Marolois, Samuel

Title Opera mathematica...
Imprint The Hague, H. Hondius, 1615
Subject Architecture, Geometry, Military architecture, Perspective
Transcribed version of the text


     Marolois’ treatise on fortification printed in 1615 appeared as part of his larger Opera mathematica, a luxurious oblong broadsheet, which was initially published by Hendrick Hondius in The Hague in 1614-1616. The book consisted of six parts, three of which were by Marolois himself, i.e. next to Fortification (part 6) Geometrie and Perspective, respectively part 1 and 2. Parts 3 and 4 together entitled Perspective and part 5 Architectura in fact were reissues of two famous treatises with the same name by Hans Vredeman de Vries (1526-1609). The original prints of De Vries had been engraved anew by Hondius and supplied with a new text by Marolois. Opera Mathematica and Marolois' original works Fortification and Geometrie, as separate books, have come to us through many editions – in French, German, Latin, Dutch and once in an English translation. Being specialized in prints rather than books, the successful publisher and engraver Hendrick Hondius (1573-1650) of The Hague sold his plates and texts of these works to Johannes Janssonius (Arnhem 1588-Amsterdam 1664) after the first edition. The printer, publisher and mapmaker Janssonius in Amsterdam was technically capable of reissuing the books, for which proved to be a great demand. Janssonius was connected to the Hondius firm by his marriage in 1612 to Hendricks' sister Elisabeth. All editions of Opera Mathematica were reprinted by Janssonius in Amsterdam: French editions appeared in 1614, 1617, 1628, 1638-1639, 1644-1647 and 1662; German editions came out in 1628 and 1639 with Latin editions in 1633 and 1649 and a Dutch edition in 1651. Fortification was part of this publication, but like Geometrie was sold separately. In 1627 Opera Mathematica was revised by the brilliant mathematician Albert Girard (1595-1632) a French Protestant refugee who also translated Stevin and was probable responsible for the first use of the term 'sinus' in print, in the Geometrie. The revisions were maintained in all later editions and were printed in italics, thus being recognizable as later additions. More revisions were added in 1628 by Theodor Verbeeck (geometry) and Frans van Schooten (fortification). In 1662 the reissuing of Marolois’ books more or less abruptly came to an end. This probably had to do with the severe economic recession the Republic had to deal with from these years on. This had its immediate effect on Dutch book production.
     For most of his prints and the title pages of his book editions, Hendrick Hondius worked with artists who were highly skilled as engravers and at the same time demonstrated an individual hand. This is the case with the Marolois title pages, not necessarily with the generally mere instructional engravings in the books that were executed by less skilled engravers in the publisher’s shop. The auricular title cartouche on the oblong title page of Opera mathematica is surrounded by four antique personalities at work in their respective disciplines of geometry (as branch of mathematics), perspective (astronomy), fortification (physics of warfare) and architecture – Euclid, Vitellius, Archimedes and Vitruvius. Although original in iconography and well detailed, this narrative title page attributed to Andries Stock is surpassed in dramatic expression by Simon Frisius' title page for Fortification. Here a naked Mercury and plumed helmeted Bellona are leaning in a dynamic triangular composition full of contrast amidst piled weaponry and defeated enemies, consulting a book on fortification theory. The actual title cartouche is Bellona's shield.
     It would be of interest to further determine exactly the many editions of his works, his relation to the publishers Hendrick Hondius and Johannes Janssonius, the work of the artist Vredeman de Vries and the curriculum of the engineering school Duytsche Mathematique. Proofs of the actual application of Marolois' books, for example in Denmark, are still to be found. Nevertheless, the importance of Samuel Marolois for architectural history is determined by his high quality book publications that gained even more interest after his death and reached beyond the borders of the Dutch Republic. These were in great demand and covered more or less the range of subjects dealt with in architecture, fortification and engineering and summarized the state of knowledge of his time.

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

Critical bibliography

S. Bürger, Architectura Militaris: Festungsbautraktate des 17. Jahrhunderts von Specklin bis Sturm, Munich, Deutscher Kunstverlag, 2013, pp. 277-181.

K. Jordan, Bibliographie zur Geschichte des Festungbaues von den Anfängen bis 1914, Marburg, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Festungsforschung e.V., 2003, pp. 168-170.

J. A. van Maanen, Facets of Seventeenth Century Mathematics in the Netherlands, Diss., Utrecht 1987, pp. 6-12.

P. C. Molhuysen, Bronnen tot de geschiedenis der Leidsche universiteit 1574-1811, 7 vols, 1913-1924, vol. 2: 8 Febr. 1610-7 Febr. 1647, ’s-Gravenhage, Martinus Nijhoff, 1916, pp. 43*-44*, 67*-68*.

N. M. Orenstein, Hendrick Hondius and the Business of Prints in Seventeenth-Century Holland, Studies in Prints and Printmaking 1, Rotterdam, Sound & Vision Interactive, 1996, esp. pp. 106-121; cat. nos. 629, 631-633.

E. Taverne, In t land van belofte: in de nieue stadt: Ideaal en werkelijkheid van de stadsuitleg in de Republiek 1580-1680, Maarssen, G. Schwartz, 1978, ch. 3.

C. de Waard, “Marolois (Samuel)”, P. C. Molhuysen and P. J. Blok (eds.), Nieuw Nederlandsch Biografisch Woordenboek, 10 vols, 1911-1937, vol. 2, Leiden, A. W. Sijthoff, 1912, pp. 873-875.