BOOKS ON ARCHITECTURE
[Van Schille, Hans]
|Maniere, reigle, moyen et façon de bien bastir
|Antwerp, G. de Jode, 1573
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Transcribed version of the text
This curious work of Hans van Schille is the first book on military architecture printed in the Low Countries. It first appeared in Antwerp in 1573 and thus predates Aurelio de Pasino’s Architecture de guerre (Antwerp, 1579) and Simon Stevin’s Sterctenbouwing (Leiden, 1594). Contrary to these two later treatises, however, it is a fairly modest publication, consisting of no more than a title page followed by fourteen plates, without any text.
Van Schille’s volume was published in 1573 by Gerard de Jode (1509-1591) in both a French and a German edition. De Jode reissued the volume in 1578 and 1580 and there is also a later reedition by Theodoor Galle (1571-1633). The 1580 issue is the only edition known in a substantial number of copies. The other editions are all very rare today, with at most two or three copies recorded per edition.
At least six different editions are known, but the only differences between them concern the text on the title page. The fourteen plates are always the same, though the order in which they are presented differs from one edition to the next. In fact, it seems that these plates never had a fixed order and were assembled pretty much at random each time. It was only in the later (posthumous) edition by Galle that the plates were numbered, and even then their order did not seem to follow any particular logic.
Since the only text in this “treatise” is the text on the title page itself, it seems useful to briefly distinguish its different versions here for the sake of clarity. The first edition (1573a) has a lengthy French title (Maniere, reigle, moyen et façon de bien bastir, edifier, fortifier et munir chasteaux, forteresses, villes et autres places. Pour defendre et offendre, empescher et enfermer, contre tous invasions et expeditions militaires... A l’instruction et utilité des amateurs d’architecture), followed by the publisher’s imprint (“Antverpiæ apud Gerardum de Iode. 1573”). It does not mention the name of the author, however: the cartouche at the bottom of the title page is left blank. The second edition (1573b) has the same title page except that the title is now in German (Form und weis zu bauwen...). The third edition (1573c) is a variant of the second: the title shows a few minor alterations and, more importantly, the cartouche underneath now mentions the name of the author (Mr Hans van Schille Ingenieur et geographe inventor). The edition of 1578 is practically the same, but the title page of the 1580 edition is significantly different in that the old letterpress title in either French or German is now replaced by an engraved bilingual title (FORM und weis zu bauwen.../MANIERE, de bien bastir...). The undated later edition by Galle has the same title page but with a different publisher’s address.
The content of Van Schille’s publication is less comprehensive than its title suggests. The exact wording of the book’s title changes a little bit from one edition to the next, but it can roughly be translated as follows: Form and manner to build, construct, fortify and furnish, with bulwarks (bastions), ditches, walls, or otherwise, all sorts of castles, fortresses, towns, and other places. To defend, offend, resist, and protect against all invasions, attacks, and military expeditions. In various and different manners, according to the form and custom of our time, in any material. Be it in earth, wood, brick, cut stone, masonry, or natural rocks, all according to the situation and the nature of the lands and localities. For the instruction and utility of all lovers of architecture. The lengthy title is presented inside an imposing all’antica aedicula with Ionic columns, while the author’s name is inscribed on the plinth inside a cartouche with scrollwork. The design of this frontispiece is attributed to the Antwerp print designer Gerard van Groeningen. It was engraved by the brothers Joannes and Lucas van Doetecum, who also engraved the fourteen plates that follow.
These fourteen plates all show variations on the same theme. Each one depicts a regular fortress with modern, bastioned fortifications. None of these plans can be connected to an actual, existing place; they all are fictitious fortresses. Clearly the purpose of their “inventor” was to show the many possibilities of the new fortification system. The plans of these fourteen fortresses are all based on regular polygons: there are two square plans, two pentagons, two hexagons, two heptagons, one octagon, and a hendecagon. In two of them this regular bastioned enceinte is combined with a secondary fortress: one of the heptagonal enceintes has a square fort inside, and the eleven-sided perimeter is joined to a pentagonal citadel. There is not only much variation in the overall layout of the fortresses, but also in their constituent elements. The fortresses display different types of bastions, different types of ramparts, different types of outworks, different types of street patterns, and so on. These parameters can indeed be modified and rearranged into countless permutations, and in this sense the whole volume seems like an exercise in the art of combination. Moreover, this combinatorial approach guides not just the overall arrangement of each fortress as a whole, but also, on a secondary level, the design of its constituent elements, which in their turn are combinations of smaller components that are variable, too. The bastions, for example, range from simple pentagonal platforms to complex constructions of different shape and size, with or without orillons (round or square), with or without additional cavaliers (round or square), and so forth. This way, each fortress shows another type of bastion, though every type obeys the same general principle – that of reciprocal flanking fire (as is clear from the firing lines that are drawn on each plan). Likewise, the street patterns explore many different possibilities: the central square can be round or polygonal, there may or may not be streets leading to the gates, and so forth. This way, each fortress shows another kind of street pattern, though every pattern follows the same general principle – the layout is radial rather than orthogonal, with the main streets leading from a central place d’armes to the bastions.
Another remarkable feature of the plates is their representational mode: the fortresses are shown in axonometric perspective. This particular perspectival mode offers a crucial advantage over linear perspective, namely that the ground plans – which are all-important in the art of fortification – remain undistorted. This makes it easier to judge the defensive and offensive capabilities of each ground plan in terms of artillery positions, fire lines, dead angles, and so on. It also makes it possible to take accurate measurements from these plans, and for this reason each plate also has a scale bar, accompanied by an inscription explaining which units of length are used. It is noteworthy that, while the book’s title page is in German and French, these inscriptions are all in Flemish (e.g. Dese linie is 100 passen; Van dese linien 10 maecken eenen passe van 3 voet). At the same time, however, some of these inscriptions explicitly refer to Italian measurements (e.g. Dese Linie is 100 lanck na de mate van Rome; Dese Linie is 100 Trabuchi), thus betraying the Italian origin of these plans (see below). It is remarkable that although this modest publication contains barely any text, it still manages to mix five languages (Italian, Flemish, French, German, Latin). To some extent this may be symptomatic of the fact that military architecture was at that time very much an international affair.
Not much is known about the author or the intended audience of his publication. His work carries no dedication and claims simply to be directed to all “lovers of architecture” (à l’instruction et utilité des amateurs d’architecture). On the other hand the author calls himself an engineer and geographer (ingenieur et geographe inventor) – not an architect. Hans van Schille was undoubtedly an important figure in the artistic milieu of the Low Countries in the sixteenth century, but his life and work are very poorly documented and have so far received little scholarly attention. It will therefore be useful to summarize here what we known about his career. The first name of Van Schille was probably Johannes, which could be abbreviated as either Hans or Jan (Jean). In Latin he is identified as Ioannes a Schilde (on de Jode’s maps) or Ioannes Scillius (in Ortelius’s Itinerarium). In other documents (e.g. the Antwerp city accounts) he is often called Jan van Scilde or Jan van Schille, while he himself ostensibly preferred to call himself Hans van Schille (on the frontispiece of his treatise, and in Vivianus’s Album amicorum). Some modern scholars have called him Jean Schilde, but the current convention is Hans van Schille. There seems no reason to doubt that these different name variants all concern one and the same person. It must be added, however, that the sources also mention a certain “master Hans”, who worked as an engineer on the Antwerp fortifications in the 1580s (among others in the service of Alexander Farnese), but this “master Hans” was almost certainly another person (presumably identifiable with the engineer Hans Snoeck).
Hans van Schille was probably born around 1510-1515. He was trained as a painter in the workshop of an Antwerp painter and admitted to the Guild of Saint Luke in 1532. The next year he received the title of master and not much later he himself began training apprentices. Practically nothing is known about his career for the next thirty years. There is no doubt, however, that he became a distinguished member of the Guild, for in 1561 he played a prominent role in the famous Antwerp theatre festival known as the Landjuweel. Van Schille acted as messenger of the Violieren, the Antwerp chamber of rhetoric (and literary branch of the Guild of Saint Luke) which hosted the 1561 Landjuweel. One of his honours was to ride through Brabant on horseback to go and deliver the invitation for the festival to the other chambers of rhetoric, and in this capacity Van Schille was portrayed in a precious pen drawing attributed to Frans Floris (preserved in Brussels, Royal Library of Belgium). The same manuscript describes Van Schille as a “qualified person” with a “long state of service to the Guild (of Saint Luke)”. In 1567 Van Schille was accused, together with three publishers (including Gillis Coppens van Diest, the publisher of Pieter Coecke’s architectural treatises), of printing heretical depictions of the Spanish Inquisition, but it seems that he was not convicted. There is no information on his activities in the following years and as a consequence it remains unknown what induced him to publish a work on military architecture in 1573. The fact that he calls himself an engineer and geographer on the book’s frontispiece indicates that he must have had active experience in both domains at this stage. No engineering works by Van Schille are documented prior to 1577, but we do know that he was indeed working as a cartographer at this time.
In April 1573 Van Schille was invited by Charles III, Duke of Lorraine, to make a map of the Duchy of Lorraine. He carried out surveying works in Lorraine during the following months and remained involved in the project for the next two years. It was possibly because of his knowledge of Lorraine that in 1575 Van Schille accompanied the cartographer Abraham Ortelius and the archaeologist Johannes Vivianus on their well-known archaeological journey from Antwerp through Brabant, Liège, Luxemburg and Lorraine, to Frankfurt, with the purpose of visiting and documenting antique monuments. Ortelius and Vivianus later published an account of this journey, in the form of a letter dedicated to Gerardus Mercator, as Itinerarium per nonnullas Galliae Belgicae partes, at the Plantin Press in Antwerp in 1584. There is other evidence that Van Schille was a close acquaintance of both Ortelius and Vivianus. Already a few years earlier Van Schille had acquired maps from the English engraver Nicholas Reynolds (Nicolaus Reinoldus) via Ortelius as middleman. And the Album amicorum of Vivianus (preserved in The Hague, National Libary of the Netherlands) contains a dedication by Van Schille, signed and dated in Antwerp on 17 July 1577, accompanied by a remarkable pen drawing (the only drawing of Van Schille known so far). He signed it, once again, as “engineer and geographer” (ingenieur en geographe) and the drawing itself seems to refer to both these activities: it shows a presumable self-portrait of Van Schille in the form of a bust surmounting a terrestrial globe, floating above the city of Antwerp, with its pentagonal citadel in the foreground. Apparently Van Schille’s cartographical work was not limited to Lorraine. In 1578 Gerard de Jode published a map of the Bishopric of Liège and a map of the Archbischopric of Trier, both signed by Van Schille and engraved by Joannes van Doetecum. Both maps were later reissued by his son Cornelis de Jode in his Speculum orbis terræ (1593).
The only documented engineering works by Van Schille concern the Antwerp fortifications – and in particular the reconversion of the citadel – in the summer of 1577. On 3 November 1576 Van Schille took part as “engineer to the King and the States”, together with the engineer Abraham Andriessens and the city architect Peter Frans, in a council of war led by the Antwerp governor Frédéric Perrenot de Granvelle, Lord of Champagney, to discuss the city’s defence against attacks from the Spanish garrison in the citadel. But already the next day mutinying Spanish soldiers brutally sacked the city in what became known as the Spanish Fury. One consequence of this shocking event was that the Spanish troops were driven from the country a few months later. Another result was that the Antwerp population decided to pull down the citadel. In April 1577 the States-General prolonged their appointment of Van Schille as engineer and hence he played a central role in the engineering works at Antwerp during the following months. In the beginning of Augustus 1577 the last foreign soldiers were expelled form the citadel and soon afterwards the demolition works began. The two bastions facing the city were dismantled and the remaining section of the citadel was incorporated into the urban fortifications. The Antwerp city records attest that Van Schille was closely involved in these works in August 1577, in collaboration with other engineers and building masters, including Abraham Andriessen, Peter Frans, Lieven van Paesschen, Dierick van Mol, and Hans Vredeman de Vries. The same records demonstrate also that Van Schille was in fact the principal engineer in charge of the works, and that the other experts (including Vredeman de Vries) acted as his assistants. Moreover, on 8 September 1577 the Antwerp city council explicitly promoted Van Schille to “superintendent and chief engineer” (superintendant ende opperingeniaire) of the Antwerp fortifications, with a salary of three guilders per day.
Van Schille’s close collaboration with Vredeman de Vries is particularly interesting. There is a well-known design drawing related to the abovementioned engineering works, signed by Vredeman de Vries and dated 1577 (preserved in the Antwerp city archives). It is a careful perspective drawing showing six alternative projects for the dismantlement of the citadel, and in particular for the defences along the river Scheldt. Because Van Schille was the engineer in charge, while Vredeman de Vries was merely his assistant (adjoinct), it has been speculated that Vredeman de Vries was merely the draughtsman and that his drawing actually shows designs by Van Schille. There are a few other, anonymous drawings from the same period for similar works on the Antwerp citadel, and though the available evidence is inconclusive it is not impossible that some of these were drawn by Van Schille, or show designs by him.
In precisely the same year the relationship between the two artists was also underscored by the publication of Vredeman de Vries’s architectural treatise, Architectura (Antwerp, 1577), which can be seen as the “civil” counterpart of Van Schille’s earlier volume on military architecture. Both books were published by the same publisher (Gerard de Jode) and their copper plates were engraved by the same artists (the Van Doetecum brothers). And like Van Schille’s publication, Vredeman de Vries’s Architectura was also aimed at an international audience: it appeared simultaneously in a German, a French, and a Dutch edition. The Architectura even refers to Van Schille, twice. In his “Tuschana” chapter, Vredeman de Vries explains that the Tuscan order is the most suitable for “all sorts of citadels, fortresses, bulwarks, bastions and castles”, but then he adds that it is unnecessary to write more about this subject because “a particular book has already been made about citadels, bulwarks, fortresses, and similar fortifications”. No more is said about this particular book in the German edition (“ain besonder buech... von Citadellen, Bolwercken, Fortressen, und der geleichen stoerckhennen”) or in the Dutch edition (“een besondere Boeck... van Citadellê, Bolwercken, Fortressen en dier ghelijcken sterckten”), but the French edition explicitly confirms that this passage indeed refers to Van Schille’s book (“un livre à part, de Citadelles, Bouleuerts, Chasteaus, & telles femblables Forteresses, faict par M. Iean van Schille ingeniaire & Geographe du Roy & des Estats”). Another explicit reference to Van Schille occurs in the dedication of the Architectura to Count Peter Ernst of Mansfeld. In the German edition (Antwerp, 1577), the publisher Gerard de Jode writes that the book was dedicated to the Count of Mansfeld upon the suggestion of “the eminent master Hans Schille, engineer and geographer of his Royal Majesty” (der fhurnehmste Mayster Hanss Schille Ingenieur undt Geographus Con. Ma.teyt), who had praised Mansfeld for his love and knowledge of architecture. We know indeed that Van Schille must have had a good idea of Mansfeld’s interest in architecture, for two years earlier, in 1575, together with Ortelius and Vivianus, he had visited Mansfeld’s splendid residence “La Fontaine” in Clausen near Luxembourg and admired its collection of antiquities and other artworks. Nothing is known about Van Schille’s activities after 1577, apart from the reeditions of his book in 1578 and 1580. Van Schille died in Antwerp in April 1586. In sum, so far as we know, Van Schille, though trained as a painter, worked mainly as a cartographer and engineer, and this is indeed how he called himself. Some scholars have stated that Van Schille was also an architect or an engraver, but there is no evidence of any activities in these areas.
The plates of Van Schille’s publication bear a striking resemblance to the well-known work of Francesco De Marchi (1504-1576). Some commentators have even described Van Schille’s publication as an act of sheer plagiarism, and this is not without reason. Although De Marchi’s famous treatise, Della architettura militare (Brescia, 1599) was published twenty-six years after Van Schille’s, there can be little doubt that Van Schille’s plates are based on De Marchi’s work. At least seven of Van Schille’s fortresses are clearly copied after designs by De Marchi, and three others, though not straight copies, show unmistakable similarities to De Marchi’s plans. The four remaining plates do not seem to bear any direct resemblance to designs by De Marchi; they may be Van Schille’s own inventions, or they may be based on plans by De Marchi that are now unknown. On the other hand, it must be stressed that there is also a significant difference between the illustrations of De Marchi and those of Van Schille. De Marchi always depicts his fortifications in ground plan, while Van Schille’s fortresses are all drawn in perspective. It is true that De Marchi sometimes offers a separate profile view in addition to the ground plan, and that he sometimes depicts the urban fabric inside the fortifications in perspective, but he never gives a coherent perspective view of the whole fortress. Van Schille’s actual designs may be devoid of any originality, but at least he made the effort to translate De Marchi’s plans into more persuasive perspective views of the whole fortress in its surroundings, and this justifies, to some extent, his claim of being the “inventor” of these plates.
De Marchi himself already decried this kind of plagiarism in the introduction to his own treatise, though he did not actually name Van Schille (“alcuni hanna defraudato à me alcuni miei disegni, con diminuire, e aggiungere d’ogni poca cosa, e d’essi si sono fatti Cavallieri d’esser stato loro gli inventori”). Luigi Marini, the editor of a sumptuous reedition of De Marchi’s treatise in 1810, amplified this complaint and overtly deprecated Van Schille’s publication as a work of piracy without any merit. Of course Marini’s harsh judgement was later minimized by the Belgian military officer and historian of fortification Henri-Emmanuel Wauwermans (1825-1902), who in his patriotic and now utterly outdated publications aimed at demonstrating the existence of a “Flemish” school of military architecture and presented Van Schille as one of its main protagonists.
Exactly how Van Schille gained access to illustrations of De Marchi’s unpublished treatise remains unknown, but a reasonable guess can be made. Francesco De Marchi stayed in the Low Countries from 1559 until 1567 as a member of the court of governor Margaret of Parma. Though he never really worked as an actual engineer, he devoted much of his time at the Brussels court to the study of military architecture. The compilation of his ambitious treatise on the subject was already far advanced at this time and at various stages he commissioned engravers to turn his fortification plans into copper plates. Some scholars have stated that De Marchi had asked Van Schille to engrave some of his plates, but this hypothesis, though often repeated in the literature, is a figment of Wauwermans’s biased imagination and must be dismissed by lack of evidence. There is no proof of a direct link between De Marchi and Van Schille. It seems more likely that De Marchi’s plans came into the possession of Van Schille indirectly, probably through the agency of one of the Antwerp printmakers involved in the project.
Documents attest that in 1566 and 1567 De Marchi had a very large number of copper plates for this treatise engraved in Antwerp. Several printmakers were involved. In 1566 the Dutch engraver and mapmaker Cornelis de Hooghe was paid for engraving no less then 166 plans of fortifications for De Marchi. Meanwhile the proofreading of the text was entrusted to Giovan Battista Guicciardini (brother of Lodovico Guicciardini, the author of the Descrittione di tutti i Paesi Bassi). A few months later, however, De Hooghe purportedly abandoned the project, stole a batch of print proofs of De Marchi’s fortification plans, and fled to London. De Marchi then engaged two other engravers who worked for the well-known print publishing firm of Hieronymus Cock. Cock was paid in November 1567 for the delivery of eight copper plates, namely five plans of fortifications, and three other illustrations for De Marchi’s treatise: the coat of arms of Filip II, a portrait of De Marchi himself, and a female allegorical figure. Interestingly, these three illustrations can positively be identified with extant prints (preserved in Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional de España); the engraved portrait of De Marchi is signed by the Antwerp engraver Pieter van der Heyden, who indeed worked for Cock.
But at the very moment when De Marchi’s plates were being engraved in Antwerp, the start of the Revolt against Philip II and the arrival in the Low Countries of the Duke of Alba thwarted the completion of his publication project. Together with Margeret of Parma, De Marchi returned to Italy in December 1567 and took all his plates with him. We may safely assume, however, that some of De Marchi’s material remained in Antwerp – the prints allegedly stolen by De Hooghe, perhaps, or other print proofs or preparatory drawings that must have circulated among the Antwerp printmakers – and somehow ended up in the hands of Hans Van Schille.
Pieter Martens (KU Leuven – Université catholique de Louvain) – 2015
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