Gamucci’s Guide to Rome With Illustrations by Dosio

Gamucci, Bernardo (fl. 1580)

Libri Qvattro Dell'Antichita Della Citta Di Roma, Raccolte Sotto Brevita Da Diversi Antichi Et Moderni Scrittori, per M. Bernardo Gamucci da San Gimignano: Con Nvovo Ordine Fedelmente descritte, [et] rappresentate con bellissime figure, nel modo che quelle à tempi nostri si ritrouano

Venice: appresso Giouanni Varisco & compagni, 1565


Quarto: 24 x 17 cm. [8], 201 (incorrectly numbered 200), [3] (last 2 blank) pp. *4, A-Z4, AA4, BB6 (leaf BB6 blank). With an added folding plan.


Bound in 17th c. speckled calf, rebacked, with a double gold fillet framing the boards. A very fine copy. Illustrated with 38 woodcuts of Roman monuments. This copy is complete with the rare folding plan of Rome.

Gamucci’s “Four Books of Roman Antiquities” is one of the most valuable 16th c. guidebooks of ancient and Renaissance Rome. According to Schudt, Gamucci and Fulvio are the only late 16th c. guidebook writers to include their own contributions to the subject (rather than relying solely on earlier writers.) As a result, there is a sense of immediacy to Gamucci’s work. For instance, Gamucci is one of the first writers to mention the newly discovered “Forma Urbis”, the ancient “Marble Plan” of Rome, and his comments give us insight to the contemporary reception of this important, if problematic discovery.

The first of the four books concerns places connected with the foundation of Rome and the first religious cults (the Palatine, the Capitoline, the Forum), as well as the Imperial Fora and the Coliseum. In the second book Gamucci discusses the Forum Holitorium, Forum Boarium, the Aventine and Caelian hills, and Porta Maggiore. The third book covers the Esquiline, Viminal, and Quirinal hills, as well as the Campus Martius. In the fourth, Gamucci focuses on Trastevere, Tiber Island, and the Vatican.

Although titled “Roman Antiquities”, Gamucci also discusses aspects of the modern city. In fact, in the fourth book, after lavishing fulsome praise on Michelangelo’s transformation of St. Peter’s, he promises a fifth book (never delivered) dealing with all of the wonderful buildings “of our time”. 

Gamucci gives us, for instance, a detailed description of San Pietro in Montorio, with Raphael’s Transfiguration above the high altar and Bramante’s Tempietto (illustrated by two woodcuts) in the courtyard. He also describes the Palazzo Firenze in the Campo Marzio, with stuccos by his friend, Bartolomeo Ammannati (it is to Gamucci that we owe the attribution.) He reports on the progress of the new fortifications around Castel Sant’Angelo undertaken by Pius IV and the newly constructed (1564) church of Santa Maria degli Angeli within the ruins of the frigidarium of the baths of Diocletian (though he does not mention Michelangelo’s involvement.) Gamucci also gives descriptions of less durable features now lost, such as the Bellaiani gardens (Horti Bellaiani).

Gamucci’s guide is particularly important for his inclusion of woodcuts after drawings of Roman antiquities and views by Giovanni Antonio Dosio, a master of the genre. Dosio had been compiling a substantial body of Roman drawings from 1561. None of those images appeared in a book prior to Gamucci’s publication. Of the 38 images in the book, 24 are based on drawings by Dosio (Hülsen 1933).

Dosio came to Rome from his native San Gimignano in 1548 and apprenticed as a goldsmith. His profession soon turned to sculpture, however, and he became particularly interested in the sculptural monuments of the ancient city. This interest led to a tremendous output of drawings and engravings in the 1560’s and 1570’s. The illustrations include Bramante’s Tempietto at the church of San Pietro in Montorio and an image of New Saint Peter’s, still under construction. These illustrations preserve details of the ancient monuments now lost to us, including the Septizonium, the Vatican rotunda (now the Church of Saint Andrew), and the “House of Nero” on the Quirinal.)

The Plan of Rome:

Gamucci’s map of Rome is reliant on two of the most important 16th c. plans of the city, those of Marliani (1544) and Bufalini (1551). The inclusion of such a map served several functions: it satisfied the intellectual curiosity of the ever more sophisticated antiquarians; it helped the more “casual” tourists and pilgrims orient themselves in an unfamiliar city (and provided them with a souvenir of their visit); and perhaps most importantly it emphasized the “scientific” nature of the publication.

Cicognara 3743. Schudt 711. Olschki, Choix, 16995. Rossetti G-390