Author(s) Savot, Louis
Title L’architecture françoise des bastimens particuliers
Imprint Paris, S. Cramoisy, 1624
Localisation Paris, Ensba, Les 799
Subject Domestic architecture


     The Architecture françoise des bastimens particuliers composée appeared in Paris from the presses of Sébastien Cramoisy in 1624.  At that date the author was described as "médecin du roi".  Not much is known about his life: he was born at Saulieu, towards 1579, and died around 1640.  At the age of twenty he studied medicine in Paris.  Both practitioner and theoretician of medicine, he was also a curious humanist who added reflexions on the best living style of his contemporaries.  We owe his treatise on architecture to these comments.  As François Blondel mentioned, it is natural that doctors should be interested in architecture, Claude Perrault being another example.
The first evidence we have of his activity is the annotated translation of a treatise by Galen on blood letting: Le livre de Galien, de l'art de guérir par la saignée, traduit du grec. Ensemble un Discours dédié à messieurs les médecins de Paris sur les causes pour lesquelles on ne saigne pas encore tant ailleurs qu'à Paris et pourquoy quelques médecins mesme ont détracté de cette pratique de Paris, a volume between 16 and 20 centimeters which came out in Paris printed by Pierre Mettayer in 1603.  He appeared again in 1605, with a degree of bachelor from the medical school, and already showed interest in fitting out residences when he ordered two chimney pieces in colored marble for his house on rue Neuve Notre-Dame, on the Cité. In 1609 a new treatise came out, dedicated to Godefroy de Pontac, De causis colorum sententia, with observations on Hippocrates, De tetragoni... contra chymicos, Paris, printed by Adrien Périer.
No doubt it was a little after 1614 that one must place his Discours sur le subject du colosse du grand roy Henry, posé sur le milieu du Pont-Neuf de Paris... avec un sommaire de la vie de ce grand prince, an opuscule which appeared in Paris at the bookseller's Nicolas de Montroeil.  It was to be reedited at the beginning of the 19th c. by Antoine Laurent Castellan.  Savot's Discours sur les médalles antiques shows that he was also a numismatist. This thick treatise of four hundred pages in a quarto edition was printed in Paris in 1627 at Sébastien Cramoisy's printing shop.  The Bibliothèque nationale has one bound copy with the Condé coat of arms.
In 1624 he published L'architecture françoise des bastimens particuliers.  Very probably he had been thinking about the subject for a long time, and the 1623 publication of Pierre Le Muet's treatise, Maniere de bastir pour toutes sortes de personnes, must have hastened his decision to enter the fray. His competitor was acting as an architect, suggesting a catalogue of classic plans for all pocket-books.  Savot's work has a very different tone.  The "particuliers" whom he addressed are neither princes nor humble folk: no palaces, no small houses, but residences for nobles or the wealthy bourgeoisie, mansions to build in town, in the spacious new sections or else villas "aux champs".
A doctor and therefore a hygienist, Savot advised his clients to construct a house perfect in its comfort and attractiveness, disclosing the best orientation, the best lighting, the best placing and distance from the stables and kitchens to avoid pollution, noise, odors and smoke.  He laid down the law on the location of the stairway, the number of rooms, the placing of the bedrooms and studies, window placement and size, and location of the fireplaces.
In his reeditions, François Blondel observed that the book was written "pour tirer les honnêtes gens des griffes des entrepreneurs et des ouvriers", a note which followed the cruel reproaches addressed to François Mansart in the pamphlet of the Mansarade (1651).  In fact, Savot gave his readers the best way to talk with the different trade entrepreneurs.  He set out a detailed list of expenses to anticipate, the way to estimate costs, the conditions of measuring the constructions, even the description of materials to use: stone, brick, wood, plaster, terra cotta, their dimensions, origins and cost.  Construction had never been approached in such a practical way, a way that allowed a private person to oversee his building site personally.
It is easy to understand the success this precious manual had- it could have been subtitled "Building without Pain".  Dedicated to the ephemeral superintendent of finances Charles de La Vieuville, it was reedited, still without illustrations, in 1642, and its success carried on long after the death of its author.  The architect François Blondel, the first Director of the Académie d'architecture and well-known professor, thought it was advisable to reedit it, proof that it was still useful to clients.  The first reedition was printed in 1673 by François Clousier the Elder, embellished with illustrations and notes by Blondel, (423 pages), and the second in 1685, enlarged with new figures (436 pages). Notes and figures by Blondel, contemporary to his course on architecture, allow us to evaluate the evolution of society's thoughts on the house and the best way to live in it since the preceding generation.

Jean-Pierre Babelon (Institut de France, Paris) – 2006

Critical bibliography

J. Ache, "Techniques de construction et formes architecturales au XVIIe siècle", Revue de la Société d'études du XVIIe siècle, 36-37, 1957, pp. 273-286.

J.-P. Babelon, Demeures parisiennes sous Henri IV et Louis XIII, Paris, Hazan, 1991.

M.-A. Fleury, Documents du minutier central concernant les peintres, les sculpteurs et les graveurs au XVIIe siècle (1600-1650), Paris, SEVPEN, 1969, 1, p. 512.

C. Parkhurst, "Louis Savot's Nova Antiqua Color Theory, 1609", J. Bruyn, J. A. Emmons, E. de Jongh & D. P. Snoep (ed.), Album amicorum J.-G. Van Gelder, The Hague, Nijhoff, 1973, pp. 242-247.

Y. Pauwels, "La bibliographie d’architecture de Louis Savot (1624)", Journal de la Renaissance, 5, 2007, pp. 371-382.

H. Rambach, "Louis Savot, la modernité d’un regard novateur", Europäische numismatische Literatur im 17. Jahrhundert, special issue, 2005, pp. 59-67.