Author(s) Goldmann, Nicolaus
Title La nouvelle fortification
Imprint Leyde, A. & B. Elzevier, 1645
Localisation Paris, Binha, 4° Rés 361
Subject Military architecture, Perspective, Stereometry


     Nicolaus Goldmann was born in 1611 in the Silesian capital Wroclaw (Poland) and died in 1665 in the Dutch town of Leiden, where he had lived from 1632 onward. He taught mathematics, military architecture and, which was uncommon, architectural theory. Apart from the theory of the classical orders, drawing for architects and design techniques, he developed a unique building typology of his own. With this he attracted students from Holland, the German states, Poland (including Silesia), Ireland, Sweden and Denmark. Goldmann was also exceptional in that he wrote books which were directly derived from reflecting on his teachings. He wrote unusually well, and in studying them, one can grasp almost the entire architectural knowledge of the mid-seventeenth century in the Netherlands and Germany. He modelled his theory after the newest scientific insights of his time and milieu. Goldmann’s work stems from his endeavours to include the theory of architecture among the sciences. In order to do this he developed a theory based on the methodological principles of mathematics. Goldmann worked in the certainty of a consistent world picture, based on an unchangeable, mathematical universe.
During his life Goldmann was able to publish five books. These writings reflect different parts of his teachings and vary from theoretical treatises to practical handbooks: Elementorvm Architectvrae Militaris Libri IV […] (Leiden, 1643), a military engineering textbook; La Nouvelle Fortification (Leiden, 1645), the same book in a French edition; Vitrvvii Volvta Ionica […] (Amsterdam, 1649), a piece on the reconstruction of the Ionic volute ; Tractatus De Usu Proportionatorii Sive Circini Proportionalis […]/ Eine Ahnleitung Vom Gebrauch des Ebenpassers, Oder Proportionalcirckels […] (Leiden, 1656), which discussed the use of the proportional compass or sector ; Tractatvs De Stylometris […]/ Gebrauch Dehr Baustäbe […] (Leiden, 1661), about an invention of his own, a drawing instrument to construct the five column orders in the correct proportions.
Goldmann’s main contribution to architecture was his comprehensive theory. Because of his sudden death in 1665 this work wasn’t published during his lifetime. But his former students did circulate it as a series of identical and finished manuscripts throughout Northern Europe. In 1696 the German architect and mathematician Leonhard Christoph Sturm (1669-1719) edited one of the manuscripts in circulation and published it in Wolfenbüttel as Vollständige Anweisung zu der Civil BauKunst […] (i.e. Complete Definition of Civil Architecture); the title was provided by Sturm. Reprints appeared in 1699 in Brunswick and in 1708 in Leipzig. From the time of this publication on, Sturm put Goldmann in the limelight, but at the same time initiated a confusion of date, editing and illustrations. Goldmann's theory was no longer mid-seventeenth century, nor Dutch, nor mathematical in character, but had become in the hands of Sturm an exponent of the early eighteenth century, German, and by the illustrations with a stress on design. This confusion remained up until now.
In 1645 Goldmann published a French edition of the theory on military architecture which had appeared in Latin two years before: La Nouvelle Fortification. Both editions were published by the Leiden branch of the renowned Elsevier printing house. The one in Latin had a small octavo size and was dedicated to Frederick III, the future King of Denmark and Norway. The French one, dedicated to Frederick Henry of Nassau, stadtholder of the Dutch Republic, was a beautiful folio edition of 224 pages. This time the 56 illustrations had been placed prominently among the pages of the text. The contents as well as the illustrations, however, were exactly the same. The French edition was given a new title page with a layered iconography, executed by Adriaen Jacobsz. Matham (c1599-1660), a renowned engraver, painter, publisher and art dealer at Haarlem and The Hague.
The treatise consists of four books: Livre premier des Desseins, Deuxieme livre des Profils et Ichnographies, Troisieme livre de la Stereometrie et Sciagraphie, Qvatrieme livre de la maniere Mechanique, et de l’offense. Every book begins with a learned preface. Here Goldmann gives an account of his scientific choices. He further writes about the requirements for a good military engineer and overviews the history of military architecture from biblical times onward. He also speaks about his aims in writing the book:
           "Aussi avons nous fait ce discours, non comme pour enseigner les Mathematiques;            mais pour ceux qui ont lés charges d’une Republique; pour leur servir à augmenter leur            gloire; pour paroistre au dessus du vulgaire en temps de paix; & pour estre quand &            quand propres, à donner conseil es affaires de guerre" (p. 198).
Here he addresses himself directly to the stadtholder of the Dutch Republic, who fought the battle for independence against Spain just as his father William of Orange and brother Maurice of Nassau had done. Referring to the successful sieges of Frederick Henry, he continued:
           "Ce sera une chose, laquelle semble meriter de blasme de tout le monde, que d’oser            presenter à Vostre Altesse un livre de Fortification, de laquelle les plus excellentes            forteresses du monde sont esté si peu estiméés, quón les a vue se rendre, devant que le            fruit de leur siege peust arriver aux Provinces estrangeres." (f. *2)
Goldmann called his book "un petit traitté, qui commence Ià où les maistres de fortification ont cessé." (f. *2v°). This book wasn’t what the officers in the field experienced, nor added much to the knowledge of the practical engineers, he humbly stated :
           "Ne vous estonnez pas que nous n’avons point recherché aucun avencement en ce            metier vrayement honorable; nous n’avons eu l’intention telle de nous donner à ceste            pratique […] mais d’une estude plus excellente […] engagé par la promesse que nous            en avons faite... Quant au Ingenieurs, nous ne leur nuirons aucunement, pour obscurcir            leur lustre; tout au rebours cela servira à l’aggrandissement de leur excellence, si l’on            prend plaisir à lire nos escrits" (p. 198).
The four books follow the design process of a fortress. The theory is presented not as a continuous text but by a set of specific problems “propositions”, from elementary to complex questions.
According to the first book (Des desseins), the most decisive step in designing a fortress is the sketch. In this stage the decisions of the basic layout and its measurements are made, included the bastions and other parts of the defensive system. Goldmann discusses the form of the redoubt, starfort, different fieldworks and city ramparts. The latter are ideally on a regular ground plan. Goldmann describes the polygons and how irregular cities can also be fortified with these. Special attention is given to the bastion, the essential element of a strong fortress, with its correct dimensions and placing. According to Goldmann there are four basic operations for designing a fortress: sketching geometrically without calculating; calculating the dimensions and volumes; calculation-based sketching and measuring the fortress in the field. The first and second techniques are operations of invention, the latter two of construction.
In the second book (Des Profils et Ichnographies), Goldmann's distinction between sketch and ground plan is rare. Whereas for him the sketch is still directly linked to the thinking process, the ground plan is the materialized consequence of the sketch. Another detail different from many other books is that Goldmann starts the definite design of the fortress with the section. Drawing the cross section is the most effective way of determining the contour of the ramparts with parapet, fausse-braye, fosse, glacis on the outside, and the rampart itself consisting of wallwalk, banquette and gun-emplacements. Goldmann develops the system from an elementary setup to composite profiles.
The ground plan follows from the section (and the sketch). This is Goldmann's main concern in the second book. In a way this is a more detailed repetition of the principles dealt with in the first book. Most important in the lay out of fortesses is finding the right angle of the curtains and the positioning of the bastions.
The first book was in fact about line-drawing, and the second book about the two-dimensional representation ; the third book deals with the third dimension, i.e. the volumes of the ramparts and the ground work. In a series of theorems Goldmann presents the calculation of solids, laid out in elementary geometrical volumes, such as the cube, prism and parallelepiped. With this analysis it is possible to calculate the earthmoving operations. Also this book contains some special spatial parts of the fortress, like bridges, city gates and watchhouses. The three-dimensional representation of the fortress is of course the perspective. Goldmann only deals with it theoretically and gives no technical description. The perspective is something additional to the real design; it is the illusionistic representation for the patron :
           "Et l’invention de telles Sciagraphies seroit bien propre, pour pater l’entredeux des            fenestres en quelque Gallerie d’un grand Prince."
The last book (De la maniere Mechanique, et de l’offense) is a topos in the military literature was to end with the attack, as the counterpart of the defense. So did Goldmann. But instead of the common distinction between offense and defense, he opposes the statics of designing the fortress on the one hand, to the dynamics of the siege and the building in the field itself on the other, which he calls mechanic. No doubt this has to do with his scientific aim, in which there was no place for hand labour. Described are the material aspects of siege warfare, with saps, approaches, etc. Goldmann's introduction of ‘eurythmie’, the simplification and practical approach of the exact theoretical principles (i.e. ‘symmetrie’) in the field is also remarkable. The theory is ideal and unchangeable, but in times of war one has to be practical.
La Nouvelle Fortification can be read as a manual. It is the reflection of the courses Goldmann presented to his students. Goldmann's book must be placed in a tradition of military textbooks written in the Netherlands from the beginning of the seventeenth century to about 1680. Leiden was one of the places where apart from the traditional and theoretical mathematics at the university, one could also be educated in applied mathematics. Here in 1600 Prince Maurice of Nassau had founded the famous Duytsche Mathematique, an educational institution for military engineers and land surveyors according to a curriculum devised by Simon Stevin. Goldmann's book can be seen as an offspring of this curriculum, as were the teachings of the three generations of the Van Schooten family at the head of the institution (Franciscus sen., Franciscus jun. and Petrus van Schooten). As a private tutor Goldmann offered more or less the same teaching material as the engineering school, just as for instance Samuel Marolois did. In the same Leiden milieu around the Duytsche Mathematique originated three other related books about the same time as Goldmann’s: Adam Freitag, Architectvra Militaris Nova et aucta […], Leiden, 1642; Andreas Cellarius, Architectvra Militaris […], Amsterdam, 1645; and: Matthias Dögen, Architectvra Militaris Moderna […], Amsterdam, 1647.
What is the significance of Goldmann's book? Most important is the fact that he presented military engineering methodically as mathematics, instead of the more common presentation of this profession as an extraordinary elaboration of applied mathematics. Samuel Marolois e.g., who wrote primarily for engineers in the same context, treated military architecture in his book after he had worked out the principles of geometry. Goldmann taught his students mathematics by means of designing the fortress. Together with Marolois, Freitag, Cellarius and Dögen, Goldmann caused the theory of the so called ‘old-Netherlands system of fortification’ to be spread over Europe, in the wake of the practicing engineers who were educated in the same system. These books form the echoes of the lessons at Leiden.

Jeroen Goudeau (Deventer) – 2007

Critical bibliography

J. Goudeau, "Nicolaus Goldmann (1611-1665) en de praktijk van de studeerkamer", Bulletin KNOB, 94, 6, 1995, pp. 185-203.

J. Goudeau, Nicolaus Goldmann (1611-1665) en de wiskundige architectuurwetenschap, PhD Thesis (with an English summary), Groningen, 2005, ch. 4.

J. Goudeau, "A northern Scamozzi: Nicolaus Goldmann and the universal theory of architecture", Annali di architettura, 18-19, 2006-2007, pp. 235-246.

J. Goudeau, "Nicolaus Goldmann on public buildings. A typology for the well-ordered society", K. Ottenheym, K. De Jonge & M. Chatenet (ed.), Public buildings in early modern Europe, Turnhout, Brepols, 2010, pp. 13-26.

I. Küster, Leonhard Christoph Sturm; Leben und Leistung auf dem Gebiet der Zivilbaukunst in Theorie und Praxis, PhD thesis [typescript], Berlin, 1942, esp. p. 49-64.

M. Semrau, "Zu Nikolaus Goldmanns Leben und Schriften", Monatshefte für Kunstwissenschaft, 9, 1916, 10, pp. 349-361; 12, pp. 463-473.

M. Semrau, "Nikolaus Goldmann", U. Thieme & F. Becker (eds.), Allgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler von der Antike bis zur Gegenwart, Leipzig, Seeman, 14, 1921, p. 340.

M. Semrau, "Nikolaus Goldmann", Fr. Andreae et al. (ed.), Schlesier des 17. bis 19. Jahrhunderts. Schlesische Lebensbilder, 3, Breslau, Korn, 1928, pp. 54-60.

U. Schütte (ed.), Architekt und Ingenieur; Baumeister in Krieg und Frieden, Ausstellungskataloge der Herzog August Bibliothek, Wolffenbüttel, Herzog August Bibliothek, 1984.

U. Schütte, Das Schloss als Wehranlage. Befestigte Schloßbauten der frühen Neuzeit im alten Reich, Darmstadt, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1994, pp. 162-170.