- The full title of the book: what is it revealing about the content of the book? Who is it speaking to?
The full title is:«M. Vitruvii Pollionis de architectura libri decem : cum commentariis Danielis Barbari, electi patriarchae aquileiensis: multis aedificiorum, horologiorum et machinarum descriptionibus». Barbaro is naming his book “the 10 books of architecture”. It’s a testise and clearly following the steps of Virtruvius, but in a practical sense. It seems to be an encyclopaedic treatment of science and technology whose influence extended far beyond its day. Intended to both interpret and expand upon the Vitruvian text, Barbaro’s erudite commentary reflects his Aristotelian approach, particularly his fascination with the relationship between science and the arts.
- List of contents: Does the book have one? If so, what kind of sections does the book include? How are the chapters organised/listed?
The chapters are sectioned like volumes of different books. Each chapter seems to be about a different topic. There is also an index that is alphabetically organized.
- Illustrations: Is the book illustrated? If so, what king of images are there? If not, why do you think that is?
The book is illustrated with prints made out of wood cravings from the 1500s. One can see the reference to the perfect human body, renaissance and ancient gods in the illustrations. Nonetheless highlight the motifs the intertextuality of the different sciences as well (e. g. the fusion of art and mathematics). The illustrations that accompany the text are made by the Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio and his contemporaries. Palladio’s own Four Books on Architecture, published in 1570, was just one of many treatises on architecture that was inspired by the ideas contained here.
- Size/format: Is the book large or small, thick or thin etc…? What does this mean in relation to the topic?
The book is rather big, the layout classical and timeless. This design choice was consciously made by Barbaro to underline the importance of the context as well as the contextuality of the material inside of it.
- Author: who wrote the book? What was their background and occupation? What do you think they wanted to achieve with this book?
This treatise offers a window onto the architectural ideals of the 1500s, as well as then-current notions of philosophy, mathematics, music, astronomy, mechanics, and more. The collocation of Barbaro’s treatise between those of Alberti and Palladio should also be addressed here. The text itself is written by Barbaro and surely cross-referenced to Barbaro’s earlier publication and standard divisions of Vitruvius. He certainly tried to find a practical implementation of the written rules of Vitruvius.