analysis – explanation – interpretation
I dieci libri dell’ architettura di M. Vitruvio from Daniele Barbaro is as the title suggests a translation of Vitruvius’ ten books. However, Barbaro not only translated Vitruvius’ De Architectura but also made a commentary about it. As a whole and especially because of the commentary, Barbaros work is considered as one of the best presentations of Vitruvius views. Barbaros book also shows the general view on ancient architecture in the renaissance era and Barbaros personal views.
Vitruvius’ ten books are logically structured. The first book starts with the education of architects. The second book discusses the topic of construction materials. The third and fourth book initiates the discussion about different buildings by covering the most important buildings: temples. Book five and six cover the less important public and private buildings. In book seven and eight Vitruvius covers all the topics of interior construction, design and infrastructure.
In book nine and ten Vitruvius covers topics which are not part of a modern architect’s job. Today astronomy, horology and engineering are the jobs of scientists and engineers.
In a way you could describe Vitruvius’ ten books as “the guide of ancient Architecture.”
Something people will notice while reading the book, is that there are many beautiful drawings. However, because there is so much text, they do not appear on a regular basis. In conclusion today’s readers could find it exhausting because we are used to reading books about architecture containing a lot more pictures and drawings. Because Barbaro not only translated Vitruvius’ De Architectura but also made a commentary about it, there is much more text in his work than in the original Vitruvius books. Sometimes Barbaros comments are longer than Vitruvius’ original statements.
In those cases when drawings are used in the book, they are integrated very well into the context. Vitruvius made an excellent job in combining text and drawings. The drawings never stand alone and always are supported and explained through text. If we take a closer look at the selection of drawings in the ten De Architectura books, we see that Vitruvius only included necessary drawings. Even though, as I mentioned earlier, some people would wish for more drawings to be included, Vitruvius selection absolutely makes sense. Every drawing has its place in the book, and we do not see any drawing which are unnecessary or whose context we do not understand.
Because Vitruvius’ ten books themselves are already very important, the most important and most interesting feature in Daniele Barbaros translation is in my opinion his commentary.