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

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

2o (273 x 186 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). 96 (of 98 leaves., lacking 1/1 and 12/2 [supplied in manuscript facsimile]). 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. (Lacks two leaves, 1/2 remargined affecting a few letters, 12/8 lower margin and upper right corner strengthened, 6/6 with small marginal repair, 12/4 with minor internal paper flaw, some light staining, a few leaves with ink marginalia.) 19th-century vellum (some light wear to edges of lower cover, some light staining). Provenance: George Aitchison (1825-1910), British Architect and president of the Royal Institute of British Architects (ownership inscription “Naples, 2 June 1877” and bibliographical note on paste down); Philip W. Johnson (owners name on front free endpaper).


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. (Last leaf 2/8 remargined along sides, affecting a few letters, 2/1 strengthened along fore-margin.)

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, only one other copy has sold at auction in the past 34 years: Christie’s New York, 3 December 2007, lot 342. BMC IV, 123; BSB-Ink. F-274; Goff F-324; IGI 4104.

More from Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts including Americana

View All
View All