Title Reigle des cinq ordres d’architecture...
Imprint Paris, P. Firens, s.d. [1620-1630]
Localisation Munich, Bayerische Staastsbibliothek, Res/2 A.civ. 245
Subject Orders
Transcribed version of the text


     Flemish artists such as Thomas de Leu, Gabriel and Melchior Tavernier who set up shop in Paris starting from 1575-1585, fleeing Antwerp and its turmoil, brought with them a method of copperplate engraving which had reached perfection. We owe the first editions of Vignola in France to them. If Pierre Le Muet’s version, printed and engraved in 1632 by Melchior II Tavernier, is well known, this does not apply to that of Pierre I Firens (c. 1580-1638), printed without a date. Firens, the son of Guillaume Firens, related to a family of booksellers from Middelburg, worked in Antwerp when he was young before reaching France with his father in 1604. Naturalized in 1607, he practiced as a copperplate engraver in Paris, bookseller and print merchant, often joining forces with other booksellers and merchants. Settled on rue Saint-Jacques, Aux Trois Brochets in 1619-1620, apparently he then set up shop on the same street at the sign L’Imprimerie de Taille douce, after a short stay on rue des Juifs in 1623 (Préaud, Casselle, Grivel, Le Bitouzé 1987, pp. 125-126). So it was after this date that he produced the first Parisian translation of Vignola, but unlike what one might read, before 1632, the date at which Le Muet printed his version “revised, enlarged and reduced from large to small”, in other words in pocket size (octavo) and even very probably quite a bit earlier as is revealed in the French translation which Firens followed.
     Since 1562 the Regola delli cinque ordini di architetura had constantly been printed in Italy in enlarged versions. Translated into Spanish in 1593, it apparently existed in a German version in 1617, printed in Nuremberg in an octavo format (Walcher Casotti 13), before coming out in a quadrilingual folio format (French, German, Dutch, Italian) attributed to Willem Jansz Blaeu, reprinted in 1619, and re-edited in 1620 by Johannes Janssonius. Another quadrilingual edition followed with an English translation in place of the German version (Utrecht, 1629), then an edition in five languages published in Amsterdam in 1640, re-edited in 1642. It was quite normal that the French versions printed in the Netherlands would have inspired the translations printed in Paris by Firens and Tavernier, engravers of Flemish origin, during a period in which Vignola had definitely replaced Serlio.
     The Firens edition (Fowler 361; Walcher Casotti 35; RIBA 3447, n° 22) is very different in content and in format from that of Tavernier/Le Muet. Like the Dutch publications, it is a folio. Firens faithfully reproduces the text of the Dutch edition of 1617/1619, displaying his source clearly by reproducing Jansz Blaeu’s print above the pediment, showing an architect’s instruments (square, level, compass). In plate XXVIIII he reproduces the incomplete French text from the first edition of 1617, or from its reprint in 1619. “What can be judged by what is drawn here, having four Eagles instead of small stalks, and instead of reproductions of fruit four faces of Jupiter. Just as one can say that this other, which has four Grisons instead of small stalks, etc.” (p. 66), whereas the 1620 and 1629 texts restore the missing text, in conformity with the Italian version. Another similarity, the text of plate XXIX speaks of “demi-montée” whereas in the 1620 and 1629 editions it speaks of “montée”. Nevertheless the Firens edition consists of only 30 plates, without counting the title page and the word to the readers, namely those plates of the princeps edition printed in Rome in 1562 (the brief dedication appearing just after the word to the readers was deleted). Therefore it does not have the additions found in the Italian editions, namely the 12 engravings reproduced in all the multilingual Dutch editions (four doorways and one fireplace facing provided by Vignola probably for a new edition and seven others which had appeared in the editions of the Regola at the beginning of the 17th century. In comparison with the Amsterdam model, one can finally take notice of the inversion of the plate on the five orders (pl. I), which reproduces the composite order, then the Corinthian, the Ionic, the Doric and the Tuscan, from left to right.
Actually the Firens edition did not have the same impact that Le Muet’s very personal pocket-sized version did. Le Muet’s was a best-seller in France as well as in Northern Europe where it was often plagiarized, then translated into German, Dutch and English. Nevertheless Nicolas I Berey (1610-1665) reprinted it in 1664 under the new and false title Le grand Vignol augmenté... (Welcher Casotti 64, RIBA 1447, n° 53).

Frédérique Lemerle – 2016
(Centre national de la recherche scientifique, CESR, Tours)

Critical bibliography

M. Grivel, Le commerce de l’estampe à Paris au XVIIesiècle, Geneva, Droz, 1986, pp. 45-47, 301.

F. Lemerle, “Les versions françaises de la Regola de Vignole au XVIIe siècle”, In monte artium,1,2008, pp. 101-120.

F. Lemerle and Y. Pauwels, Architectures de papier. La France et l’Europe (XVIe -XVII e siècles), Turnhout, Brepols, 2013, pp. 107-109.

M. Préaud, P. Casselle, M. Grivel, C. Le Bitouzé, Dictionnaire des éditeurs d’estampes à Paris sous l’Ancien Régime, Paris, Promodis, 1987, pp. 125-126.

M. Walcher Casotti, “Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola: Regola delli cinque ordini d’architettura”, in E. Bassi (ed.), Pietro Cataneo, Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola : trattati,Milan, Polifilo, 1985, pp. 499-577.