A concept which, in my opinion, pervades Andreas Cellarius’ Architectura Militaris, is that of a mathematical approach.
Although Cellarius does briefly explain the basic principles behind his findings and observations, the book quickly turns technical and he proceeds to specify the measurements, angles and shapes of different military defenses. Being a collection of multiple other works on the topic, the strength of Architectura Militaris lies in clarifying and summarizing. All necessary information concerning the construction of fortifications is packaged in a sort of handbook for those intending to plan one. ‘Planning’ being the keyword here because even though the observations were made in the field, Andreas Cellarius translates them into a numerical system, more suitable for the engineer with prior knowledge rather than the builder. His mathematical approach further manifests itself in a set of highly aesthetic but technical drawings throughout the book, the hard lines and sharp angles of which have little in common with the majority of fortifications actually built. Nevertheless, the aforementioned combination of detailed calculations and geometrical drawings make Architectura Militaris stand out as a unique piece of literature.
What impressed me the most was the gradual progression within the book and the concept itself. A topic that, at first glance, appears rather dull, becomes more and more interesting with each page. Something that is mirrored by the concept of a mathematical approach. What starts out as a string of numbers and bare text progresses into plan drawings and, ultimately, beautiful illustrations that make you want to go back and read it all again, thinking you missed something in those words and calculations.
Although certainly not intended by Cellarius, this unexpectedly adds another quality to Architectura Militaris. Both the book and concept seem to develop – not unlike the way a butterfly evolves from a caterpillar to chrysalis and then into its final, glorious form. Consequently, the reader is prompted to examine even the more lackluster pages closely and fully comprehend the concept behind fortification construction.