On Architecture: Bks. I-X
About the book
Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, a Roman architect and engineer flourishing in the first century B.C., was the author of the oldest and most influential work on architecture in existence. For hundreds of years, the specific instructions he gave in his Ten Books on Architecture were followed faithfully, and major buildings in all parts of the world reveal the widespread influence of his precepts. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, he was the chief authority studied by architects, and in every point his precepts were accepted as final. Bramante, Michelangelo, Palladio, Vignola, and earlier were careful students of the work of Vitruvius. His book is thus one of those rare works that have been supremely important in the creation of the greatest art masterpieces. Vitruvius describes the classic principles of symmetry, harmony, and proportion in architecture; the design of the treasury, prison, senate house, baths, forum, and temples; the construction of the theater: its site, foundations, and acoustics; the proper style and proportion for private dwellings; the differences between the Ionic, Doric, and Corinthian styles; methods of giving durability and beauty to polished finishings; and many other topics that help us understand the methods and beliefs of the Roman architect. It is a direct, authoritative, and detailed introduction to the ancients' methods of construction, the materials of the architect, and the prevailing aesthetic beliefs of the times; but it is also a work of art. Vitruvius wrote in such a fascinating manner, and digressed from his subject so often (as, for instance, when he wrote about the winds, Archimedes in his bath, and why authors should receive awards and honors at least as often as athletes), that his book has had a continuing appeal to the general reader for many centuries. Besides being an instructive treatise on nearly everything connected with Roman and Greek architecture, it is an entertaining description of some aspects of the life and beliefs of the times. This edition is the standard English translation, prepared over a period of several years by Professor M. H. Morgan of Harvard University.
Vitruvius (; c. 80–70 BC – after c. 15 BC) was a Roman architect and engineer during the 1st century BC, known for his multi-volume work entitled De architectura. He originated the idea that all buildings should have three attributes: firmitas, utilitas, and venustas ("strength", "utility", and "beauty"). These principles were later widely adopted in Roman architecture. His discussion of perfect proportion in architecture and the human body led to the famous Renaissance drawing of the Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci. Little is known about Vitruvius' life, but by his own description he served as an artilleryman, the third class of arms in the Roman military offices. He probably served as a senior officer of artillery in charge of doctores ballistarum (artillery experts) and libratores who actually operated the machines. As an army engineer he specialized in the construction of ballista and scorpio artillery war machines for sieges. It is possible that Vitruvius served with Julius Caesar's chief engineer Lucius Cornelius Balbus. Vitruvius' De architectura was widely copied and survives in many dozens of manuscripts throughout the Middle Ages, though in 1414 it was "rediscovered" by the Florentine humanist Poggio Bracciolini in the library of Saint Gall Abbey. Leon Battista Alberti published it in his seminal treatise on architecture, De re aedificatoria (c. 1450). The first known Latin printed edition was by Fra Giovanni Sulpitius in Rome in 1486. Translations followed in Italian, French, English, German, Spanish, and several other languages. Though the original illustrations have been lost, the first illustrated edition was published in Venice in 1511 by Fra Giovanni Giocondo, with woodcut illustrations based on descriptions in the text.
Life and careerLittle is known about Vitruvius' life. Most inferences about him are extracted from his only surviving work De Architectura. His full name is sometimes given as "Marcus Vitruvius Pollio", but both the first and last names are uncertain. Marcus Cetius Faventinus writes of "Vitruvius Polio aliique auctores"; this can be read as "Vitruvius Polio, and others" or, less likely, as "Vitruvius, Polio, and others". An inscription in Verona, which names a Lucius Vitruvius Cordo, and an inscription from Thilbilis in North Africa, which names a Marcus Vitruvius Mamurra have been suggested as evidence that Vitruvius and Mamurra (who was a military praefectus fabrum under Julius Caesar) were from the same family; or were even the same individual. Neither association, however, is borne out by De Architectura (which Vitruvius dedicated to Augustus), nor by the little that is known of Mamurra. Vitruvius was a military engineer (praefectus fabrum), or a praefect architectus armamentarius of the apparitor status group (a branch of the Roman civil service). He is mentioned in Pliny the Elder's table of contents for Naturalis Historia (Natural History), in the heading for mosaic techniques. Frontinus refe ... Read full biography
|Authors:||Vitruvius M.H. Morgan|
|Publisher:||Dover Publications Inc.|
|Languages:||| English ||
|Publication date:||Jan. 10, 1998|
|First Publication Date:||None|
|Publication City/Country:||New York, United States|