La pratica della perspettiva … opera molto utile a pittori, a scultori, & ad architetti.

Venice, Camillo & Rutilio Borgominieri, 1568 [-69].

Two works in one vol., folio, pp. I: 195, [1 (blank)], [12], II: [12], 143, [1]; both works copiously illustrated with numerous large woodcuts in text (approx. 220 in the first, 160 in the second, including several full-page illustrations); light marginal dampstain to final leaves, subtle early repair to upper outer blank corner of R3 of first work, not affecting text; very good copies in early eighteenth-century Italian vellum over boards, spine lettered directly in gilt, all edges blue; eighteenth-century manuscript shelf-marks and early twentieth-century private collector’s armorial bookplate to front pastedown.


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First edition of Barbaro’s important treatise on perspective, bound with the first edition of Rusconi’s translation of Vitruvius, both works strikingly illustrated.

Building on the work of earlier authors, including Euclid, Dürer, and Serlio, and also on Piero della Francesca’s unpublished De prospective pingendi, Daniele Barbaro (1514–1570) produced the first systematic treatise on the practical applications of perspective, which includes the first description of the use of a convex lens in the camera obscura. The work is illustrated by striking woodcuts of polyhedra in perspective, architectural woodcuts taken from Barbaro’s own edition of Vitruvius, the three well known theatre scenes from Serlio’s Architettura (1566), and the famous ‘copying of the lute’ from Dürer’s Unterweysung der Messung (1525).

The final chapter describes several perspective machines, beginning with the well-known frame used by Dürer, but soon moving to the more inventive devices of Baldassare Lanci of Urbino and Giacomo Castriotto (illustrated on p. 195). Barbaro’s most influential contribution to drawing machines, however, was the abandonment of linear perspective machines for the camera obscura: ‘The crucial step in the camera’s development as a functioning instrument was the placing of a convex lens in or near the aperture … the first lucid account is provided by Daniele Barbaro in his La practica della perspettiva’ (Kemp, The Science of Art, pp. 188-9).

Though Barbaro had, with Palladio, published his own translation of Vitruvius (Venice, 1556), his treatise is here bound with the abridged version of Vitruvius by Giovanni Antonio Rusconi (c. 1520–1587). Begun around 1553, the work was left unfinished at the time of the author’s death and published posthumously for the sake of Rusconi’s innovative woodcuts.

Barbaro’s Pratica delle persettiva was first issued with both title and colophon dated 1568; the sheets of a second issue, dated 1569, were mixed with those of the first, with copies often found (as here) bearing both dates.

I: EDIT16 4132 (variant A); USTC 812221; Adams B170; Mortimer 39; Riccardi, cols 76-77 (‘il primo trattato di perspettiva’). II: EDIT16 27820; USTC 853937; Adams R960; Mortimer 551 (second issue).

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