The Most Accurate Measurements of Roman Architecture to Date. Illustrated with 137 engravings

Desgodets, Antoine (1653-1728)

Les Edifices Antiques de Rome Dessinés et Mesurés très exactement

Paris: Jean-Baptiste Coignard, 1682


Folio: Jean-Baptiste Coignard, Engraved title page, [12], 324 pp. Collation: [ ]1 (Etched title page), [π]2, e2, i2, A1, B-E2, F1,


Bound in contemporary paneled sheep, the spine tooled in gold, with minor wear. The contents are in excellent condition, with a few light stains. Illustrated with an etched title page and 137 etched and engraved plates of ancient Roman architectural monuments. A very good copy with light toning to some leaves and very faint dampstains in the lower margin of a few plates. The monuments illustrated include: the Pantheon, Temple of Bacchus, Temple of Faunus, Temple of Vesta, Temple of Vesta at Tivoli, Temple of Fortuna Virilis, Temple of Peace, Temple of Antoninus Pius and Faustina, Temple of Concord, Temple of Jupiter Stator, Temple of Jupiter Tonans, and the Temple of Mars Ultor.

“Antoine Desgodets, born into a family of prominent craftsmen, was already working in the Département des Bâtiments by the age of 16. In 1672 he began to assist at the conferences of the Académie Royale d’Architecture, and in 1674 was sent by Colbert to Rome. In 16 months he measured many of the important ancient buildings, with greater accuracy than had been achieved to that date. In 1677 he returned to Paris and began to submit his Rome drawings to the Academy. These would be published in 1682 as the ‘Edifices Antiques’.

“This splendid folio edition, which contains illustrations of twenty-five ancient Roman monuments, was financed by Colbert, who had Desgodets’ drawings engraved by the king’s engravers at His Majesty’s expense. The artists include, among others, de Chastillon, Simon de La Boissière, Sébastien Le Clerc, and both Jean and Pierre La Pautre. The subject of measured antique monuments was unique among French publications at the time. The text, interleafed with illustrations of each monument, was also unusual. After a short description of physical characteristics, the author noted discrepancies with Vitruvius’ text or listed errors made by modern authorities (such as Serlio, Palladio, Antonio Labacco, and Fréart de Chambray) in establishing measurements for the same buildings. Desgodets then allowed the evidence of the ancient monuments, observed with scientific accuracy and recorded to the fraction of an inch, to take priority over the written architectural documents on which the French Academy had based its principles.”(Millard French)

Desgodets’ "incorporated in his drawings as many details as possible, delineating them with a degree of accuracy inspired by his almost mystical reverence for exactitude of proportion. Such accuracy was unprecedented, and not to be superseded for a long time.”(British Architectural Library)

Millard (French) No. 62; BAL, 858; Fowler, 102 ; Cat. Berlin, 1863