Approximately 8 months ago, I was paired with the book Extraordinario Libro Di Architettura by Sebastiano Serlio. I`d never really thought of grabbing and reading an old book about architecture, thinking the knowledge/style would be outdated and obsolete these days. Therefore I was skeptical and a little bit helpless, not knowing what I was going to face.
In the second lesson of GTA however, I got to know how famous Sebastiano Serlio was and how important he had been for the history of architecture in the 16th century. He had played a large role in spreading the Vitruvian principles and had written extensive treatises explaining and judging architecture, which then had defined the architecture that emerged in the following years/decades.
This sparked my interest and made me realize that this task was a compelling chance to get to know ancient architecture better. I realized that only by broadening my view on architecture (not only focusing on contemporary architecture I liked), I could grasp better what architecture is essentially about.
The book that I had received wasn`t like I expected it to be though. I expected a thick, complex and theoretical handbook like the books I had heard about of Sebastiano Serlio. When I saw the book in front of me, I learned that the Extraordinario Libro couldn`t be more different (like the name already suggests). The Extraordinario Libro displays 50 possibilities to design and decorate portals, from small private entries to giant public entrances. Those designs range from conventional to very experimental compositions and which, as I later learned, weren`t always in line with the rules he himself had preached (sometimes he even drastically contradicted his own rules). It wasn`t a handbook, but rather a study for himself where he could give free rein to his creativity. This made the book a lot more interesting for me, as I could compare the different alternatives to each other without knowing which variants were conventional and which were experimental, giving me the possibility to judge and compare them more openly based on my subjective taste. The contact task was a very interesting experience because I could interact with and grasp the pictures a lot better when they were physically in front of me compared to just seeing them in an online document. I was also astonished by the quality, the dimensions and the level of detail of the drawings, which themselves made the pictures interesting and appealing to look at.
The second most interesting task for me was getting to know the publishing history. I`d never thought of analyzing the publishing history of a book because it seemed futile and boring but as I`ve learned with the Extraordinario Libro, the publishing history tells a lot about the context in which a book emerges (e.g. when the book is exactly published, who it`s dedicated to, the political circumstances … ).
Friends with an old book was a valuable experience for me as it taught me how to approach books in another way then just reading it. It showed me that understanding a book means not only knowing a book`s content but also its context.