BOOKS ON ARCHITECTURE
|| Androuet du Cerceau, Jacques
|| Paris, B. Prévost, 1559
|| Paris, Ensba, Masson 647
Androuet du Cerceau the Elder, architect, drawer, engraver and editor,
at first settled in Orleans as head of an engraving workshop, published
his first works from 1540 to 1550, the Petites habitations
(c. 1540) and the Moyens temples (1550). In these two collections
of engraved plates, he had assembled architectural inventions in no
particular order and with no educational plan in mind. At the end of
the 1550s, he organized much more methodically an editorial project
of an entirely different intellectual and commercial impact. In 1559,
he published a first Livre d'architecture, adding a supplement
in 1561, the Second livre d'architecture. Then, after having
finished the edition of the Plus excellents bastiments de France
(1576-1579), an anthology without its equal at that time in Europe,
he completed the series of the books of models in 1582, publishing a
third Livre d'architecture.
Livre contains fifty models of residences (the third Livre,
thirty-eight) for all classes of society and for all pocketbooks. The
designs are progressively classified according to the cost of their
construction: the collection is organized according to an economic logic.
It is the general measurements which govern the sequence of the models,
the development of the plan and not the building's footprint, which
explains the apparently random order of certain plates. As for the Second
livre, it proposes the motifs useful for the decoration of the
interior and exterior parts of the houses, appropriate for combining
with the models of the first and the third Livre.
practical books. They are small in format, to be easily carried by the
client to the building site. In each one, the introduction is purposely
brief, puts forth its aim and the way to use it. The etching plates
(a technique in which du Cerceau excelled) give the plan and elevation
in plane view or in bird's eye view, and, more rarely, sectional elevations
or floor plans, on the same leaf for the small models and on several
leaves for the large ones. The distribution is carefully elaborated
and labelled: captions allow one to follow it in its variety at the
different levels. The text enclosed with the drawing comments on the
model technically. The description of the house is metrological, the
only kind that would interest the mason and the owner, both careful
to keep costs down. The topographical data differ according to the books.
These data are practically nonexistent in the first Livre;
most of the models are atopic since they are removed from the ground.
Except for the first plates, obviously small urban houses, it is necessary
to refer to the text to know whether the house is destined to be built
in town or in the country. In the third Livre, on the other
hand, the topographical program is clearly set forth. All the suggested
models are to be built in the country; moreover they are "situated"
in the middle of a garden.
d'architecture are intended for the widest audience possible. The
range of models is restricted, utopia is held to prosaic limits, except
for the last models of the first Livre, and even more for those
of the third. To be accessible to all, the books were written in French.
However, the captions of the first Livre are in Latin which
allowed du Cerceau to reuse the coppers for the Latin edition, intended
for the international clientele.
Livre had an avowed aim. Du Cerceau – apparently impressed
and influenced by the demonstrative rigor of the manuscript of Serlio's
Book VI (1547/54) – wanted to take advantage of that
moment of doctrinal effervescence to be part of the editing world at
the right moment, communicate a new strength to French architecture,
warn possible competitors and eliminate foreign architects from the
national market. He declared it in these terms in his dedication to
the king. He had in his sights Serlio and his handwritten treatise,
which could at that date always be published. The 1582 Livre
came out in similar circumstances. But, beyond his commercial interests,
du Cerceau also defended scientific objectives, the heuristic activity
of the drawing- and notably of the design in perspective.
models proposed in the Livres d'architecture are not the pure
fruit of the author's imagination. Beneath this exercise of a variation
on the theme of the residence appear principles of composition allowing
one to locate groupings of shapes. On the one hand du Cerceau invents
according to principles of composition particular to each of the two
collections; on the other hand he makes a model of the real. Androuet,
one of the best connoisseurs of architecture of his time, uses the documentation
gathered locally or from architects and owners, to work out his models,
quoting it or interpreting it. There is not a plate in the Livres
in which one does not find a reference to the past and at the same time
new suggestions. The client who could find in such a model the obviously
up-to-date comfortable study, covered by a dome at the top
of the stairs, the pride of the neighboring manor house, or else, near
the fireplace, the placing of the bed identical to his grandfather's
in the family château, was truly convinced that this Livre
was going to be indispensable to him. And, as a matter of fact these
two works had considerable success, as can be seen by their presence
in all the good libraries of the 16th and 17th century gentlemen which
still remain in existence. It is necessary to go back to the Livres
d'architecture to understand how they were used and interpreted.
They nourished the imaginations of owners and builders, architects and
masons for a long time.
Françoise Boudon (Centre national de la
recherche scientifique, Paris) – 2004
J. Androuet du Cerceau, Les trois livres d’architecture :
Paris, 1559, 1561, 1582, (facsimile edition), Ridgewood N. J.,
Gregg Press Inc., 1965.
J. Androuet du Cerceau, Les plus excellents bastiments de France...,
D. Thomson (ed.), Paris, Sand & Conti, 1988 (documentary chronology
and general bibliography, pp. 310-316).
F. Boudon, "Les livres d’architecture de Jacques Androuet
du Cerceau", J. Guillaume (ed.), Les traités d’architecture de la
Renaissance, Paris, Picard, 1988, pp. 367-396.
H. von Geymüller, Les Du Cerceau. Leur vie et leur œuvre
d’après les nouvelles recherches, Paris/London,
Rouam/Wood & Co, 1887.
D. Thomson, Renaissance Architecture. Critics Patrons Luxury,
Manchester/New York, Manchester UP, 1993.
D. Thomson, "Les trois Livres d’architecture
de Jacques Ier Androuet Du Cerceau, à Paris en 1559, 1561 et
1582", S. Deswarte-Rosa (ed.), Sebastiano Serlio à
Lyon. Architecture et imprimerie Lyon, Mémoire Active, 2004,