Dürer’s Principles of Perspective – Profusely Illustrated

ART. ARCHITECTURE. PERSPECTIVE. Rodler, Hieronymous (d. 1539); Johann II, Count Palatine of Simmern (1492 -1557)

Perspectiva. Eyn schön nützlich büchlin vnd vnderweisung der kunst des messens mit dem zirckel, richtscheidt oder linial. Zunutz allen kunstliebhabern, fürnemlich den malern, bildhawern, goldschmiden, seidenstickern, steynmetzen, schreinern, auch allen andern so sich der kunst des messens (perspectiua zu latein genant) zu gebrauchen lust haben. Darin man auch solche kunst leichter dan auss etlichen hieuor getruckten büchern begreiffen vnd lernen mag, mit viel schönen darzu dienenden figuren.

Frankfurt: Cyriacus Jacob 1546


Folio: 31 x 19.3 cm. [90] p. Collation: A-G6, H4 (lacking blank H4)

SECOND EDITION (1st ed. 1531).

Modern quarter vellum and attractive pastepaper over boards. A very fine copy, with crisp leaves and broad margins. Distinguished from the first edition by slight changes to the title page and text (illustration on leaf B4v printed upside-down, illustrations on F6v and G6v printed in black only.) Title page printed in red and black and with a large woodcut depicting Count Johann II’s workshop with craftsmen engaged in various activities. The text is illustrated with over 60 woodcut scenes and diagrams, of which 21 are full-page and 10 have perspective lines printed in red. The text is printed in Dürer’s Fraktur type.

One of the most beautiful of early books on perspective and its application to art and architecture. “Rodler’s” book presents a practical adaptation for painters, sculptors, goldsmiths, embroiderers, masons and carpenters, of the principles and applications of perspective elucidated by Dürer in his “Untedweysung der Messung”(1525).

In his preface, the book’s printer, Hieronymus Rodler, “stated that he found the perspective methods presented by Dürer too difficult for practitioners, for which reason he had decided to publish a book by an author who knew how to address this group. The identity of Rodler's chosen author remained unknown for centuries, but in 1991 Werner Wunderlich solved the riddle by pointing to Johann II, Count Palatine of Simmern (1492 -1557) as the author (Wunderlich 1991, pp. 25-27)… Wunderlich found additional support for his hypothesis in Hans Lenckner's 'Persperctiva' from 1571, in which Lencker stated that Count Johann had published a book on perspective." (Andersen 2007, p. 214- 215)

“Duke Johann II installed a private press in his Simmern residence and on it produced a remarkable series of eight first editions translated or illustrated by his own hand. An expert woodcutter (he is known to have made wooden sculptures for a neighboring convent) and a fair draughtsman and painter (a pupil of Conrad Faber who gained fame as Schöffer’s illustrator of Livy and Caesar), the Duke was also a man of letters. His court was bilingual in French, … in a word; he was the perfect Renaissance prince…

“He knew and admired Dürer’s recent works on perspective and proportion, but he had already absorbed the Italian influence to a far greater extent than the master whose heavy-handed ‘Northern’ seriousness he disliked. The present treatise is a revolt against specialist dogmatism, written in an easy vernacular and illustrated with a simple elegance and deftness that points towards the French school. Most of the full-page views were drawn from life in the grounds, halls, corridors of the castle, and the title-page presumably shows the workshop there, with a self-portrait of Duke Johann II at work.

“Only the very first woodcuts used on the press, those on Rüxner’s Thunier-Buch, are signed HH, for Herzog Hans, or Hans von Hunsrück, the Duke’s vernacular name. The same signature occurs once more, in Sebastian Münster’s Cosmography which includes a cut of Simmern and mentions the press. Münster acknowledged his Hunsrück material to have been contributed by Duke Johann II. Hieronymus Rodler, who supervised the press and to whom the present work continues to be wrongly attributed (his own preface clearly mentions another anonymous author) was the Duke’s secretary’ (Wiebenson (ed.), Architectural Theory and Practice from Alberti to Ledoux, III,-B-2).

Kat. Berlin, 4682; Vagnetti, Prospettiva, EIIb10; See Adams, R-652 and Fairfax-Murray, German, 367 (for the 1531 edition); Not in VD-16