FRIENDS WITH AN OLD BOOK
The book “Teoria e pratica di architettura civile per istruzione della gioventù specialmente romana,…”, which translates roughly to “Theory and practice of civil architecture for the education of especially Roman youth,…”, was authored by Girolamo Masi. As its name and year of publication (1788) already suggests, it is likely to have had its primary use mostly in schools of 18th century Rome, a textbook for teaching the youth, therefore it was only logical to be written in Italian.
The book acts as a general introduction into the great and complexed matter of civil architecture, trying to make it comprehensible for the youth, them being the future architects of Rome.
In order to achieve that, Masi incorporates on one hand the theory of important features of buildings such as columns and their five orders, cornices and architraves and more, going as far as elaborating on the fine and important little details of a building’s decoration and their effects on its big picture. On the other hand, the author focuses on conveying practical uses, processes of construction and great examples of applying exactly the before mentioned theories to help the students in their drafts, plans and designs and even buildings.
The book’s structure can be divided into four major parts, each consisting of subdivisions. It starts off with an introduction to and is followed by the theoretical part of civil architecture. This portion is the largest and takes up roughly fifty percent of the book.
It is followed by a continuation to the theory of civil architecture, pages above pages filled with tables and numbers referencing the correct dimensions and proportions of columns in their respective order and other architectural building elements. This is the smallest portion of the book, only consisting of about six pages.
The second larger chunk of the book is about the practical uses, strategies, processes of construction along with great examples, taking up about eighty pages. It features tables and numbers here and there, but consists mostly of text in written format.
The third and final large part of the book includes a multitude and variety of appendices and indices, resembling a lexicon, giving the students a chance to quickly look up and read the most important information about a certain architect, specific buildings, further additional readings and lexica concerning similar topics and even definitions of terms used in the book.
With this carefully structured, clear and comprehensive textbook, Girolamo Masi is capable of dimensioning and guide through the complexed matter of civil architecture, so that even children and young adults can understand, comprehend and enjoy learning about the subject, which in itself can easily get quite overwhelming.
Structure – Clarity – Guide