BOOKS ON ARCHITECTURE
The Discours historial de l'antique et illustre cité de Nismes published by the jurist and humanist Jean Poldo d'Albenas in Lyon in 1559 and 1560, at Guillaume Roville's shop (only a few copies came out in 1559), has certain similarities with numerous publications devoted to the "antiquity" of a province or of a kingdom, whose history was given from their origins up to the most recent present time, entitled Antiquité(s), Fleur des antiquités, Histoires or Mémoires historiques. Poldo d'Albenas comes within the scope of a historiographic tradition in which "antiquité" (in other words ancientness), humanism and history entertain subtle and close connections. In the case of Nîmes, its "antiquité" was well established: the city could be proud of a prestigious past, for the Roman imperial power had endowed it with an extremely remarkable urban unity. The amphitheater, almost intact, and many other monumental vestiges remained (Maison Carrée, Tour Magne, "temple de la Fontaine", acqueducts...). The Emperor Antoninus was born there. But Poldo is set apart from the other historians by the space he granted to monumental Roman architecture. The plans of the city, in this case the orientated plan of the antique enclosure and the high view point of the modern city, with an enhanced view of the antique edifices of the city, clear of all intruding construction, and far off the pont du Gard, are presented for the first time at the beginning of a work of this type published in France. The large format of the book (in folio) made for perfect legibility. The four chapters devoted to the Maison Carrée (XVI), the temple called "de la Fontaine" (XVII), the Tour Magne and the pont du Gard (XVIII), as well as to the amphitheater (XXII), are accompanied by engravings interspersed among the pages and paginated captions. The man from Nîmes shows a completely remarkable architectural culture for an expert in antiquities during the Renaissance: he quotes Vitruvius, Alberti and Philandrier. And he is not simply a bookworm; he himself measured the enclosure of his birthplace, surveyed its site, studied the principal monuments on the ground. He was as fascinated by ruins as was his father, a first consul who had preserved numerous vestiges by installing them at the Porte de la Couronne, an achievement appreciated by the well-informed Italian expert in antiquity Gabriele Symeoni.
Frédérique Lemerle (Centre national de la recherche scientifique,
H. Baudrier, Bibliographie lyonnaise : recherches sur les imprimeurs, libraires, relieurs et fondeurs de lettres de Lyon au XVIe siècle, 9, Lyon/Paris, Brun/Picard, 1912, pp. 52-53, 258.
Dictionnaire des Lettres françaises, Le XVIe siècle, Paris, Fayard, 2001, p. 42 (1st ed.: Paris, 1951).
P. Gros, "La ‘Maison Carrée’ de Palladio", R. Chevallier (éd.), Présence de l'architecture et de l'urbanisme romains: Hommage à Paul Dufournet, Paris, Les Belles Lettres, 1983, pp. 179-193.
F. Lemerle, "Jean Poldo d'Albenas (1512-1563), un antiquaire ‘studieux d'architecture’", Bulletin monumental, 160-2, 2002, pp. 163-172.
F. Lemerle, La Renaissance et les antiquités de la Gaule, Turnhout, Brepols, 2005, pp. 51-81.
F. Lemerle, « La réception des antiquités nîmoises (1500-1650) », V. Krings & F. Pugnière (eds.), Nîmes et ses Antiquités. Un passé présent. XVIe-XIXe siècle, Bordeaux, Ausonius, SA 53, 2013, pp. 73-88.