Author(s) Serlio, Sebastiano
Coecke, Pieter
Title Generale reglen der architecturen...
Imprint Anvers, P. Coecke, 1539
Localisation Paris, Ensba, Masson 1258-3
Subject Orders
Transcribed version of the text


     In 1539, two years after Serlio’s Regole generali di architectura came out in Venice, and even before the Terzo libro was published, Pieter Coecke published the first translation of this book, essential for the history of European architecture. Serlio, mentioned only in the colophon, had not given his consent, and he would complain about this “pirating” in the second edition of the Quarto libro in 1540. There are several differences compared with the original version: a few passages were cut out, while Coecke added annotations indicated with asterisks, as well as a depiction of two variations of the Doric capital with a plan (f. E1), taken from the Inventie der colommen that he published the same year, an illustration that does not appear in the 1542 French translation. At the end of the book, he replaced the coats of arms, too specifically Italian, with an alphabet of Roman capital letters, probably more useful in lands which were still accustomed to using Gothic letters for inscribing monuments.
The book was not dedicated to a specific person. In two preliminary parts Coecke’s words are intended for lovers of architecture and readers. One had to wait for the French version to see a dedication to Mary of Hungary, all of which leads one to believe that with this book in Dutch, the publisher was aiming first and foremost at a bourgeois clientele at the same time that he was addressing masons with the Inventie, the princess’ court being mainly French-speaking. In the same spirit, the headword in Latin written by Cornelis Schryvers, also known as Cornelius Graphius, appeared in a Flemish translation on the same page, which was not the case in 1542. Schryvers, the secretary of the city of Antwerp, also collaborated with Coecke for the descriptive booklet of the ceremonial entry of Charles V and Philip II of Spain in 1549. His text is interesting, for it specifies that the book is intended for “pictores, statuarii, architecti” as well as “latomi” and “fabri”, not only for architects, but also for painters, sculptors, stone masons and artisans in general. In fact, the effect of Pieter Coecke’s Livres III and IV can be measured distinctly in Dutch paintings in the 16th century, in particular in the works of Pieter Aertsen (1508-1575) and his nephew Joachim Beuckelaer (1534-1574), who obtained their architectural settings from them directly.
The 1539 edition is relatively rare. One owner of the present copy at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts took care to enhance the woodcuts of grey wash carefully, which imparts an extremely original depth to them. This edition was republished in 1549, under the title Reglen van metselrijen op de vijve manieren van edificien, with a certain number of variants.

Yves Pauwels (Centre d’études supérieures de la Renaissance, Tours) – 2013

Critical bibliography

K. De Jonge, “Anticse Wercken: la découverte de l’architecture antique dans la pratique architecturale des anciens Pays-Bas. Livres de modèles et traités (1517-1599)”, M.-C. Heck, F. Lemerle & Y. Pauwels (eds.), Théorie des arts et création artistique dans l’Europe du Nord du XVIe au début du XVIIe siècle, Lille, PUL, collection UL3 Travaux et Recherches, 2002, pp. 55-74.

K. De Jonge, “Les éditions du traité de Serlio par Pieter Coecke van Aelst”, S. Deswarte Rosa (ed.), Sebastiano Serlio à Lyon. Architecture et imprimerie, Lyon, Mémoire active, 2004, pp. 263-274.

H. de la Fontaine Verwey, “Pieter Coecke van Aelst and the Publication of Serlio’s Book on Architecture”, Quærendo, 6, 1976, pp. 166-194.

S. Heringuez, “Les peintres flamands du XVIe siècle et les éditions coeckiennes des livres d’architecture de Sebastiano Serlio”, Revue de l’Art, 180, 2013/2, p. 45-52.

W. Kuyper, The Triumphant Entry of Renaissance Architecture into the Netherlands. The Joyeuse Entrée of Philip of Spain into Antwerp in 1549, Renaissance and Manierism Architecture in the Low Countries from 1530 to 1630, Alphen aan den Rijn, Canaletto, 1994.

J. Offerhaus, “Pieter Coecke et l’introduction des traités d’architecture aux Pays-Bas”, J. Guillaume (ed.), Les traités d’architecture de la Renaissance, Paris, Picard, 1988, pp. 443-452.

M. Vène, Bibliographia serliana. Catalogue des éditions imprimées des livres du traité d’architecture de Sebastiano Serlio (1537-1681), Paris, Picard, 2007, pp. 52-53.