Author(s) De l’Orme, Philibert
Title Nouvelles inventions pour bien bastir...
Imprint Paris, F. Morel, 1561
Localisation Paris, Ensba, Masson 643
Subject Carpentry


     The Nouvelles inventions pour bien bastir et a petits frais was the first book published by Philibert De l’Orme, in 1561. The death of Henri II in 1559 had been a catastrophe for the architect. Among other tribulations, he had lost most of his responsibilities in the royal building projects, being superseded by Primaticcio, but at the same time he gained the leisure time which allowed him to begin writing a vast treatise on all the elements of architecture. The Nouvelles inventions is only a part of that work, published, according to the author, at the pressing demands of his friends. He affirms frequently that it must take its place in an Architecture whose first volume would be published in 1567.
"Il y a bien du bon dans le livre de Philibert de Lorme, particulièrement lorsqu’il parle du trait pour la coupe des pierres, et de sa nouvelle manière de bâtir à peu de frais", wrote François Blondel in 1673 in his notes in the Architecture françoise des bastiments particuliers by Louis Savot. The architect’s reputation had in fact been maintained essentially thanks to his technical relevance ; Philibert was among the very first treatise authors to be very much interested in the material aspects of construction. It was in fact an entirely personal point of view on architecture, but it was also a way to distinguish himself overtly from the contemporary Italian trattatistica.
Here De l’Orme treats the use of wood, without writing a book on carpentry. His purpose is both more limited and more original: it is a matter of presenting a new technique which consists of replacing beams and joists with fittings of small pieces of wood brought together in weight-bearing structures, roofs or floors, similar to stones in an arch. Philibert proudly claims this as his invention, presenting every advantage: compensating for the lack of big trees, opening up attics by eliminating all the more traditional elements which take up space in the usual frameworks, facilitating maintenance, for it is easier and less expensive to replace one small defective element than to replace a whole roof, and the edifice would last longer. Besides, the author asserts that this assembling system based on standardised pieces allows one to cover wide areas that are impossible under the ordinary method, limited by the length of the beams. Thus De l’Orme raises the possibility of bridging rivers with a single arch, 400 meters long! He presents prodigious projects, a great royal "basilique" or a convent for the nuns at Montmartre which anticipate the great contemporary projects. However it is not a question of a utopia. The architect alludes to several buildings which he covered according to his technique in the royal construction projects, at Anet, Fontainebleau La Muette and Saint-Germain. Today they have all disappeared, but the "charpente à la Philibert De l’Orme" was nonetheless very successful, in France, in Europe, even in the United States. Its good fortune points out the interest of the Nouvelles inventions, which was in fact the first real technical treatise published during the Renaissance. It was repeated in the "complètes" editions of the Architecture, in which it makes up books X and XI, concluding the work.

Yves Pauwels (Centre d’études supérieure de la Renaissance, Tours) – 2005

Critical bibliography

F. Aubanton, « Les charpentes à la Philibert De l’Orme en région Centre-Val de Loire : état des lieux et perspectives », F. Lemerle & Y. Pauwels (ed.), Philibert De l’Orme, un architecte dans l’histoire. Arts, sciences, techniques, Turnhout, Brepols, 2016, pp. 219-229.

A. Blunt, Philibert de l’Orme, Paris, Julliard, 1963.

J. M. Bryan, "Le développement de la charpente à la Philibert De L’Orme aux États-Unis", Le bois dans l’architecture, Paris, Direction du Patrimoine, 1995, pp. 107-111.

F. Lemerle & Y. Pauwels, Architectures de papier. La France et l’Europe, suivi d’une bibliographie des livres d’architecture (XVIe-XVIIe siècles), Turnhout, Brepols, 2013, pp. 71-82.

M. Morresi, "Philibert de l’Orme. Le patrie della lingua", in A. Blunt, Philibert de l’Orme, Milan, Electa, 1997, pp. 159-193.

V. Nègre, « La contribution des artisans aux perfectionnements de la charpente à la Philibert De l’Orme au XVIIIe siècle », F. Lemerle & Y. Pauwels (ed.), Philibert De l’Orme, un architecte dans l’histoire. Arts, sciences, techniques, Turnhout, Brepols, 2016, p. 231-242.

J.-M. Pérouse de Montclos, L’architecture à la française. Du milieu du XVe siècle à la fin du XVIIIe siècle, Paris, Picard, 2011 (1st ed.: Paris, 1982).

J.-M. Pérouse de Montclos, Introduction to Philibert De l’Orme, Traités d’architecture, Paris, Laget, 1988, pp. 43-44.

J.-M. Pérouse de Montclos, "Les éditions des traités de Philibert De L’Orme au XVIIe siècle", J. Guillaume (ed.), Les traités d’architecture à la Renaissance, Paris, Picard, 1988, pp. 355-366.

J.-M. Pérouse de Montclos, "La charpente à la Philibert De l’Orme. Réflexions sur la fortune des techniques en architecture (XVIe-XVIIe siècles)", J. Guillaume (ed.), Les chantiers à la Renaissance, Paris, Picard, 1991, pp. 27-50.

J.-M. Pérouse de Montclos, Philibert De l’Orme Architecte du roi (1514-1570), Paris, Mengès, 2000.