Author(s) Sagredo, Diego
Title Raison darchitecture antique, extraicte de Victruve...
Imprint Paris, S. de Colines, s.d. [1536]
University of Virginia, Douglas H. Gordon Collection, Gordon 1526. S27
Subject Architecture, Orders


     Diego de Sagredo, a humanist from Burgos, was the author of the first book on architecture published during the Renaissance outside of Italy, the Medidas del romano (1526).  This manual, presented as a dialogue between the sculptor Tampeso, working on the decoration of the sepulture of the archbishop of Toledo, and Picardo, a painter from France, in a naïve second role, essentially deals with ornamentation. Here Roman antiquity furnishes a decorative repertoire obviously meant to frame paintings and statues.  The balustrade-column dear to the Spaniards is evoked at length, before bases, columns, capitals and entablatures are described.
The work was rapidly successful in France; the first translation was published with no date by Simon de Colines, under the title Raison darchitecture antique, extraicte de Victruve, et aultres anciens architecteurs.  It was no doubt published in 1536, the date at which Colines adopted a new Roman lower case typeface, the 48-point type, used here.  He provided two other editions in 1539 and in 1542.  These Parisian editions included hitherto unpublished developments in the orders which would be systematically resumed in subsequent editions, including those of the Iberian peninsula. The illustrations were redone for the French version.
With this publication, Colines offered the public the first theoretical text on architecture in French, thus accessible to "ceux qui se delectent en édifices" but above all to all those needing to be acquainted with the forms and the vocabulary of architecture "à l'antique".  This explains the title Raison darchitecture antique, having no connection with the Spanish edition.  In fact it is less a scholarly treatise than a convenient manual with useful illustrations, meant for practical use. The name of Sagredo, which appears only in the heading of the dedication, in accordance with the original, no longer appears on the title page; in fact it did not have the same prestige for the French public that Vitruvius'name had, an indispensable guarantee for the editorial house of Colines.  This explains the added detail "extraicte de Victruve".
Nor is the translator mentioned.  No doubt he was not sufficiently well-known to recommend the book straightaway.  Unlike Jean Martin, he could not pride himself on any title or powerful protector.  He was quite obviously a Frenchman whose knowledge of Spanish was imperfect.  Careless, he forgot words, lines, even whole paragraphs, sometimes attributing two successive answers to the same speaker.  Mistranslations into every-day words even lead to some misinterpretations that are so far off the mark as to be amusing.  The translator isn't acquainted with the River Tanaïs, the former name of the Don, and he identifies it with a certain King Thomas (f. 1)!  He commits the most revealing mistranslation when he invents a "varronian" canon because of confusing the common noun "varon" (the man) with the name of the Latin polygraph Varro (M. Terentius Varro) (f. 6v°). This canon had unhoped-for circulation thanks to Guillaume Philandrier who took it up in his Annotationes on Vitruvius (III, 1, an. 3), but without mentioning his source.  The translator also stumbled over the technical passages.  He didn't understand Sagredo's explanations very well concerning the effects of perspective which impose a different treatment of columns according to their height and their position; thus he left out the entire passage on the process of the refraction of water, an element which reacts like air (f. 19v°). He did not hesitate to cut out certain fundamental precise details on the morphology of columns. Thus the passage on their narrowing at the top of the shaft (f. 18), badly mastered, was shortened a great deal.
At the same time the translation was enriched by additions, which go from a simple gloss and amplification, common during the Renaissance, to the addition of a paragraph, or even a text of several leaves.  The translator also took a stand on the Canon of proportions in proposing in leaf 7 verso an addition sufficiently long to be pointed out as such: this criticism of the pseudo-Varronian canon and of the modern masters, according to which a man's face equals 1/9 of his height and his head equals 1/8, a proportion Vitruvius did not subscribe to and which is arithmetically contradictory, is very interesting.  It allows us to believe in a translator/sculptor, more concerned by this subject than by the Vitruvian-Albertian architectural synthesis of the columns.
But the translator was certainly not the only one to act on the text.  Insofar as he did not appear conversant with Vitruvius' doctrine or the new Italian architectural theory, it is difficult to attribute a certain learned gloss on the Vitruvian vocabulary to him (the Latin equivalent of the molding called "bozel" "thorus"). Must we attribute to Colines the pious additions of which leaf 6 gives a good example?  The considerable addition on the four types of columns and their intercolumniations (ff. 43-48) no doubt inserted at the request of the French book seller anxious to attract French workers, raises many questions.  Who in France could compile this appendix on the four orders which moreover present non-Italian specific details? The name of Philandrier (Marías/Bustamante 1986, pp. 39-40) was put forth, but the humanist was familiar with Vitruvius' text and would not have confused the Tuscan column described by the Roman architect with the composite column.  As for the one responsible for the translation and the illustrations as well as the development of the orders, he was obviously better acquainted with sculpture than with architecture.  Failing a trip to Italy, no doubt he himself went to Spain, as did many of his colleagues, where he acquired an architectural training more modern than the one he could find in France during the same period. The presence of an undecorated frieze in the pedestals of the Corinthian and Tuscan order (in fact composite), extremely rare in Italy but usual in Spain, reinforces the translator's links with the Iberian peninsula ( ff. 45-45v°).  Yves Pauwels has suggested Jean Goujon, who used a pedestal with a frieze for the Corinthian columns of the organ loft of Saint-Maclou.  This is proof that he was acquainted with the Spanish treatise, even if he never mentioned it.  In 1547 there was more prestige for Martin's collaborator in citing Vitruvius, Philandrier or Serlio than Sagredo.
The French version of the Medidas did not merely reinterpret the 1526 engravings.  If the arch in the antique style, used again from leaf 5 verso, keeps the letters and captions, totally incongruous in the circumstances, several plates were inverted (left/right, top/bottom), others simplified or split up.  Others were reworked such as those of the various types of Corinthian-like or composite capitals, all inverted.  Two chapters of the original edition were even completely redesigned.  But the French edition especially stands out through its supplementary engravings.  The didactic concern is obvious: illustrations clarify certain notions (angles, types of triangles), a particular molding (fillet) or decorative motif (a console in the shape of a volute); diagrams illustrate the grooves and flutes of a column or the outline of the Ionic volute, all precious indications for the master masons, sculptors, carpenters and other artisans who were unable to make the trip to Italy but who nonetheless were anxious to have their share of the new architectural culture.  Lastly the plates of the four columns with pedestal add to the illustration concerning the orders.
If it is rare that a translation meets with more success than the original edition, it is also infrequent that it should modify the editions of its country of origin. The development on the orders and the intercolumniations, the considerable number of additional engravings in the editions of Simon de Colines gave the French version of Sagredo's treatise the status of enlarged edition and as such made it a reference for the Iberian editions which were to follow. This is all the more astonishing since the four orders represented, "Tuscan" (in reality composite), Doric, Ionic and Corinthian, had been out of date since the publication by Serlio of his Regole generali di architetura or Quarto libro in 1537.  The book's success proves that Colines was responding to a demand.  At the same period Pieter Coecke published a small treatise of his own devising, Die inventie der columnen (1539), partially inspired by Sagredo's work, probably known in its French version, which he meant for Flemish artisans. In three quarters of a century the Raison darchitecture antique saw six editions, all Parisian.  Other than the three published by S. de Colines one must point out two editions, in 1550 and in 1555.  Cavellat's daughter, Denise, produced the final edition in 1608.
Beyond a shadow of a doubt the work influenced French practices.  One knows that it was put to good use by Goujon in Rouen or for the illustration of Martin's Vitruve.  Other traces can be found at the "Belle Chapelle" of the Abbaye Saint-Pierre de Solesmes.  One fact is sure: in spite of the more recent translations of Serlio, Vignola and Palladio, Sagredo's translation enjoyed an enduring success among French mastercraftsmen and well-read people during the 17th c.  Louis Savot recommended it in his Architecture françoise des bastimens particuliers (1624); François Mansart had a copy of it in his library, as did the great scholar Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc.

Frédérique Lemerle (Centre national de la recherche scientifique,
Centre d'études supérieures de la Renaissance, Tours) – 2011

Critical bibliography

W. B. Dinsmoor, "The Literary Remains of Sebastiano Serlio", The Art Bulletin, 24, 1942, pp. 55-91, 115-154.

F. Lemerle, "Jean Martin et le vocabulaire d'architecture", Un traducteur au temps de François Ier et de Henri II, Cahiers V. L. Saulnier, 16, Paris, PENS, 1999, pp. 113-126.

F. Lemerle, "La version française des Medidas del Romano", F. Marías & F. Pereda (ed.), Medidas del Romano, Diego de Sagredo, Toledo. 1526, Toledo, Pareja, 2000, 2, pp. 93-106.

F. Marías, "El lugar de los Sagredos en la tratadística del Renacimiento", M. del Mar Lozano Bartolozzi & F. M. Sánchez Lomba (ed.), Libros con arte, arte con libros, Junta de Extremadura, Cáceres, 2007, pp. 101-121.

F. Marías & A. Bustamante, Diego de Sagredo, Medidas del Romano (Toledo 1549), Madrid, Dirección General de Bellas Artes y Archivos, 1986.

F. Marías & F. Pereda (ed.), Medidas del Romano, Diego de Sagredo, Toledo. 1526, Toledo, Pareja, 2000. 2 vol.

Y. Pauwels, "Jean Goujon, de Sagredo à Serlio: la culture architecturale d'un ymaginier-architecteur", Bulletin Monumental, 156-2, 1998, pp. 137-148.

Y. Pauwels, "L'architecture de la ‘Belle Chapelle’ à Solesmes: une origine espagnole?", Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 134, Sept. 1999, pp 85-92.

Y. Pauwels, "François Mansart et la culture architecturale du XVIIe siècle", Les Cahiers de Maisons, 27-28, 1999, pp. 52-57.

Y. Pauwels, "La fortune du Sagredo français en France et en Flandres aux XVIe et XVIIe siècles", F. Marías & F. Pereda (ed.), Medidas del Romano, Diego de Sagredo, Toledo. 1526, Toledo, Pareja, 2000, 2, pp. 107-116.

Y. Pauwels, "Le traité des Medidas del Romano de Diego de Sagredo, à Tolède en 1526 et sa traduction française, à Paris chez Simon de Colines", S. Deswarte-Rosa (ed.), Sebastiano Serlio à Lyon. Architecture et imprimerie, Lyon, Mémoire Active, 2004, pp. 378-379.

Y. Pauwels, L’architecture et le livre en France à la Renaissance : « Une magnifique décadence » ?, Paris, Classiques Garnier, 2013, pp. 33-71.

P. Renouard, Bibliographie des éditions de Simon de Colines 1520-1546, Paris, Huard & Guillemin, 1894 (facsimile edition: Nieuwkoop, de Graf Publishers BV, 1990).

J. Veyrin-Forrer, "Introduction", F. Schreiber (ed.), Simon de Colines. An annotated Catalogue of 230 Examples of his Press, 1520- 1546, Provo, Utah, Friends of the Brigham Young University Library, 1995.