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    Sale 1922

    Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts Including Americana

    3 December 2007, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 342

    VITRUVIUS POLLIO, Marcus (ca 90-20 B.C.). De architectura. Edited by Johannes Sulpitius. [Rome: Eucharius Silber, ca 1487].

    Price Realised  

    VITRUVIUS POLLIO, Marcus (ca 90-20 B.C.). De architectura. Edited by Johannes Sulpitius. [Rome: Eucharius Silber, ca 1487].

    2o (286 x 201 mm). [14; 2-48 5-76 88 96 10-128 136 148.] (1/1r blank, 1/1v preface by Johannes Sulpitius, 1/2r index, 1/3r dedication to Raphaeli Riario, 2/1v text, 97v colophon, 98r list of errata, 98v blank). 98 leaves. 34 lines. Type: 3:112R. Three- and four-line initial spaces, most with guide letters, spaces for diagrams and Greek verses, woodcut diagram on 3/1r. (Some minor staining.) 19th-century morocco by Bedford, gilt edges. Provenance: Henry Huth (bookplate).

    VERY RARE FIRST EDITION OF THE ONLY ARCHITECTURAL TREATISE TO SURVIVE FROM ANTIQUITY.

    FIRST EDITION of Vitruvius's Ten Books on Architecture on the principles of classical Greek architecture, the only such work of Antiquity to survive, considered the supreme authority by Italian Renaissance architects and the single most influential work for the later development of European architecture.

    Vitruvius, born into a prosperous and well-known family, was a contemporary of Julius Caesar, and Augustus. He participated in the Gaul campaign, and was involved in the repair of the aqueduct system in Rome. He was a "builder, engineer, and scholar" (Millard), who must have been familiar with Asian, Greek, and Italian architecture. The work by Frontinus De aquis urbis Romae, composed in A.D. 100 "constitutes the only ancient Roman confirmation of Vitruvius' existence" (Millard). The present copy is bound with the Frontinus (see below).

    "By exemplifying the principles of classical architecture De architecture became the fundamental architectural textbook for centuries" (PMM). The Ten Books on Architecture comprise: elements of architecture, town planning including fortification; building materials; temples, columns, foundations etc.; civil and domestic buildings; plasterwork and the interior of buildings; and technical matters such as hydraulics, astronomy, sundials, machinery and military engineering. The first edition was edited by Johannes Sulpitius (b. ca 1430-40), "possibly with the collaboration of Pomponio Leto (1425-1498), one among the scholars who in 1480 began to study Vitruvius" (Millard).

    Although the text was known in the Middle Ages, it was not until the Renaissance that its rediscovery began to change architecture. Alberti, Bramante, Michelangelo, Vignola, Palladio and many others were influenced by Vitruvius, and numerous editions with commentaries (see the following lots) were subsequently printed. "The Vitruvian text became for Renaissance architecture what biblical studies had been for theology" (Millard). BMC IV, 124; BSB-Ink. V-270; Goff V-306; IGI 10346; Pr. 3951; PMM 26. Not in Fowler or Millard Italian.

    [Bound with]:

    FRONTINUS, Sextus Iulius. De aquis urbis Romae. Edited by Julius Pomponius and Johannes Sulpitius. [Rome: Eucharius Silber, ca 1487-1490].

    2o. [1-28]. 16 leaves. 34 lines. Type: 3:112R. Three- to five-line initial spaces, spaces for Greek and roman letter.

    FIRST EDITION. Frequently found bound together with the first edition of Vitruvius, with which it is presumably closely contemporary. The first editions of Vitruvius and Frontinus were traditionally assigned to Georg Herolt in Rome (Copinger, Proctor, Reichling), an assignment corrected by BMC to Eucharius Silber. Hermann Degering "Wer war der Drucker der Erstausgabe des Vitruv?" in Wiegendrucke und Handschriften, Festgabe K. Haebler, Leipzig, 1919 pp. 175-202) has argued that BMC is incorrect, and that these editions, with others, should be given to an anonymous "Printer of Vitruvius." Although Degering corrects and refines BMC's statements about the type used in theses editions, it is on balance more likely than not that the type in question belonged to Silber. References to current Roman affairs in Sulpitius' dedication to Cardinal Riario suggest a date of about 1487, and not earlier than 1486. VERY RARE: according to American Book Prices Current, no copy has sold at auction in the past 25 years. BMC IV, 123; BSB-Ink. F-274; Goff F-324; IGI 4104.


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    Saleroom Notice

    There are a few tiny wormholes occasionally catching letters on preliminary leaves, some discreetly repaired.


    Pre-Lot Text

    Property of the Metropolitan Museum of Art


    W. Gedney Beatty (1869-1941) was a gentleman architect. Various monuments to celebrated Americans and Yale University's Hammond Hall mark his practice. However, Mr. Beatty's lasting influence is felt from the care with which he built a substantial library devoted to the history of architecture and building practices. Known to the premier antiquarian book shops of Europe, his standing orders always began with the editions of Vitruvius lacking from his shelves. With an expressed interest in adding multiple copies to compare to the librarians bibliographic record, his collecting, at times, proceeded feverishly with advance payments and a request that a copy be put aside with the promise to retrieve the book later, after the resolution of war or even revolution. Mr. Beatty's bequest to the museum of his complete architectural library joined the rich holdings in the Department of Drawings and Prints. The abundance of duplicates reiterates the craft of the authors, editors, and publishers. The breadth and depth of Mr. Beatty's collection led Metropolitan curator William Ivins to assess its cultural importance as demonstrating the power of unbuilt works over the architectural imagination of future generations.

    Dr. Geoffrey S. Taylor




    "The Vitruvian text as inherited by the architects of the early Renaissance posed seemingly insurmountable problems. The drawings had disapperared, and the text was filled with errors and lacunae. There were no extant architectural works by Vitruvius that would have helped to decode some of the difficult passages... The Vitruvian treatise became the foundational Urtext of architectural theory and practice, with a huge afterlife" (Millard). This afterlife is documented in the following lots of important editions of The Ten Books on Architecture comprising the first three incunabule editions (lots 342-344), the first illustrated edition (lot 345), the first vernacular edition (lot 347), editions with commentaries by Giocondo (lot 348), Durantino (lot 350), Carporali (lot 352), Barbaro (lot 358) which includes illustrations by Andrea Palladio, and many others. The following lots have "The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Department of Prints, The Bequest of W. Gedney Beatty, 1941" bookplate, and sometimes a discreet ink stamp in the gutter margin.