Freitag, Adam

Title Architectura militaris nova et aucta...
Imprint Leiden, B. & A. Elzevir, 1631
Localisation Zurich, ETH Bibliothek, RAR 94189
Subject Military architecture
Transcribed version of the text


          Soon after its publication in 1631 the treatise Architectura Militaris Nova et aucta, Oder Newe vermehrte Fortification by Adam Freitag was perceived as one of the fundamental contributions to the theory of fortification of his generation. The book by ‘le célèbre Fritach’ ran to eight editions, four in German (1631, 1635, 1642, 1665) and four in French (1635, 1640, 1657, 1668). The last was still almost identical with the German editio princeps by the esteemed Leiden publishing house of Bonaventura and Abraham Elsevier. The principles explained in the book, also referred to as ‘Freytags Manier’, in fact displayed the general and standardized Old-Netherlands system of fortification, with which the author had become acquainted in the Leiden circle of military engineers. This system influenced engineers in their designs of fortifications all over Europe – from the Netherlands to Poland and Scandinavia, and from England to Portugal – and a number of settlements in (mostly Dutch and Portuguese) colonies in Africa, Asia and the Americas. In this case theory and practice, in a way, were reciprocal: Freitag’s book helped to codify and propagate the Dutch system and in its turn the success of the fortifications actually built according to this method made his book sought after.
          Adam Freitag (also Freytag(as), Fritag, or Fritach; 1608-1650) was born in the Polish city of Thoruń as the son of a mathematician of the same name, who was a teacher at the city Gymnasium. At an early age his mathematical skills were noticed and stimulated by the astronomer and mathematician Jan Brożek (Joannes Broscius) from Kraków, a close friend of Nicolaus Copernicus. After studying with the help of a grant in Frankfurt (Oder) in 1625, Freitag left for the Dutch Republic. He joined the army of the Stadholder Prince Frederik Hendrik of Nassau, most likely as a military engineer. His Dutch years proved to be decisive for his further career. First he took part in the Prince’s siege of ‘s-Hertogenbosch (Bois-le-Duc) in 1629, a victorious capture legendary for its gigantic hydraulics and military earthworks. The payment from this enabled Freitag then to study medicine at the University of Leiden, where he took a doctoral degree in 1632. By this time he must also have been occupied with fortification, for in the previous year the book on this subject that would make him famous had appeared. Therefore it is very likely that he had taken courses at the internationally renowned Leiden education institute for military engineers and land surveyors, the Duytsche Mathematique. In any case, Freitag’s book comprised a theory of fortification that was fully in accord with the teaching of this establishment. It is suggested that Freitag also was present at the siege of Maastricht in 1632. Two years before his doctorate and a year before Architectura Militaris Freitag had published another, though minor work, Neu und Alter Schreib Calender auff das Jahr [...] 1630 (Wroclaw, Baumann, [1629]), that was also published as Prognosticon Astrologicum Oder Practica über die Revolution dieses Jahres [...]. This almanac with all sorts of practical suggestions for the coming year based on astronomical and astrological predictions demonstrates his solid knowledge in this field. The dedication of this booklet to the city council of Thoruń shows how Freitag stayed in close contact with his place of birth. In 1633 the tempestuous Polish Prince Janusz Radziviłł (1612-1655) revisited Leiden, the university town where he had studied in 1631 on his Grand Tour through Germany and the Netherlands. On this occasion he recruited Freitag to become both his lifetime personal physician and his adviser in matters of military engineering. At the side of Radziviłł’s Freitag fought in the Smolensk War (1632-1634). In these years Freitag assessed the designs by Gdańsk engineers for the new fortifications of Thoruń. When his employer became governor of Vilnius for the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Freitag followed him and settled at his court in Kiejdany. In this Calvinist milieu and in a region where the Catholic Church expanded its influence rapidly, the Lutheran Freitag died at the age of forty-two. A first biographical sketch was given by Szymon Starowolski in 1655.
          Many copies of the eight editions of Freitag’s fortification theory can still be found in libraries all over Europe. The publishers Bonaventura and Abraham Elzevier in Leiden must have cooperated closely with Freitag himself for the original German edition of 1631. They issued reprints in 1635 and 1642, as well as a French translation by Toussaint Quinet in 1635. The Amsterdam branch of Daniel Elzevier published another German reprint in 1665. In Paris the book went to three French editions in 1640, 1657 and 1668. The first of these was still printed in Leiden and all three were published and sold by Guillaume de Luynes. Although some library catalogues and older bibliographies also mention editions of 1630, 1639, 1654, 1695 and even 1732, these entries must stem from reading errors.
          The layout of the book over all the editions is remarkably consistent. The in-folio publication comprises 194 text pages in the German edition (179 in the French), together with eight tables summarizing the dimensions, angles and distances between for the ramparts, bastions and ditches, and also has 35 full-page copper engravings containing 185 figures. The text proper is preceded by eight preliminary pages – a rich engraved allegorical title page on which in the figure of Prince Maurits seems to be portrayed as Mars, a dedication to King Wladislaus Sigismund of Poland dated 1 July 1630, the table of contents, a poem in praise of the author by the Dutch scholar, poet and librarian of Leiden University Daniel Heinsius and a printing privilege by the clerk of the States General Cornelis Musch dated 5 August 1630 (4 March 1631 in the French editions). The clear and carefully engraved illustrations were made by the Dutch-Polish printmaker Willem Hondius (ca. 1598-before 1658). The engravings are printed single-sided and are inserted in between the text quires. The last engraving (Mm) is signed. Books 2 and 3 are provided with separate dedications to the counts and city councils of Thoruń (dated 24 July 1630) and Gdańsk (dated 5 August 1630).
          The theory consists of three books that deal in the canonized way with the design of regular fortifications in book one, proceeding with irregular fortifications based on the regular ones, special situations and the outworks in the second book, and closing with the art of siege in the last. Instead of starting with the principles of geometry, Freitag confines himself exclusively to military architecture. A more or less obligatory historical survey is followed by a series of definitions and a useful glossary in French, German, Dutch and Latin. The first book provides the basic theory of fortification. This means the proportional design of regular fortresses from the square to the dodecagonal ground plan and the complex profiles of the earth ramparts and wet ditches, a system developed in the flat and watery Dutch landscape. In the second book the Dutch system, with its characteristic right angles between the bastion flanks and the curtains, was expanded with a catalogue of outworks, such as ravelins, hornworks, crownworks, tenailles and traverses. Freitag also describes the classic irregular ground plans and finally the special case of the citadel. The third book is about siege warfare and the many temporary works executed by engineers and sappers in the field – entrenchments, approaches and the art of mining the fortress and inundating the outer terrain. Special illustrations show bridges, encampments based on classic Roman sources, as well as the tools and constructions of the besieger. The influence of Samuel Marolois’ Fortification ou architecture militaire (The Hague, 1615) is evident. Although Freitag had ample field experience, the only real fortresses that he refers to are those of Antwerp and Heusden in the Southern and Northern Netherlands, and Wesel just across the border in Germany.
          The popularity of Freitag’s book on fortification was no unique phenomenon. In fact many authors in this genre were quite successful and saw their work reprinted many times. The heyday for Dutch books on fortification was in the second and third quarter of the seventeenth century. In fact it had already begun with Simon Stevin’s Sterckten-Bouwingh (Leiden, 1594), followed by the treatise Opera mathematica (The Hague, 1614-1615) by the Leiden mathematician Samuel Marolois and Adriaen Metius’ Maetconstigh-Liniael (Franeker/Leiden, 1626). Freitag can be counted among the second generation, influenced by the instructions at Duytsche Mathematique in Leiden, and his book is quite comparable to those by Nicolaus Goldmann (Leiden, 1643), Andreas Cellarius (Amsterdam, 1645) and Matthias Dögen (Amsterdam, 1647). It is remarkable that all these men came from other countries in the east, respectively from Wrocław (Poland), Neuhausen (Germany) and Drawsko Pomorskie (Pomerania, Poland), whereas the first generation had been dominated by émigrés from France and the Spanish Netherlands. Another notable thing is that these books continued to be used for decades in various countries, while in 1654 the ambitious Dutch military engineer and officer Henrick Ruse already seriously doubted the system. Nevertheless, a Transylvanian nobleman Niclas Bethlen (1642-1716) wrote in his autobiography that he had translated Freitag’s book (i.e. into Latin or Hungarian) (Ottenheym, Jonge 2013, p. 122). Freitag’s system was included in various comparative treatises, such as Alain Manesson Mallet, Les travaux de Mars (Paris, 1671-1672), Leonhard Christoph Sturm, e.g. in Architectura militaris hypothetico eclectica (Nürnberg, 1702) and Johann Heinrich Behr, Die bey den Europäern jetzt übliche Kriegs-Baukunst (Leipzig, 1714). The calculating tables and dimensions given by Freitag served to calibrate the fortification sector by Andreas Alexander, a fascinating device designed for the easy drawing of fortifications to scale, as described in Logometron architecturae militaris, Freitagianae (Arnhem, 1665). Finally, a puzzling edition in relation to Freitag is Compendium Fortificatorium oder Kurtze Anleitung nach heutiger Art Städte und Oerter zu befestigen, meist nach Adam Freytags Architectura militari gerichtet (Schleswig, Holwein, 1660). This unique copy can be ascribed to Adam Olearius (“Zusammengetragen durch Adonis”) and is part of the historical Hollstein/Herberstein Bibliothek, now kept in the University Library of Graz, Austria (shelfmark SOSA Herberstein Bibl. 19099). The full title further mentions a custom made fortification sector or proportional compass (“Proportional Circkel”), that is, according to Freitag – probably copied from Alexander. Another sector, a regular instrument that had been specially adapted for fortification was developed before 1656 by Freitag’s Leiden colleague Nicolaus Goldmann.

Jeroen Goudeau (Radboud University, Nijmegen, NL) – 2015

Critical bibliography

J. Bogdanowski, “De school der oudnederlandse versterkingskunst in Klein-Polen”, Jaarboek Stichting Menno van Coehoorn 1984-1985, pp. 15-48 [esp. p. 19].

S. Bürger, Architectura Militaris: Festungsbautraktate des 17. Jahrhunderts von Specklin bis Sturm, Munich, Deutscher Kunstverlag, 2013, pp. 312-318, 382.

J. Goudeau, Nicolaus Goldmann (1611-1665) en de wiskundige architectuurwetenschap, Groningen, Elchers, 2005 [esp. pp. 93, 95-96, 155-156].

J. Goudeau, “Harnessed Heroes: Mars, the Title-page, and the Dutch Stadtholders”, R. van Leeuwen & V. Manuth (eds.), Portrait Historié [...], in press 2015.

K. Jordan, Bibliographie zur Geschichte des Festungbaues von den Anfängen bis 1914, Marburg, Deutschen Gesellschaft für Festungsforschung e.V., 2003, p. 95.

K. J. C von Landmann, “Freitag, Adam”, Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie, 1878, p. 350.

H. Neumann, “Architectura Militaris”, U. Schütte (ed.), Architektur und Ingenieur: Baumeister in Krieg und Frieden, Ausstellungskataloge der Herzog August Bibliothek 42, Wolfenbüttel, Herzog August Bibliothek, 1984, pp. 281-405 [esp. pp. 365-368].

K. Ottenheym, K. De Jonge (eds.), The Low Countries at the Crossroads: Netherlandish Architecture as an Export Product in Early Modern Europe (1480-1680), Turnhout, Brepols, 2013, p. 222.

E. Paar, “De ‘Nederlandse school’ der fortificatieleer: De theoretische en praktische invloeden op de Portugese militaire architectuur in de zeventiende eeuw”, Bulletin KNOB 97, 1996, 1, pp. 12-23.

M. Pollak, Military Architecture, Cartography & the Representation of the Early Modern European City:A Checklist of Treatises on Fortification in The Newberry Library, Chicago, The Newberry Library, 1991, pp. 48-51.

J. Serczyk, “Adam Freytag (1608-1650): Matematyk i inżynier wojskowy”, M. Biskupa (ed.), Wybitni ludzie dawnego Torunia, Warsaw, Poznan and Toruń, Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe, 1982, pp. 75-80.

S. Starowolski, Monumenta Sarmatarum, Viam universae carnis Ingressorum, Kraków, F. Cezary, 1655, pp. 315-316.