Author(s) [Marcus Cetius Faventinus]
Title Vetustus author... de architectura compendiosissime tractans...
Imprint Paris, M. de Vascosan, 1540
Localisation Besançon, Bibliothèque municipale, 234062
Subject Domestic architecture
Transcribed version of the text


     The first edition of the compendium of architecture appeared in 1540 at the bookseller Michel de Vascosan's shop following texts on mathematics, geometry and astronomy by Cassiodore (Aurelii Cassiodori Senatoris Cos. que Romani de quatuor mathematicis disciplinis Compendium. Adjectus est vetustus author... de architectura compendiosissime tractans quæ Vitruvius et cæteri locupletius ac diffusius tradidere...). It is followed by chapter 15 of Book X of the De re ædificatoria by Alberti (Ex Leonis Baptistæ de re ædificatoria libro decimo, quomodo serpentes, culices, cimices, muscæ, mures, pulices, tineæ, & id genus molesta nocuaque perdantur & arceantur). We owe the edition to the Orientalist and polymath Guillaume Postel (1510-1581), who went back to an interpolated version of the compendium of architecture with the passage "De malthis diversis", pointed out as the last chapter (ch. 30). The table of contents "De diversis fabricis Architectonicæ capita" (ff. 9-9v°) precedes the text of the synopsis of architecture, divided in thirty chapters (ff. 10-23).
The anonymous compiler brought together the practical information on the private architecture mainly contained in Vitruvius' treatise and in others: not satisfied to reorganize it, he completed it, brought it up to date, indeed, corrected it. The opuscule, for it is really a very brief text, written in a simple impersonal style like all technical writings, was addressed to a wide public. Thus it follows a practical logical order: the prologue, general theoretical knowledge (ch. 1 and 2), water (prospecting, boring, conveyance..., ch. 3-7), building materials (ch. 8-12), construction (the country villa, the urban residence, baths, ch. 13-17), finishing off (ornamental paving, ceilings..., measuring instruments (ch. 28-29), various types of cement (ch. 30).
It would seem that the compendium met with little success since in 1550 Vascosan decided to issue in a new edition only Cassodiore and Alberti without the summary of architecture. In the meantime it is true that Jean Martin's French translation of Vitruvius came out (Paris, Jacques Gazeau, 1547). But architects and theoreticians had no reason to use an opuscule which taught them nothing. In his Annotations on Vitruvius (Rome, 1544; Lyon, 1552), Guillaume Philandrier worked on the very sources of the antique author. Moreover, in 1624, Louis Savot made no mention of the work in his long bibliography of architecture (L'architecture françoise des bastimens particuliers). And it appears neither in the libraries of Mansart, Le Vau or Lemercier. Only the scholar from Aix, Nicolas Claude Fabri de Peiresc (1580-1637), a student of architecture but above all a well-informed bibliophile, possessed the 1540 edition. This edition was cited and sought out in Padua in 1739 by marquis Giovanni Poleni in his Exercitationes Viruvianæ secundæ, under the title Anonymus scripor vetus, de architectura compendiosissime tractans, quæ Vitruvius et ceteri locupletius quidem ac diffusius tradidere. However, in 1580, Élie Vinet had published an edition of the compendium of architecture which he ascribed to Palladius.
The author from antiquity was not identified until the second half of the 19th century (Cam 2002, p. LXIV): Marcus Cetius Faventinus, who no doubt lived during the first half of the 3rd century. He was one of the sources of Palladius and Isidore de Seville.

Frédérique Lemerle (Centre national de la recherche scientifique,
Centre d’études supérieures de la Renaissance, Tours) – 2008

Critical bibliography

M. C. Faventinus, Abrégé d’architecture privée, Text established, translated et annotated by M.-T. Cam, Paris, Les Belles Lettres, 2002, pp. VII-LXVIII (1st ed.: Paris, 2001).

F. Lemerle, "La bibliothèque d’architecture de Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc", Revue de l’Art, 157, 2007-3, pp. 35-38.

F. Marías, « ¿ Palladio o Palladius ? Marco Cetio Faventino : sobre la supuesta edicíon francesa de Andrea Palladio de 1580 », Annali di architettura, 21, 2009, pp. 91-98.