BOOKS ON ARCHITECTURE
Bertin, Dominique (draughtsman)
Epitome ou extrait abrege des dix livres d’architecture de Marc Vitruve Pollion...
|Toulouse, G. Boudeville, 1556/1559 [=1560]
|Toulouse, Bibliothèque interuniversitaire, Pf. XVI. 30
The on-line copy with the ex-libris by André Félibien is the very first and extremely rare edition of the book ; only two other copies are known which have the first section and the title page dated 1556. Difficulties linked among others to the plague delayed the definitive print run and the sale which did not take place until February 20, 1559 (1560, new style). The philologist-antiquarian Jean Gardet translated the book ; Dominique Bertin, the king’s architect, responsible for sending marble to the various royal construction sites, was the illustrator. The book, dedicated to Jean Bertrand, chancellor of France, a native of Toulouse, was explicitly intended for workers. It is divided into two parts : the first part is strictly speaking the concise handbook illustrated with thirty-five copperplates, the second, with pages numbered separately, is attributed to the commentary in the form of annotations, referring only to the first three books, due to editorial eccentricities.
Jean Martin and Jean Goujon’s translation of De architectura from Latin into French was challenged. As their predecessors had wished, Gardet and Bertin wanted to make the Latin and Greek terms accessible to French builders. A precise reading suggests that their project was different from the 1547 Vitruve, for they suggest putting De Architectura in relation with the antique monuments remaining in France. The book seems to have been inspired by the need to reconcile a personal perception of antique architecture derived at least partly from knowledge of the ruins in southern France with the system of classical Vitruvian rules.
The work seems to have been triggered by a need to reconcile personal classical architectural imaginations, derived at least partly from the panorama of ruins in southern France, to Vitruvius’s set of classical precepts. In this sense at least, the immediate textual, visual, and philosophical landscapes in Toulouse, which would have been different from Martin and Goujon’s in Paris, closely informed the new edition. While the Martin and Goujon translation had provided an initial link between the classical architectures of France and Italy, it was with the interpretation of Gardet and Bertin that the association of French antiquities with Roman classical monuments would begin to be connected textually.
Very little is known of the two architects. Their partnership was partly born out of their trips in the Pyrenees. As they mapped and assessed sites, and eventually oversaw shipments of marble to Paris, the two came across ruins scattered throughout the Midi area. Their observations informed their reading of previous translations. With Martin and Goujon’s edition in hand, along with their own work-in-progress on Midi antiquities, it would have been relatively straightforward to identify discrepancies between Vitruvius’s prescriptions and the built realities of Gaul. Among other authors, they mention Guillaume Philandrier and Guillaume Budé, as well as Leon Battista Alberti and Fra Giocondo. The two certainly were influenced by the humanists and especially by Fra Giocondo whose restoration of De architectura was still popular in the 1550s and was the principal one to which they would turn for their translation.
While the translation is presented as a complete document, the annotations remain unfinished, with entries provided for only the first three books. Together, the translation and annotations constitute a bold commentary on previous interpretations of De architectura. The work took considerable time to reach publication, and judging by the errors in the page headers and pagination, the publisher may have been in a rush to print, also in turn explaining the incomplete annotations. From the eighty-seven pages of comments, it is possible to glimpse the thoughts of Gardet and Bertin on Vitruvius, his treatise, their personal classical architectural imaginations, and most certainly, the earlier translation by Martin and Goujon. The annotations begin with a dedication to René de Daillon, bishop of Luçon (pp. 1-4) and a message to the reader (pp. 5-6). One sentence is particularly revealing, where Gardet underscores that “common utility must be preferred over singular affections, and that these issues must be judged by the ways of the severe and incorruptible Athenian areopagites, I agree willingly that my fantasies be placed on the same balance in which I have placed the work of others” (p. 6). Gardet thus acknowledges that a certain amount of imagination influenced his interpretation. The comment reveals a self-awareness of having incorporated “fantasies” in the translation. At the same time, it is ironic that, while admitting to the liberal interpretation of some passages, Gardet repeatedly refers to words in Martin’s text as erroneous. Further, Gardet’s partner uses the drawings provided by the earlier translators as models for his own; the capital and theatre engravings of the Martin and Goujon edition were reversed and only slightly altered for the new book. The two “revised” engravings offer no corrections and, by being transposed and rotated 180 degrees, suggest a deliberate attempt to mask their source.
At first reading, the project of Gardet and Bertin appears to have been prompted by the Martin and Goujon book. The two architects undoubtedly had a very different set of realities in the Midi and aimed to provide their own reading of Vitruvius’s treatise. Aside from purporting to bring the classical treatise closer to a non-Latin readership of architects and builders, Gardet and Bertin may have had other objectives in mind. By underscoring interpretive errors in other versions, they sought authority. They offered a set of annotations that extended well beyond the lexicon-like commentaries of some earlier editions, undertaking what would have been an early version of an apparatus criticus. Gardet and Bertin’s project also may have been precipitated by a need to reconcile their immediate landscapes and architectural ideals with Vitruvius’s set of classical precepts. What Martin and Goujon had not done (directly link the Gallo-Roman landscape to the Roman panorama), Gardet and Bertin would begin to do with their annotations.
After the death of Guyon Boudeville, executed for his Protestant faith in 1562, the remaindered copies were transported to Paris and put up for sale by Gabriel Buon between 1565 and 1568.
Daniel M. Millette (School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture,
University of British Columbia) – 2012
H. Graillot, “Deux architectes-archéologues du XVIe siècle dans le Midi de la France”, REA, 21, 1919, p. 290-294.
F. Lemerle, Les Annotations de Guillaume Philandrier sur le De Architectura de Vitruve, Livres I à IV, Introduction, translation and commentary, Paris, Picard, 2000, pp. 25-27.
J. Mégret, “Guyon Boudeville, imprimeur toulousain, 1541-1562”, BHR, 6, 1945, pp. 210-301.
D. M. Millette, “Vitruvius and the French Landscape of Ruins : On Jean Gardet and Dominique Bertin’s 1559 Annotations of De Architectura”, CHORA V- Intervals in the Philosophy of Architecture, 2007, p. 259-284.
B. Tollon, “L’Epitome de Vitruve par Jean Gardet et Dominique Bertin, à Toulouse en 1559”, S. Deswarte-Rosa (ed.), Sebastiano Serlio à Lyon, Architecture et imprimerie, Lyon, Mémoire Active, 2004, pp. 432-435.
B. Tollon, descriptive note 69 in the exhibition catalog L'humanisme à Toulouse (1480-1580), April 20-May 22, 2004, Toulouse, 2004, p. 88.