Author(s) Colonna, Francesco
Martin, Jean
Title Hypnerotomachie, ou Discours du songe de Poliphile...
Imprint Paris, J. Kerver, 1554
Localisation Besançon, Bibliothèque municipale, 8667
Subject Architecture, Gardens
Transcribed version of the text


     When the printer Kerver reprinted Jean Martin's translation of the Songe de Poliphile, which had first come out in 1546, it was proof of its success and supplied the definitive fate of the work.  This reprint is linked to the success of the translation which "naturalized" Poliphile and assimilated it into French taste.  It was the sign that it had become a classic, that Colonna's illustrations had entered fully into the imaginary: they furnished models for royal entries, slipped into Rabelais' writing, and lent themselves to alchemical interpretations, no doubt forced, in relation to the work's first intentions.
The book itself is almost identical to the 1546 edition: the same sort of typographical formating, the same text, the same woodcuts.  Nevertheless, on folio 12 v°, the proportional diagram of the garden gate was modified.  The elements of the order, pedestals, columns, capitals and entablature, appear from then on, the construction grid of the proportions was simplified, and a text in the margin states that "les lignes ou sont les ronds, sont selon l’antique : & tous les autres sont suyvant le texte de l’autheur", all of which could indicate that an architect had reexamined and re-engraved the plate.  Between 1546 and 1554, French awareness of the realities of antique architecture had advanced.
The introductory remarks are slightly different, and not entirely trifling.  Indeed, this edition, as well as the following one of 1561, has on the back of the title page a comment in Latin by Jacques Gohory, addressed to the reader.  In a few lines it delivers elements of commentary on the text which would orient its readers for quite a long time.  In it Gohory "reveals" the author's name in the acrostic already known from the first letters of the chapters, Poliam Frater Franciscus Columna peramavit.  But he would make this Colonna a member of the grand Roman family opposed to the Orsinis (ex ea (opinor) illustri gente quae cum Vrsiis aeternas inimicitias gerit, "of this illustrious family (in my opinion) which pursues eternal quarrels with the Orsinis"), a theory which was to keep the attribution debate going for centuries.  Then, he presents the text rather correctly as a linguistic and scholarly unique example: stilus est novus, ad eo forte hoc pacto excogitatus, et ex Graecae, Latinae, Hetruscaeque linguae temperie quadam conflatus("the style is new, precisely thought out by the author in that way, and forged out of a sort of mixture of Greek, Latin and Italian").  Lastly, he clearly makes this text a book "with secrets", a theory which, again, was to generate innumerable interpretations which would keep alive what one could call the mythology of the book: quae arcana sub his architecturae et cerimoniarum involucris tegantur, vulgo non sciri reip. interesse aiunt("it is said that it is to the advantage of cultured people that noone know in the vernacular [or "in a widespread way"] which secrets are covered by these envelopes of architecture and ceremonies").
Lastly, Gohory puts forward the Chevalier de Malte, who apparently made a first translation of the novel, reread by Gohory who then entrusted it to Jean Martin.  This established the individual in the history of the text and gave complete legitimacy to his later comments, thanks to the argument that he was the first to read it (Delinearat primum eques Meltensis vir ingenio facili cultoque, ac me ut accurate legerem vehementer rogaverat, "a knight from Malta, a cultured and talented man, had first marked out the main themes [of the text] and had insistently asked me to read the book carefully").
This small text, characteristic of this edition in relation to the preceding one, probably created and determined the ways of understanding the novel.  These ways were beginning to become clear and to become a sort of obligatory interpretation, one which would not be refuted for centuries.

Martine Furno (Université Stendhal Grenoble 3,
Centre d’études en rhétorique, philosophie et histoire des idées, ENS LSH Lyon)- 2009


Critical bibliography

F. Colonna, Le songe de Poliphile, translation by Jean Martin (1546), presented, transliterated and annotated by G. Polizzi, Paris, Éditions de l’Imprimerie nationale, 1994.

M. Furno, Une "fantaisie" sur l’Antique : le goût pour l’épigraphie funéraire dans l’Hypnerotomachia Poliphili de Francesco Colonna, Geneva, Droz, 2003.

G. Goebel, "Poliphile ancêtre du fantastique ?", Lendemains, 2003, 28, 110-111, pp. 21-26.

L. Lefaivre, Leon Battista Alberti’s Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. Re-Cognizing the Architectural Body in the Early Italian Renaissance, Cambridge (Mass.)/London, MIT Press, 1997.

M. Lorgnet, Jean Martin translateur d’emprise, Bologna, Editrice CLUB, 1994.

G. Polizzi, "Poliphile ou les combats du désir", H. Brunon (ed.), Le jardin, notre double, Paris, Autrement. Série Mutations, 1999, 184, pp. 81-100.