BOOKS ON ARCHITECTURE

 

Author(s) Bullant, Jean
Title Reigle generalle d’architecture...
Imprint Paris, J. Marnef & G. Cavellat, 1568
Localisation Paris, Binha, Fol. Res 558
Subject Antiquities, Orders

French

     In 1568 Jean Bullant proposed a second edition of the Reigle. This new version is rather different from the first. The author corrected a few mistakes (the Vitruvian Doric presented in 1564 as the order of the Theater of Marcellus becomes a "dorique selon la doctrine de Vitruve"). Above all he enlarged his book by adding "cinq autres ordres de colonnes", which in fact are variants of those at the beginning of the volume, with more geometrical indications of proportions, to folios C 4 (two Doric orders) E 1 (two Ionic orders) G 1 (two Corinthian orders). Each of these representations is furthermore specified by plates giving details for the Doric (ff. C 4v° and D 1), the Ionic (ff. E 1v° and E 2) and Corinthian entablatures (ff. G 1v° and G 2v°). The initial text, whichdid nothing more than repeat Vitruvius and Alberti, was supplemented with annotations on the plates (ff. C 3v° to D 1v°, E 1 to E 2v°, F 4v° at the end). Finally Bullant announces the copperplates that are not found in any of the copies of this edition, but only in the 1564 Reigle at the Ensba and on this database. Finally, in the margin, were added relevant measurements in feet, inches and lines to the architectural plans of the main antique orders.
These last additions, apparently very minor, are in fact very significant ones from the point of view of Bullant’s method. Indeed, the measurements do not always agree with the plates that they are supposed to supplement. If for the detail of the entablature of the Theater of Marcellus, two similar quarters of a circle, equal in radius to the base of the column, indicate an identical height for the capital and the architrave (in accordance with the Vitruvian text), it is stipulated in the margin that the capital in one foot, five inches and six lines high, and that the architrave measures one foot, five inches and eleven lines. Bullant took the trouble to point out this minor difference, but he eliminated it from the plate, in a way correcting the antique architect’s "mistake" and giving a geometric purity to the theater’s order that it never had. Several other "corrections" of this sort appear in the so-called architectural plans of antique works, corrections that moreover the author does not hide, "Au surplus Messieurs, je vous supplie ne me vouloir imputer à presumption aucune, ceste mienne entreprise, ny m’estimer si temeraire, que de vouloir corriger les inventions & ouvrages antiques : car mon intention ne fust oncques autre, que de faire congnoistre (tant qu’en moy est) les choses qui sont bien ou mal entendues, desirant par ce mien labeur donner occasion aux hommes studieux & mieux exercez en cest art, de nous esclaircir de plus en plus en ceste noble discipline & reigle de Vitruve, nous recueillir tant de belles fleurs, desquelles on void les champs fertilles de ces bons aucteurs estre semez, faire venir en congnoissance de tous une infinité d’autres inventions, qui serviront à la posterité, & ne se point monstrer chiche des dons de grace par eux liberallement receuz, tant de Dieu que de nature".
It is only an apparent paradox if one thinks about the function of this treatise and about pedagogical models as they appeared in the specialized treatises at that time. In fact, Bullant’s priority is not to give an account of architectural reality, but to play a pedagogical role ; he wrote, "au proffit de tous ouvriers besongneux au compas & a l’esquierre", as the title of the work reminds us. The flowers evoked in the text are there to recall this to us: it’s no more than an anthology. From this point of view, the treatise is supposed to provide its readers with models likely to be reused in modern contexts, thus "good" models, which emphasize the supposed regularity of the fine architecture of the Ancients. Bullant says clearly that "qu’[il lui] a semblé convenable de réduire à [son] pouvoir les ordres plus loüez qui se voyent à Rome". We find the verb "réduire" used frequently to speak of the transformation of authors from antiquity into practical manuals : they are "réduits en lieux communs". This reduction takes two forms. On the one hand, the number of vestiges retained is very limited (seven examples), in the same way that from antique literature only a few authors are presented : Cicero, Virgil and Ovid. On the other hand, the attitude of the Moderns about correction in the art of building demands that the models that need it be corrected. From that point of view, Bullant’s Reigle is the perfect equivalent of the collections of "morceaux choisis" for young people, which provided them during the Renaissance with a revised and improved antique culture, "moralisés" Virgils or Ovids which could contribute much more than the originals to the education and moral edification of the pupils. The unexpurgated version of the Ars amandi wasn’t to be recommended to everyone.

Yves Pauwels ( Centre d’études supérieures de la Renaissance , Tours) – 2008

 

Critical bibliography

F.-C. James, Jean Bullant. Recherches sur l’architecture française au XVIème siècle, thesis, École nationale des Chartes, 1968 ; abstract in École nationale des Chartes, Positions de thèses, 1968, pp. 101-109.

Y. Pauwels, "Les antiques romains dans les traités de Philibert De L’Orme et Jean Bullant", Mélanges de l’École française de Rome-Italie et Méditerranée, 106, 1994-2, pp. 531-547.

Y. Pauwels, "Leon Battista Alberti et les théoriciens français du XVIe siècle : le traité de Jean Bullant", Albertiana, 2, 1999, pp. 101-114.

Y. Pauwels, L’architecture au temps de la Pléiade, Paris, Monfort, 2002.

Y. Pauwels, "La fortune de la Reigle de Jean Bullant", Journal de la Renaissance, 3, 2005, pp. 111-119.

Y. Pauwels, "Vitruvianisme et “réduction” architecturale au XVIe siècle", H. Vérin & P. Dubourg-Glatigny (ed.), Réduire an Art. La technologie de la Renaissance aux Lumières, Paris, Éditions de la Maison des sciences de l'homme, 2008, pp. 97-114.