Baldi, Bernardino

Title De verborum Vitruvianorum significatione...
Imprint Augsburg, [Prætorius], 1612
Localisation Einsielden, Bibliothek Werner Oechslin, A04b;513
Subject Vitruvius, Architecture
Transcribed version of the text


After having published the little “libellus” of the Scamilli impares Vitruviani [Lien] in the same year Bernardo Baldi brought out his great work, known in the Vitruvian bibliography as the Lexicon under the very explicit title De verborum Vitruvianorum significatione, sive perpetuus in Marcum Vitruvium Pollionem commentarius… Accedit vita Vitruvii. It is an essentially lexical book in which approximately 430 words are classified alphabetically. Baldi, who demonstrates a profound knowledge of the critical editions of Guillaume Philandrier and of Daniele Barbaro, for his part seems to have wanted to create a glossary comparable, for the De architectura, to the very useful one that Ermolao Barbaro had written on the completion of his Castigationes Plinianæ primæ et secundæ (1492-93), to which he refers moreover rather frequently, as Philandrier had done before him in his Annotationes. More systematic but less complete than his predecessors, because his glossary includes choices, he claims no less, with his title, that he has also written a sort of “commentarius perpetuus”. The affirmation is less excessive than it appears to be, if one assesses the scope of his bibliographical note ; it is certainly an anthology, but very much documented, in which the semantic subject matter greatly surpasses the literal reference. The positioning of the terms retained (book and paragraph) is generally the same as Giocondo’s but he does not take up the supplementary subdivisions adopted by him, then by Barbaro, in book X. On the other hand it maintains most of Giocondo’s corrections, as for example in V, 4, 5, for the names of musical notes (which he transcribes, like all the other words of the same origin, from Greek to Latin) : let us mention only the form “parhupate hypaton” which appears in most of the later editions. He makes every effort to give to each of the terms he examines a precise explanation and where appropriate to emphasize the variations of meaning, even within De architectura with comparative folders which are frequently very large. They include uses and meanings of Greek authors, from Homer to Ptolomey and Plutarch, and authors writing in Latin, from Plautus, Cato, Varro to Suetonius, with multiple quotations from Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger. These quotations do not fall under futile philological pedantry, but tend to trace back the history of a word to its origins. Contemporary scholars since Alberti are all called upon, as well as the work of some humanists like Budé (Annotations aux Pandectes, 1556) and Turnebus (Adversariorum tomi III, 1581) whose lexicographical propositions he examines carefully. Finally he always proposes equivalents in the vernacular, Italian and French in particular, and frequently refers to the usages of his contemporaries and compatriots. Sometimes he recalls the particular meaning given in his period to some Latin words, like “conclave” for example, to designate the meeting place and the meeting itself of the cardinals during the election of a Pope. He also happens, due to his essentially philological training, to commit some blatant mistakes : one of the most notorious is that of the “cæmenta” which he designates carved stones because of etymology (“cædo”), and lashes out strenuously at Philandrier whom he praised fervently on the other hand (In his Vita Vitruvii he spoke of this author and of his work, “longe doctissime”), and who thought rightly they were rubble or ordinary stones. The lack of archeological notations is in fact the great weakness of this book, since contrary to Philandrier, Baldi did not benefit from what he could have or should have seen in the Italian ruins, and as a result the clauses that one notes under the heading “mutulus” (“nec aliter memini observare, tum apud antiquos, cum etiam apud nostrares et neotericos architectos”) are very rare. But overall, and in spite of very insufficient illustrative apparatus (11 line drawings in all) this book, which Giovanni Poleni criticized harshly in his Exercitationes vitruvianæ (1739-1741), marked a decisive stage in the comprehension of the technical terms in De architectura.
The Vita Vitruvii which completes this book, much more developed than the one which begins Philandrier’s Annotationes, assembles in a little more than eight pages the epigraphic elements mentioning some “Vitruvii” whose importance he puts into perspective with good reason while at the same time he posits the existence of a family of architects of this name between the first century B.C. and the first century A.D . in the areas of Verona and Fano. Then he names with comments all the passages of the treatise in which Baldi recalls his career and evokes his training. He also devotes a large part of this text to refute the criticisms which might have been addressed to the old theorist’s work and his faculties of synthesis and conceptualization, bringing justice to those who covered him with praise, such as Philandrier and Turnebo.

Pierre Gros (Paris, Institut de France) – 2023


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