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Serlio, Sebastiano

Regole generali di architettura … sopra le cinque maniere de gli edifici … con nove additioni, & castigationi, del medesimo autore in questa terza editione fatte : come ne la sequente carta è notato.

Venezia, (Francesco Marcolini) 1544.

Reference: 14563

Full Description

Folio. (75) ff, comprising a decorative printed title leaf and (75)ff numbered II-LXXVI (of which six leaves, numbered XXVI, XXVII, LIII, LVI, LXIV, and LXXIV, have been inserted for a recent previous owner from other copies). A lightly cleaned copy bound in full panelled calf (a recent binding). Leaf XXII has pen trials in ink in the upper blank margin of its verso, Leaf XLI has old ink marks at the top and bottom of its verso, leaf LXI has been remargined at its foot for loss of blank surface, and Leaf LXXV has an added strip of woodcut printed ornament pasted towards the foot of its verso. Of the inserted leaves, Leaves XXVI and XXVII have the respective added numbers 99 and 100 in an old ink handwriting, and Leaf XXVII has an added line of writing in a sixteenth-century hand in a blank area on its recto ; Leaf LIII has the added numbers 83 on its recto and 84 on its verso in an old ink handwriting ; Leaf LVI has been remargined at its top, with loss of a few lines of text on its verso (but with no loss on the recto except for the words LIBRO QVARTO and the leaf’s printed number) ; and Leaf LXXIV has a small repair to its blank lower margin. An ink inscription in Latin at the foot of the title leaf records that the present copy was a gift at Arles in September 1631 from “Frater Johan. de Salian nobilis Arvernus Augustin.” to “Francisco Vebatutio (?)”. A further ink inscription in French records that on 7 February 1644 “ayant eu notice que ce livre auvit appartenu au Sieur (?) Lavau peintre, je le luy ay porté, & il ma prié de le garder pour amour de luy”.

A rare early edition of what Sebastiano Serlio intended as his fourth book of architecture, although when originally published in 1537 it was in fact the first of the seven books of his projected architectural treatise to be available in print. It deals with the orders of architecture – Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, Composite – and what made it particularly popular was that its numerous woodcut illustrations showed how the orders could be used in the facades of grander town houses and in designs for gateways, doors and ornamental fireplaces. It was also the first book to provide illustrations of, and rules for the use of, the Composite order. The original edition had been dedicated to Ercole d’Este, Duke of Ferrara, but when a second edition appeared in 1540 Serlio substituted a lengthy new dedication to Alfonso d’Avalos, Ambassador to Venice for the Emperor Charles V, and this is repeated in the present third edition, issued in 1544. The handsome illustrations in all three of these early editions are printed from the original woodblocks produced for the edition of 1537, and it has been speculated that Serlio might have designed and cut the woodblocks himself.The copy that we are offering here is a lightly cleaned one, in which six of the seventy-six leaves have been added for a recent previous owner from other copies, as is demonstrable from the fact that the leaves originally in this copy each carry consecutive Arabic numbering in ink from 2 to 76 in a sixteenth century hand, in addition to the printed Roman numbering which appears on the recto of each leaf (the decorative title leaf carries neither an ink number nor a printed number, but has always been part of the present copy). These ink numbers do not occur on the added leaves, which are either numbered in different sequences or carry no ink numbering at all. For all that, the copy is still an attractive one, for the paper on which the leaves were printed was of good quality, and the woodcut illustrations retain most of their original strength and visual appeal. We price the copy accordingly (an unrestored copy in an original binding would be substantially more expensive).The title leaf carries two interesting ink inscriptions at its foot, the first recording the gift of the copy in September 1631 from “Frater Johan. de Salian”, a “nobilis Arvernus” (a member of a noble family from the Auvergne region of France), and apparently a member of an Augustinian religious community, to another individual, whose surname, regrettably, the present cataloguer has not been able to make sense of ; and the second a note recording that in February 1644 the then possessor of the copy took it to the copy’s real owner, a Sieur (?) Lavau, described as a “peintre” (painter), who handed it back with an instruction to the individual concerned to preserve the copy “pour amour de luy” (out of love for him). It is difficult to interpret the circumstances behind the second inscription without knowing the identities of the persons involved, but it is nonetheless striking that a copy of a 1544 edition of Serlio should have been the subject of a transaction expressed in these terms a century after its publication. This edition not in BAL Cat (although the British Architectural Library does hold the 1537 edition, BAL Cat 2966) ; Cicognara 665 ; Fowler Cat 316.