For the last year I have been paired up with a certain book from 1617 called „Alcune opere d’architettura“ by the Italian draftsman and engraver Francesco Villamena. This, one could say, is my experience of getting to know a book in a foreign language, by an author I knew less than nothing about, written about four hundred years ago.
With the first task came the first knowledge about this book. At first glance it seemed like very basic knowledge, with a lack of depth, but these informations were the first time the books could introduce themselves to us (by foreign sources) and so the smalltalk began.
The second assignment made us see the books in person and not only have a quick look at the old, yellow pages, but actually take our time in getting to know the object in front of us. This was, when I started to understand the book, because I engaged with it. I realized that the language barrier wouldn’t be as big of a deal as I had supposed because there was barely anything written in it, and what was written were descriptions of what what displayed as a copper engraving. The images were also all showing works of the architect Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola. The visit and interaction made me understand the things it wanted to showcase and how it did so.
The next exercise was the search for copies and further editions of ones book, which I for one found pretty difficult and not necessary, as the book „Alcune opere d’architettura“ is not a manifesto or a theoretical manuscript but an illustration of works, not even commented on, by a different person. There wasn’t much material to work with.
The translation on the other hand was a big step forward in the relationship between me and that book by Francesco Villamena. Even though the transition was in no way gapless and fully effective, it did clarify further elements of the book. It made very clear, that the short passages next to the detailed and beautifully crafted engravings were infact descriptions, aiming to bring what could not be clarified by the details closer to the reader. I already had assigned this by the way these short sentences were layouted, schooling in size and position, that indeed the imagery was superior to them. Their translation assured me that these assumptions had bean correct and the words did only take an accompanying position in relation to the engravings.
The last exercise was particularly interesting because of the „book topic galaxy“ which showcased the tendencies of the author in the choice of topics. The process of trying to generate a reasonable conversion between the books was also a very interesting one, as for the most part the Books had not much more in common than that the authors were all Italian and the books were (obviously) absolutely architecture. Surprisingly, though fi finding a topic to start on, the conversation went very smoothly and coherent.
Over all I would describe my experience with this book, Alcune opere d’architettura“, as a rather positive one. It opened my mind to be more open to encounters like these.