Author(s) Jousse, Mathurin
Title Le secret d’architecture...
Imprint La Flèche, G. Griveau, 1642
Localisation Paris, Ensba, Les 1251
Subject Stereotomy
Transcribed version of the text


     The Secret d’architecture by Mathurin Jousse, the first treatise entirely devoted to stereotomy, appeared in La Flèche in 1642 with a letter dedicating it to Urbain de Maillé-Brézé. As the royal privilege granted for the edition was dated 1635, we are led to believe that the author had achieved the essential part of his work several years before it came out. This delayed still further the publication of Father François Derand’s new treatise L’architecture des voûtes, in which the Jesuit expressed his exasperation at having been left behind by his competitor, as well as his criticisms.
The Brouillon project d’exemples d’une manière universelle... touchant la practique du trait à preuve pour la coupe des pierres by the eminent theoretician Girard Disargues had already come out in 1640, and in 1643 Abraham Bosse published La pratique du trait à preuve pour la coupe des pierres. This flowering of works published in a short period proves the interest in theoretical and technical mastery of stonecutting, a particularity of that "architecture à la française" described by Jean-Marie Pérouse de Montclos. The choice of the word "secret" well expresses Jousse’s ambition to finally to define scientifically what had heretofore belonged to the building sites.
For a long time Jousse’s work had allowed one to believe that he had acted as a builder, since the 1635 royal privilege qualifies him as "ingénieur et architecte de la ville de La Flèche". From François Le Boeuf’s recent research, particularly in the notarial archives, one can conclude that there was nothing to it. His professional activity was that of a locksmith, a term meant to be taken very widely as inventor and technician in iron works, as much in construction as in daily life (wheel chairs, arm and leg protheses), but also as a manufacturer of figurines and an engraver. The inventory written after his death amply shows his inventive mind. A Renaissance man, Jousse was curious about science and techniques; he possessed scientific instruments, some he made himself, and a rich library in which there were many books of arithmetic, geometry and astronomy. A precursor of the Encyclopédie, he wanted to promote mechanical arts in practical treatises nourished by his experience and his encounters.
This native of La Flèche, born around 1575, buried March 17, 1645 in the Saint-Thomas cemetery, practiced his activities of "maître serrurier" and "marchand" bringing him affluence and a good reputation. His son, named Mathurin like him (1602-1672), practiced the trade of master silversmith. La Flèche was then an influential center of art and culture, because the Collège des Jésuites (founded in 1603 by Henri IV) took a long time to build, and because of the teaching of the Fathers.
Jousse kept up relations with Father Étienne Martellange who came to the site several times and provided the famous architect with his talents as engraver in illustrating his French translation of La perspective positive de Viator in La Flèche (1626, 1635). Jousse also met François Derand, a pupil at the college between 1613 and 1615, and then mathematics teacher there between 1618 and 1621. In the large college church, one work has attracted much attention by the elegance of its complex stereotomy, the organ loft. It has frequently been attributed to Jousse or to Derand, but François Le Boeuf was able to identify it as the work of Jacques Nadreau, a master stone worker from La Flèche who signed the contract in 1637. As for Jousse, he carried out several jobs of large and small locksmithing for the college and for the town (repair of the large clock on the Saint-Thomas bell tower).

Jean-Pierre Babelon (Institut, Paris) – 2006

Critical bibliography

H.-L. Baudrier, Bibliographie lyonnaise : recherches sur les imprimeurs, libraires, relieurs et fondeurs de lettres de Lyon au XVIe siècle, Paris, de Nobele, 1964, 1, p. 244.

F. Le Bœuf, "Mathurin Jousse, maître serrurier à La Flèche et théoricien d'architecture (vers 1575-1645)", In situ, 1, 2001.

P. Le Bœuf, "La Bibliothèque de Mathurin Jousse : une tentative de reconstitution", In situ, 1, 2001.

E. Pasquier & V. Dauphin, Imprimeurs et libraires de l’Anjou, Angers, Société anonyme des éditions de l’Ouest, 1932, pp. 311-326.

É.-C. Pecquet, "Mathurin Jousse, architecte et ingénieur de la ville de La Flèche au XVIIe siècle", Cahiers Fléchois, 6, 1984, pp. 28-41.

J.-M. Pérouse de Montclos, L’architecture à la française, XVIe, XVIIe, XVIIIe siècles, Paris, Picard, 1982, pp. 96-99.

R.-A. Weigert, Inventaire du Fonds Français. Graveurs du XVIIe siècle..., Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, 5, 1968, "Jousse (Mathurin)", pp. 615-617.