Urrea, Miguel (translator)

Title M. Vitruvio Pollion de architectura....
Imprint Alcalá de Henares, J. Gracián, 1582
Localisation Universidad de Sevilla, G Arte R.13.T.27
Subject Architecture
Transcribed version of the text


     The Spanish were already interested in Vitruvius’ text at the beginning of the 15th century, if one stays with the numerous Vitruvian manuscripts which appeared in Spain. We know about one of them, the first one mentioned since the period of Saint Isidore of Seville in the library of Antipope Benedict XIII, Pedro Martínez de Luna (1328-1423). Among the books carried from Avignon to Peñíscola was a “Vitricus, De architectura, cum copertis de simplici pergameno. Et incipit in primo colondello secundi folii ‘Ateseron et diapente’ et finit in eodem ‘comentariis Architectum’ ”. It is not as certain that another text inventoried in 1494 in the library of the doctor en leyes Ferrer Berardi is part of these manuscripts.
Today, beyond the above examples, there are six codices, of which the oldest one, going back to the 10th-12th centuries is the Escurialensis manuscript (e), Dutch in origin, from the HWVS branch which arrived in 1572 at the Escorial convent, coming from the library of the royal secretary Gonzalo Pérez (f-III-19). In 1654, the Escorial also acquired another Italian manuscript written between the 13th and 15th centuries (O-II-5), also pertaining to the HWVS branch, which belonged to the library of Count-Duke Olivares Gaspar de Guzmán (1587-1645). A third, (J-II-1), in dating from the 15th century is also kept in the Escorial library. Another Italian codex, from the EG branch, probably arrived earlier in Spain, at the beginning of the 16th century, and was put in the library of the convent of San Miguel de los Reyes in Valencia. (It can be found today at the University of Valencia, Biblioteca Històrica BH Ms. 727, previously Ms. 2.411). Ferdinand of Aragon, the Duke of Calabria (1488-1550) had brought it from Naples where Matteo Felich had copied it around 1480 for the future Alfonso II of Naples (1448-1495).
An Italian manuscript which is a variant of the version published by Cesare Cesariano (1475-1543) in Como in 1521 has been in Madrid since the 16th century. It was mentioned in 1598 in Juan de Herrera’s library, then it went to the libraries of the Collège of the Scottish Jesuits of Madrid and of the Colegio Imperial de Saint Isidro. It finally went to the Cortes library of the Real Academia de la Historia (Cortes section, Ms. 9-2790). It contains books IX (chapters vii-ix) and X (chapters i-xxii). It was probably drafted by Cesariano between 1508 and 1528, even if the final writing must have been carried out between 1524 and 1543. (In fact there are references in it to 1537 and 1542). Although he uses previous material, the text seems to have been put in its definitive form between 1524 (one year after the favorable sentence, laid down only in 1529, in the lawsuit brought by Cesariano against his publishers) and 1543. This manuscript contains five engravings (including one initial) and seven drawings, never published before 1985.
A last Italian manuscript also coming from the HWVS and the EG branches, also going back to the 15th century, with a few geometric drawings relative to questions of triangulation, was found in the library of Cardinal Francesco Xavier de Zelada (1717-1801) before being given to the Cathedral of Toledo. It is presently in Madrid (BNE, Ms. 10.075).
The first translations of Vitruvius’ text, still partial, do not appear before the middle of the 16th century. The written forms of the manuscripts and their fragmentary character are evidence of it. They fall in the tradition of the Vitruvian-Albertian compendium of the Medidas del Romano (meaning Vitruvius) by Diego de Sangredo coming out in Toledo in 1526, and are apparently posterior to editions published in Lisbon by the same Sagredo. The oldest translation could well be that of a manuscript with extracts of books III and IV of the De architectura, coming from the Convent of San Benito el Real de Valladolid (Madrid, AHN, Codices 288B, exp. 1). Another translation, partial, followed : Madrid, collection of Vicente Martínez Blasco, previously of Luis Menéndez Pidal. Although its written form allows one to date it at the middle of the 16th century, it was added in 1595 to a version of the treatise by Vignola different from the edition in Castilian given by Patricio Caxés in Madrid in 1593. The annotations in the prologue refer to a predecessor of Marcus-Aurelius as dedicatee, and quote The City of God by Saint Augustine as well as Titus Livy. These disconcerting indications do not allow one to link this translation to any preceding one. The third version, concerning only Vitruvius’ book I, could be attributed to the architect Hernán Ruiz el Mozo (c. 1505/1512-1569), and is included in the Libro de Arquitectura de Hernán Ruiz II (1558/1569), reissued in 1974 et 1998. Although it has been suggested that this was a translation of a Latin manuscript written in Gothic characters with interpolations and annotations – what could this manuscript have been ? And in case it had been identified, how could Hernán Ruiz have consulted it between Seville and Cordoba ?- the most logical hypothesis is that it derives from the Venitian edition by Francesco Lucio Durantino, which came out in 1524, and was reissued in 1535, in which several annotations and references to illustrations coincide with the text of the pedagogical taccuino written by the Andalusian architect.
After these incomplete versions, and although one has always insisted that priority be given to the text by Lázaro de Velasco to which we will return, it is clear today that the first complete translation was the one published in the university town of Alcalá de Henares by the sculptor and maker of altar pieces Miguel de Urrea (active between 1540 and 1565). This translation was done at the beginning of the 1560s. Born in Fuentes de la Alcarria, in the province of Guadalajara, Urrea was a humble artisan, whose activity, probably more technical than creative, took place in minor centers in the provinces of Guadalajara and Madrid. He was already deceased in 1569 for it was his widow Mari Bravo who then received royal permission to print. The printer Juan Gracián was active in Alcalá between 1569 and 1588. Urrea’s edition is based on the Latin editions annotated by Guillaume Philandrier (1505-1565) published in 1550 and 1552, more probably the latter one. But Urrea did not take up Philandrier’s annotations, interspersed in the Latin text without the least attempt at continuity. As for the illustrations, they come from editions by Fra Giocondo, Cesariano, Durantino, Barbaro, Martin et from the Quarto libro by Serlio. The source of four of them has not been identified. These woodcuts, rather crude, are simplified versions of the original ones ; they constitute an eclectic repertoire, not to say whimsical and random, of the previous Vitruvian illustrations.
There are two manuscript versions : the first, in Madrid, (BNE, Ms. 1.133), is bound with fragments of a copy of the Historia general de la Orden de San Gerónimo, autor fray Joseph de Sigüença (Madrid, 1595-1605) and a translation of the Discurso general sobre la pintura y sus preeminencias by Paolo Lomazzo, published for the first time in Milan in 1584. It is a partial copy of the 1582 text. The second one, in Lisbon (BNP, cod. 5.179), is the complete preliminary text of the translation, written by two people, with annotations and corrections also made by two different people, all of which increases its interest. The text copied in these two first versions is practically identical to the one published in 1582. Other variants probably exist between the printed text and the manuscript, as for example in the folios which would become the Epistola al lector : in folio 5 the final paragraph mentioning the collaboration with the Alcalá workshop is missing (“y Juan Gracian impresor veçino de Alcalá”) ; in folio 6, the text written in the first person singular is written in the third person plural in 1582. Also lacking in the manuscript is the “prologue” of the printed version, in fact the dedication by Gracián to King Philip II. There are many other changes in the numbering of the chapters in book X. It is extremely interesting to examine the handwritten corrections. One of the writers, with the poorer and cruder handwriting, suggests observations which would be taken up in the 1582 edition whereas the other, more refined and of better quality, would not show much evidence of it in the printed version. It is very possible that we are looking at the original manuscript, perhaps written partly by Urrea in the 1560s, corrected by Gracián, who could have written the first corrections, less refined. The second handwriting could be that of an anonymous commentator who might have worked on the manuscript after the Alcalá publication.
Consequently, the 1582 edition does not constitute a humanist type of study, but a translation based on previous works, devoid of philological characteristics which would have allowed a clarification in the meaning of many passages. It brought nothing new to the tradition of interpretation such as it had been developed in Europe, in spite of the “Vocabulario de los nombres obscuros y difficultosos que en Vitruvio se contienen”, based on Philandrier. A comparative reading of the Lisbon manuscript and the printed edition reveals a few nuances introduced at the beginning of the 1580s by Juan Gracián just before printing, having more to do with the style of language than the nature of the contents. Because of this, the Alcalá edition truly seems to have been intended for the Spanish circle, wider but relatively uncultured, of the professionals linked at that time to the practice of architecture. The translator belonged to this circle and needed to be able to consult the Vitruvian text in his own language, a text considered an indispensable authority, well known by the architects through the intermediary of its Latin and Italian versions. From this point of view, one must not be astonished that Urrea’s translation was absent from the libraries of the great Spanish architects (with the exception of Juan de Herrera’s, almost exhaustive), and that it is only mentioned in documents relative to editions by the goldsmith Juan de Arfe y Villafañe et by the stonemason Pedro Monte de Isla.
The dedication to Philip II and the printing date lead us to suppose that in spite of the errors it contains and the mostly obsolete illustrations, inexact from an archeological and conceptual point of view, the 1582 edition came out at a propitious moment, in the context of the creation of a chair of architecture at the Academy of Mathematics in Madrid at the instigation of Herrera and thanks to the king’s support. This academy recommended reading Vitruvius with the goal of renovating the teaching of architecture, which made it necessary and urgent to have an edition in Castilian of the text considered the foundation of the new doctrine. Today it seems obvious that this edition of Vitruvius, and the contemporary one by Alberti, were printed to serve as manuals to educate the court, that the king’s architect Herrera (c. 1532-1597) succeeded in placing it at the Real Academia de Matemáticas (1582-1623/1634), whose teachings were taken up in the context of the Estudios Reales del Colegio Imperial de la Compañía de Jesús in Madrid (1623-1717). According to the presentation text printed by Herrera (Institución de la Academia Real de Mathemática, Madrid, Guillermo Droy, 1584), courses on architecture and fortification were to be inspired by Vitruvius and Alberti, those on engineering, mechanics and artillery inspired by Vitruvius’ books IX and X, courses on leveling inspired by book VIII of the De architectura as well as by Alberti.
Moreover, it is impossible not to link the 1582 text to the text drafted in Granada by Lázaro de Velasco (c1522-1584) entitled Los Diez Lobros de Arquitectura de Marco Vitruvio Polión, an illustrated manuscript at Cáceres (Biblioteca Municipal, Colección Vicente Paredes Guillén Ms 2, partially edited in 1999 ; there is a fragment of book X in the Biblioteca Real in Madrid). Although it was traditionally dated during the years 1554-1564, today we know that it was written between 1573 and 1583 by this licenciado, theologian, clockmaker, illuminator of choir books for the Cathedral of Granada and majordomo to the archbishop of Grenada Pedro Guerrero. The son of the Italian architect and painter Jacopo Torni l’Indaco (†1526), Velasco, apparently self-taught in architecture and claiming himself a mathematician, sometimes a creator of altarpieces, obtained in 1577 the office of Maestro mayor of the cathedral of Granada, of which he was immediately relieved, probably as much for his professional incompetence as the accusations of his adversaries. His translation, abundantly illustrated, is based on texts by Cesariano (1521), Fra Giocondo in the 1523 edition from Lyon, Caporali (1536), and on the Annotationes by Philandrier (1544), Barbaro (1556) et Walther Ryff (1548).
Nothing has been preserved, on the other hand, of the work undertaken in Rome in the framework of the research done by the Accademia della Virtù (1538), under the direction of Claudio Tolomei (c. 1492-1556) and with the participation among others of Guillaume Philandrier, by two Spaniards, the pontifical protomedico Luis de Lucena (1491-1552) and the engineer Jerónimo de Bustamante de Herrera (c1502-1557), to whom Velasco refers as Vitruvian authorities.
After the 1582 edition, Spanish scholars and architects continued to translate Vitruvius, or to promise to do it, like Francisco de Praves (1585-1637) who never kept his promise. No new translation was printed before the 18th century. The main justification was the dissatisfaction with Urrea’s edition, a translation already obsolete by his choice of the Vitruvian text, considered outdated. Thus, we find a new handwritten translation, Los Diez libros de Architetura de M. Vitruuio Polion traduçidos de latín en romançe castellano, which is based on Barbaro’s Latin text of 1567 and on his Italian version of 1584 (Madrid, BNE, Ms. 20.663). We have known for a long time that in this manuscript it was written that it was a different translation from that of Urrea et Gracián. Its anonymous author, from the end of the 16th century, “ayudado del señor Pero Sánchez, hombre muy estudioso y professor desta facultad ”, made the Spanish translation from the Venitian version by the Patriarch of Aquileia, trying to update both the Vitruvian text and its annotations. We do not know the name of the author ; could he be the Latinist Carmelite Jerónimo Gracián Dantisco de la Madre de Dios (1545-1614) ? Nicolás Antonio mentioned one translation by him in his Bibliotheca Hispana Vetus (Rome, 1672). The Pero Sánchez, quoted by the author of the manuscript, could be the Jesuit lay brother and architect Pedro Sánchez (1569-1633), active in Andalusia, in Toledo and in Madrid, even if the chronology complicates the possibility of a collaboration between the two men.
In the same tradition, there is another translation based on Barbaro’s text, entitled Libro de Architectura, in Madrid (BNE, Ms. 7.552), which was made in 1587. This version, also anonymous, is quite different from that of the Patriarch, in which the partially translated annotations are also freely interpreted. It is worth it to emphasize that this work came only five years after Urrea’s translation, based on Philandrier’s text. It endeavored to provide the Castilian reader with the “very latest thing” in Vitruvian critical literature in Italy.

Fernando Marías (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid-RAH) – 2012


Critical bibliography

A. Bustamante & F. Marías, “El Escorial y la cultura arquitectónica de su tiempo”, El Escorial en la Biblioteca Nacional, Madrid, Ministerio de Cultura, 1985, pp. 117-148, 171-219.

A. Bustamante García, “Los grabados del Vitruvio Complutense de 1582”, Boletín del seminario de arte y arqueología, 55, 1989, pp. 273-288.

L. Cervera Vera, El Códice de Vitruvio hasta sus primeras versiones impresas, Madrid, Instituto de España, 1978.

C. Cesariano, Volgarizzamento dei libri IX (capitoli 7 e 8) e X di Vitruvio, De architectura, secondo il manoscritto 9/2790 Secciòn de Cortes della Real Academia de la Historia, de Madrid, ed. by Barbara Agosti, Pisa, Scuola Normale Superiore, 1996.

F. Collar de Cáceres, “Una traducción de Vitruvio olvidada”, Libros con arte, arte con libros, Cáceres, Universidad de Extremadura, 2007, pp. 197-205.

J. Fresnillo Núñez, Vitruvio, estudio de las correcciones del Manuscrito 10075 de la B.N., Alicante, Universidad de Alicante, 1991.

F. García Salinero “La primera traducción de Vitruvio en la Biblioteca Pública de Cáceres”, Revista de Estudios Extremeños, 1964, p. 457 sq.

E. García Melero, “Las ediciones españolas de De architectura de Vitruvio”, Fragmentos, 8‑9, 1986, pp. 102-131.

M. Gutiérrez del Caño, Catálogo de los manuscritos existentes en la Biblioteca Universitaria de Valencia, Valencia, Librería Maraguat, 1913, 3.

C. Herselle Krinsky, “Seventy-eight Vitruvius manuscripts”, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 30, 1967, pp. 36-70.

Libro de Arquitectura de Hernán Ruiz II, A. Jiménez Martín (ed.), Seville, Fundación Sevillana de Electricidad, 1998.

F. Marías, “Trattatistica teorica e Vitruvianesimo nella architettura spagnola del Cinquecento”, A. Chastel & J. Guillaume (ed.), Les traités d’architecture de la Renaissance, Paris, Picard, 1988, pp. 307-315.

F. Marías, critical review by Barbara Agosti (ed.), “Cesare Cesariano, Volgarizzamento dei libri IX (capitoli 7 e 8) e X di Vitruvio, ‘De architectura’, secondo il manoscritto 9/2790 Secciòn de Cortes della Real Academia de la Histori ”, Madrid, CRIBC-Accademia della Crusca-Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa, 1996, Annali di architettura, 8, 1996, 2, pp. 210-211.

F. Marías, critical review of “Los Diez Libros de Arquitectura de Marco Vitruvio Polión según la traducción castellana de Lázaro de Velasco, de Francisco Pizarro Gómez y Pilar Mogollón Cano-Cortés, Cáceres, Ciclón, 1999 ; Libro de Arquitectura de Hernán Ruiz II”, by Alfonso Jiménez Martín et al., Fundación Sevillana de Electricidad, 1998, Annali di architettura, 12, 2000, pp. 175-177.

P. Navascués Palacio, El libro de arquitectura de Hernán Ruiz el Joven, Madrid, Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura de Madrid, 1974.

P. N. Pagliara, “Vitruvio da testo a canone”, Salvatore Settis (ed.), Memoria dell'antico nell'arte italiana. III. Dalla tradizione all'archeologia, Turin, Einaudi, 1986, pp. 3-85.

J. Ruggieri, “Manoscritti italiani nella Biblioteca dell'Escuriale”, La Bibliofilia, xxxiii, 5-6, 1931, p. 201.

S. Schuler, Vitruv in Mittelalter. Die Rezeption von De architectura von der Antike bis in die frühe Neuzeit, Cologne, Böhlau, 1999.

Los Diez Libros de Arquitectura de Marco Vitruvio Polión según la traducción castellana de Lázaro de Velasco, F. Pizarro Gómez & P. Mogollón Cano-Cortés (ed.), Cáceres, Ciclón, 1999.

M. Vitruvio Polión, Arquitectura Libros I-IV, F. Manzanero Cano (ed.), Madrid, Gredos, 2008.