Author(s) Serlio, Sebastiano
Coecke, Pieter (translator)
Title Reigles generales de l’architecture...
Imprint Antwerp, P. Coecke, 1542
Localisation Moulins, Médiathèque communautaire, Fol. 23344
Subject Orders


     The Quarto libro or Regole generali di achitectura, which had been the first of the books published by Serlio was also the first to be translated by Pieter Coecke, first into Dutch and then into French in 1542, and into German in 1543. There are only a few copies of the first French version (London, private collection and the Yale University library). The municipal library in Moulins has the only copy in France.
The French translation is very similar to the Dutch edition in its make-up and illustrations. Nevertheless in 1542 Pieter Coecke offered a new title page with grotesques and added a dedication to the Regent of the Habsburg Netherlands, Marie of Hungary, who loved "lire livres, ceux principalement, qui remémorent choses antiques et authentiques". He claimed responsibility for the translation of the "présent livre, traduit d'italien en français, contenant les règles générales d'architecture, "concordantes à la plupart avec les écrits de Vitruve", without mentioning Serlio's name which only appears in the last line of the book.
The chapters devoted to the second work at the end of the volume were revised as in the Dutch edition, with a Roman alphabet replacing Serlio's coats of arms and a text adapted to the circumstance. Coecke recomposed plates LXXXIVv° and LXXV of the Quarto libro, and extracted a few motifs of folio LXXIV which he associated with the new text on folio 71.
In translating, Coecke had already been confronted with the linguistic problem of the Vitruvian lexicon which he had been forced to invent for the Dutch translation and which he transposed for the French version. In the present case, he also had access to the French version of Sagredo's treatise (Medidas del romano, 1526) published par Simon de Colines in 1536 and republished in 1539 and 1542. He borrowed words from him such as "bozel", used by laborers to indicate the molding Vitruvius called "astragale" (astragalus), but also scholarly terms such as "architrave", "frise", "trochile", "scotie", "triglyphes", "métopes"... Logically, he deleted the doublets, impossible to translate: "detto tondino", "che altri dicono cavetto", etc. He left the names of monuments and sites in Italian ("capo de la militia trayana", f. 9v°, "carcer Tulliano", "foro boario", f. 18), and regions, sometimes omitting the name of the city ("Auderzo nel Friulle", f. 37v°). He transposed the Italien "stanze" into "stanties", "sima" which designates the ogee at the top of the pediment, into "scime", "cimatio lesbio" into "cimatie lesbie"; "hiperthiro" into "hipertire" and "antipagmento" into "antipagmente". He sometimes left the Italian word as it was, such as "lacunarii". On the other hand he latinised some expressions: the Italian "sima scalptura" was corrected: "sima sculptura" (f. 20).
He sometimes added text in parentheses: "(ainsi qu'avez ouï)", "(appelés de Vitruve subténies)"... Other times he annotated in a surprising way. The sentence "se pur l'Architetto vorrà fare una porta Dorica semplice et di poco ornamento" (1537, f. XXIVv°) was translated this way: "si donc l'architecte veut faire un thiromatum ou huis simple et de petit enrichissement selon l'ordre dorique" (f. 21). The various members "coperti di opera rustica" (1537, f. XXVIIv°) became "mêlés avec le villageois" (f. 24). He also shortened lists with "etc.".
One can point out typographical errors, probably attributable to the typographer rather than to Coecke himself ("voullant" instead of "vouant", or "qui couche rasibu plancher de cette loge" for "touche"). But as is, the translation of Serlio's text, despite a few imperfections, is a remarkable success for the 1540s and indicates great intellectual openmindedness on the part of Pieter Coecke. Thanks to his editions in several languages and to the new editions which took into account Serlio's revisions, he quickly spread the most modern architectural theory into all of northern Europe, to architects such as Vredeman de Vries and northern painters such as Pieter Aertsen.
New editions of the Livre IV appeared in 1545 and 1550.

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

Critical bibliography

J. Bury, Serlio, "Some Bibliographical Notes", C. Thoenes (ed.), Sebastiano Serlio, Milan, Electa, 1989, pp. 92-101.

A. Corbet, Pieter Coecke van Aelst, Antwerp, De Stikkel, coll. Maederlandtbibliotheek 21, 1950.

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, 2002, pp. 55-74.

K. De Jonge, "Les éditions de la traduction française du Livre IV par Pieter Coecke van Aelst à Anvers en 1542 et 1545", S. Deswarte-Rosa (ed.), Sebastiano Serlio à Lyon. Architecture et imprimerie, Lyon, Mémoire active, 2004, pp. 275-277.

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, La représentation de l’architecture dans l’œuvre des peintres romanistes de la première moitié du XVIe siècle: Jean Gossart, Bernard van Orley et Pieter Coecke van Aelst, Doctoral thesis, Tours, Cesr, 2010, 1, pp. 305-322.

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.

Y. Pauwels, "Propagande architecturale et rhétorique du Sublime: Serlio et les ‘Joyeuses entrées’ de 1549", Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 137, May-June 2001, pp. 221-236.

Y. Pauwels, "Fête, propagande et image imprimée: les ‘Joyeuses entrées’ de Gand et d'Anvers (1549)", R. Crescenzo (ed.), Espaces de l'image, Nancy, 2002, Université de Nancy 2, pp. 167-188.

Y. Pauwels, "L'introduction des ordres d'architecture dans les Pays-Bas: entre Italie et Espagne", R. Dekoninck (ed.), Relations artistiques entre l’Italie et les anciens Pays-Bas, XVIe-XVIIIe siècles. Bilan et perspectives, Brussels/Rome, Institut historique belge de Rome, 2012, pp. 53-59.

M. Vène, Bibliographia Serliana. Catalogue des éditions imprimées des livres du traité d'architecture de Sebastiano Serlio (1537-1681), Paris, Picard, 2007, pp. 58-59.