Author(s) Vredeman de Vries, Hans
Title Architectura...
Imprint Antwerp, G. de Jode, 1577
Localisation Paris, Binha, Fol. Res 207
Subject Bridges, chimneys, domestic architecture, military architecture, orders


     In 1577 Vredeman de Vries published his most important book on architecture.  The German edition (Architectura Oder Bauung der Antiquen auss den Vitruvius, woellches sein funff Columnen Orden), is the oldest.  To this day, only ten copies or so of this edition have been indexed in public collections.  The same year a French translation was put on the market, for the most part in accordance with the original German edition.  In 1581 a Dutch edition was published. According to some authors (Mielke 1967, Fuhring 2002), apparently there already was a first edition in Dutch in 1577, but no copies of it are known today.
Gerard Smits printed the first French edition in Antwerp for the book seller Gerard de Jode. It was translated from Dutch into French ("translaté de bas Allemand en François"), byTheodorus Kemp(e), a Latin instructor in Antwerp. Only a few copies of this French translation have come down to us.  The best-known one is at the Bibliothèque nationale in Paris (Imprimés, Res. V.368).  It is signed by the author and dedicated to Prince William of Orange-Nassau.  In a very elaborate handwritten acrostic, the names "Willem van Nassau", "Hans Vredman de Vries" and "Antwerpen" have been combined.  In addition, a drawing representing a temporary decor and a statue of the prince is part of the book.
A new edition of this French translation was published in 1597, printed by Andreas Bacx in Antwerp for Cornelis de Jode, Gerard’s successor.  Lastly, a last edition in French was printed in 1615 by Gerard van Wolschaten and Hendrik Aertssens for Pieter de Jode, Cornelis' successor.
In the copy presented here, the sequence of the leaves is not perfect: the pages relating to the Doric order have been inverted.  On the other hand, the pages of illustrations are in the correct order.
It can be asserted that the text which precedes the illustrations and gives explanatory annotations to the 23 leaves is very important for the knowledge of the architectural orders and their application in the Netherlands at the end of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th centuries.  This is also the only text that Jan Vredeman de Vries published on architecture.
Each architectural order is first represented by five variants of columns.  The example placed at the center of the plates refers to the corresponding order presented in the Quarto libro (Venice, 1537) by Sebastiano Serlio.  The two variants placed on the left are rather "rustic" developments of the same order, which include the shape of the pilaster; those on the right are characterized, rather, by their elegance.  The stylistic characteristics are expressed both on the decoration of the columns and capitals and on the pedestals, bases, architraves, friezes and cornices.  The decorative elements are supplemented by measurements and indications on proportion, which could be used by architects or builders according to their needs.  For the Doric, Ionic and Corinthian orders, Vredeman adds plans and elevations for different buildings constructed in each style; for the Doric and Ionic orders, their use is also illustrated by examples of chimney pieces.
The elevations of the façades of houses and palaces are always given in half-elevation. In this way the author can put a maximum of variants on the same page.  In fact, Vredeman de Vries asserts that "everything a clever architect will need to do, I put before him here my simple creation and work in order to make better use of it, in his opinion, and which he will find the most expedient" ("tout ce qu’un Architecte Ingénieux aura icy de besoign a faire, je luy avance ma simple invention & labeur, afin de s’en ayder mieulx, selon son bon advis, & qu’il trouvera le plus expedient") (leaf 34 [3] ).
Vredeman de Vries also displays a connection between the sequence of architectural orders and the architectural typology: the characteristics of the orders are adapted to diverse types of construction.  The Tuscan order, described as rustic, robust and strong, is used above all to construct and embellish utilitarian and military buildings, such as bridges, entrances, magazines, arsenals, military fortifications, blockhouses and prisons.  Among the bridge illustrations, figure n° 4 is remarkable because of the axonometric representation of a large structure made of wood and iron, which tries to resolve the old problem of the passage of a boat with a raised mast through a bridge platform.  The solution rests in constructing firm connecting braces by means of iron tie-rods.  On the same leaf, in addition the author gives a solution for constructing the foundations of a bridge pylon under water. Again, the figure is given in axonometric representation.
In the text accompanying the Tuscan order, the author warns us that he is not dealing with military architecture, for Jan van Schille "Engineer and Geographer of the King and the State" ("Ingeniaire & Geographe du Roy & des Estatz") had already published a book on this subject (Form und Weis zu bauwen, zimmern, Antwerp 1573).
Compared to other editions, the French translation is very interesting, for it presents two supplementary engravings with their description: the first shows plans for a palace and two juxtaposed houses, and the second offers in a large format a view in central perspective of the center of an imaginary city.  Alas, these two engravings are missing in the copy presented here, but the descriptive text (see leaf 31 [10]) is kept.  In the copy given to William of Orange, the two leaves are inserted at the end of the book.  The explanatory text, entitled "Iehan Vredeman de Vries au Lecteur S.", is followed by a poem in Dutch addressed "to the discreet reader" ("Totten discreten Leser").  Neither the explanatory text nor the supplementary illustrations appear in the German or Dutch editions.  Only the poem in Dutch is included in those editions.
The description of these supplementary engravings is important, for it informs us of Jan Vredeman de Vries' opinion of the architectural decoration of the façades of a city palace or a private town residence (see reference A) and of urban houses (see references B and C).  The author says clearly that these buildings must first take into account their specific function and their use ("chacun a sa commodité & usance…").  In addition, their façades must be drawn to "provide a fine glance and satisfy the eyes" ("pour le beau regard & contentement des yeulx"), this thanks to Vitruvius' harmonious measurements and a decoration applied by "the learned architect" ("le docte Architecte").
The edition in French also differs from those in German and in Dutch because of the personality of the person receiving the dedication.  In the French translation, the book is offered to Denys ("Dionys") van der Neesen, bachelor in law and secretary of the city of Antwerp, much praised for his love of the liberal arts and especially for his interest in architecture.  Although a Catholic, he remained secretary of Antwerp during the Calvinist period of power (1577-1585), until 1583.  The translator Theodorus Kemp writes that he is his "beloved cousin, friend and faithful servant" ("bien-affectionné Cousin, amy & serviteur fidèle").  On the other hand, the German editions are dedicated to Pierre Ernest, count of Mansfield, servant to the King of Spain Philip II.  It is interesting to note that the count's coat of arms is found on the title page of the German and Dutch editions as well as that of the French edition (Zimmerman, 2002).
Two books by Jan Vederman de Vries, containing a great many engravings of columns and their details, but without explanatory text, preceded the 1577 book on architecture.  In 1565, Den Eersten Boeck, dealing with the Doric and Ionic orders, came out at Hieronymus Cock's publishing house in Antwerp.  Das ander Buech on the Corinthian and composite orders came out the same year.  In 1578, one year after the publication of the Architectura, the third book on the orders came out, Architectura, De oorden Tuscana…In 1606, Vredeman de Vries and his son Paul published a new book on architecture at the publishing house of Hendrick Hondius at The Hague, called Les cinq rangs de l'Architecture a scavoir Tuscane, Dorique, Ionique, Corinthiaque, et Composée.  In this book, without explanatory text, the five orders are put in relation to the five senses.

Piet Lombaerde (Hoger Instituut voor Architectuurwetenschappen Henry van de Velde,
Association Université Anvers) – 2009

Critical bibliography

H. Borggrefe, V. Lupkes, P. Huvenne & B. Van Beneden (ed.), Hans Vredeman de Vries und die Renaissance im Norden, Munich, Hirmer, 2002.

P. Fuhring, "Architectura mit Widmung von Vredeman de Vries an Wilhelm von Oranien", H. Borggrefe, V. Lupkes, P. Huvenne & B. Van Beneden (ed.), Hans Vredeman de Vries und die Renaissance im Norden, Munich, Hirmer, 2002, p. 297.

P. Fuhring & G. Luijten (ed.), Hollstein’s Dutch & Flemish Etchings, Engravings and Woodcuts 1450-1700, Vredeman de Vries 1572-1630, 48, 2, Rotterdam, Sound & Vision Interactive, 1997, pp. 56-85.

B. J. J. Krieger, " Tis een Excellente Conste, dwelk sijnen meester laudeert’. Ornament, orde en hiërarchie in de ‘Architectura’ van Hans Vredeman de Vries", Kunstlicht, 22, 2001, 2/3, pp. 47-51.

P. Lombaerde, "Architectura", Zichtbaar Zeldzaam. Hoogtepunten uit de Antwerpse Stadsbibliotheek, Antwerp/Ghent, Stadsbestuur/Toohcsmi, 2005, pp. 50-51.

P. Lombaerde (ed.), Hans Vredeman de Vries and the ‘Artes Mechanicae’ revisited, Turnhout, Brepols, 2005.

H. Mielke, Hans Vredeman de Vries. Verzeichnis der Stichwerke und Beschreibung seines Stiles sowie Beiträge zum Werk Gerard Groennings, doctoral dissertation, Berlin, 1967.

D. Nuytten, "Theory and Example in Vredeman de Vries’s Architectura (1577). Intentions between a Modern Treatise and a Practical Model Book", P. Lombaerde (ed.), Hans Vredeman de Vries and the Artes Mechanicae Revisited, Turnhout, Brepols, 2005, pp. 33-55.

D. Nuytten, "Architectural and Technical Examples between Antique Modernity and Gothic Tradition", P. Lombaerde (ed.), Hans Vredeman de Vries and the Artes Mechanicae Revisited, Turnhout, Brepols, 2005, pp. 57-81.

P. S. Zimmermann, Die Architectura von Hans Vredeman de Vries: Entwicklung der Renaissancearchitektur in Mitteleuropa, Munich/Berlin, Deutscher Kunstverlag, 2002.