"Alberti Dvreri pictoris et architecti praestantissimi De vrbibvs..."

Author: Albrecht Dürer (German, Nuremberg 1471–1528 Nuremberg)

Date: 1535

Culture: Paris: Officina Christiani Wecheli, 1535

Medium: Illustrated book

Dimensions: 78 pp.; H: 13 3/4 in. (35 cm)

Credit Line: Purchased with income from the Jacob S. Rogers Fund

Accession Number: 125.97 D932


Albrecht Dürer, painter, draftsman, printmaker, and writer, was perhaps the greatest German artist. He created paintings and drawings of the highest quality and made major contributions to the development of printmaking, particularly engraving. In 1525 Dürer published "Underweysung der Messung, mit dem Zirckel und Richtscheyt in Linien Ebenen und gantzen Corporen [Institutionum Geometricarum . . . ]," an introductory manual of geometric theory and its practical application for young artists. His treatise "Etliche Underricht, zu Befestigung der Stett, Schlosz und Flecken [De Urbibus, arcibus, castellisque . . . ]," on military fortification, was published about 1527. The Library's copy contains the Latin editions of both the military and geometric treatises published in Paris in the mid-1530s. The earlier manual was intended to give artists a strong base in the theory and application of geometry. In it Dürer discusses the generation of ellipses, the geometry of three-dimensional bodies, and the practical application of geometry in architecture. The last section of "Underweysung der Messung" is the first scientific treatment of perspective by a northern European artist, and its very placement in his treatise on geometry emphasizes the importance of perspective as a branch of mathematics, not merely as a technique of painters and architects. The practical application of geometrical theory reappears in Dürer's work on fortification, the first book in German on the subject. He relied heavily on Italian literature, but the "Etliche Underricht" was the first printed book in any language to bring together elements of the art of fortification from various sources and to present them as a system. Although it has been previously rebacked, the Library's copy is bound in a contemporary blind-tooled calfskin.

Illustrated: book 3, p. 136–37, methods of constructing letterforms, from "Institutionum Geometricarum"