preferred considering the terrain to thinking theoretically, starting in the 1680s several authors wrote about one or several of his methods to fortify strongholds. Desmartins l’Ainé (L’expérience de l’architecture militaire..., 1685), Jean-François Bernard (Nouvelle manière de fortifier les places..., 1689), Nicolas de Fer (Introduction à la fortification..., 1690-1693) and Jacques Ozanam (Cours de mathématique... Tome troisième. Qui contient la géométrie et la fortification, 1693) all put forward Vauban’s principles among those of others. On the one hand Abbé Dufay and the Knight of Cambray refer exclusively to the master; their respective treatises, practically identical, maintained a certain bibliographic confusion for quite a while.
     The treatise by the Knight of Cambray came out in Holland in 1689, two years before the probable date of Abbé Du Fay’s edition. Pierre Mortier, his publisher of French origin, specifies in the dedication to the Margrave of Brandenburg, Frederick III, that Cambray worked under Vauban, and in the headword to the reader of the Maniere de fortifier that he was to become his most illustrious pupil. As he indicates in the preface, Cambray was addressing his treatise to the cadets of the very Christian king who would be in Sarrelouis and Strasbourg. This is why it was also presented in a bilingual version (French-German). If he was setting his sights on a subject of the king of France, it is curious that the book was dedicated to one of his enemies. Moreover, the dedication does not appear in the German and English editions.
     In an educational way the treatise opens on a two-book treatise on geometry, with the text in two columns. The first book deals with drawing and composing lines, surfaces, volumes and pyramids. The purpose of the second one is to examine altimetry, longimetry, planimetrics, stereotomy, calculating irregular volumes (“coelométrie”) and the calculations necessary to transform one volume into another (“métamorphose”). Then a detailed table of contents precedes the plates. The fortification treatise itself (La maniere de fortifier) with its own page numbering, is divided into four books. It begins with basic definitions like those found in the Travaux de Mars by Allain Manesson Mallet which had recently been republished in Paris and in Amsterdam (1684-1685) in an enlarged version – the first edition is given as Paris, in 1671-1672 , definitions which are followed by a lexicon relating to the art of war. Then Cambray develops a new way to fortify, quoting Vauban but also Goldmann, Pasch, Errard, De Ville, Pagan, Freitag, Fournier, etc. The fortified drawing which is presented corresponds to Vauban’s “first system”, as the traditional polygons are related to the theory of the first half of the 17th century. The terminology is outmoded (“ravelin” instead of “demi-lune”, etc.). In fact it has little to do with Vauban. The book ends with 44 diagrams.
     The manual, rather badly written, with obsolete designations, unimaginative and not very representative of Vauban’s art, nonetheless achieved great success. A French-German edition came out in 1692 in Paris; an English edition in London in 1693. Five German editions were published in Mainz by Louis (Ludwig) Bourgeat from 1695 to 1711, with no mention of the name Cambray. The book was translated into Russian in 1724 and the name of Cambray was once again eclipsed by that of Vauban.

P. Bragard (UCL, Leuven) – 2015


Critical bibliography

A. Blanchard, Vauban, Paris, Fayard, 1996.

P. Bragard, “Du Fay et les autres. La diffusion de la fortification selon Vauban dans la théorie européenne autour de 1700”, M. Virol, P. Bragard, N. Faucherre, M. Steenbergen (eds.), L’influence de Vauban dans le Monde, Namur, Les Amis de la citadelle de Namur, 2015, pp. 17-38.

C. Duffy, The Fortress in the age of Vauban and Frederick the Great, 1660-1789, London, Routledge & Keegan, 1985.

K. Jordan, Bibliographie zur Geschichte des Festungsbaues von den Anfängen bis 1914, Marburg,Deutsche Gesellschaft für Festungsforschung, 2003.

P. Lazard, Vauban 1633-1707, Paris, Alcan, 1933.

M. Virol, Vauban, de la gloire du roi au service de l’État, Seyssel, Champ Vallon, 2003.

I. Warmoes, “Vauban et l’art de la fortification”, I. Warmoes, V. Sanger (eds.), Vauban bâtisseur du Roi-Soleil, Paris, Somogy, 2007, pp. 190-197.