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The Architecture of Leon Battista Alberti in Ten Books, Of Painting in Three Books and Of Statuary in One Book. Translated into Italian by Cosimo Bartoli. And Now First Into English, And Divided into Three Volumes by James Leoni, Venetian Architect; To Which Are Added Several Designs of His Own, For Buildings Both Public And Private

Alberti, Leon Battista

London. Thomas Edlin. 1726
First edition in English of Alberti's De Re Ædificatoria, together with his other works De Pictura and Della Statua.

John Evelyn had appended an English translation of Della Statua to his own work on Fréart, but it was not until Leoni (who had also introduced Palladio to an English audience) that any of Alberti's other works appeared in English. The engravings and text used by Leoni for Alberti's architectural text were based on the translation and first illustrated edition published by Bartoli in 1550, while he used du Fresne's 1651 edition for the painting and sculpture sections and the brief life of Alberti. Leoni added a further section at the end of Alberti's works to publicise his own endeavours.

As part of the court of Cosimo de Medici the Elder, friend to Lorenzo, Brunelleschi and the Humanist circle, as well as secretary to six Popes, Leon Battista Alberti was much more than an architect or theoretician. Born into an important but exiled Florentine family in Genoa in 1404, Alberti, with his knowledge of Latin and Greek, flourished when the family were permitted to return in 1429. His works covered painting (De Pictura), sculpture (Della Statua), cryptography, the family and mathematics (Ludi Rerum Mathematicarum), the source for which was Euclid's Optics and it is the combination of his talents that led to the publication of perhaps his most famous and influential work, the De Re Ædificatoria of 1485. Printed in the year of the Battle of Bosworth Field and the ascendancy of the Tudors, Britain had to wait until 1726 for the first English edition, the publication of which is strongly indicative of the work's lasting importance. Building on the ideas of Vitruvius, Alberti also divides his work into ten books and stresses, in particular, the harmonious whole of a building, but has time to reflect on matters relating to gardens where he follwed the Roman landscapists rather than prevalent medieval ideas of walled gardens. Considered by later architects to be more of a theoretician than a practical architect, Alberti is most remembered for his facade of Santa Maria Novella in Florence, an exercise in the tiling of the plane, a breaking down of total surface area into harmonious compartments. In doing this, he provides the spectator with a group of additive units, by which he may visually take the measure of the building, (K. Williams). In this Alberti made use of his own researches, which involved precise measurement and survey of among other things the human body and Rome in its entirety, which he undertook in 1444, as well as the work of Masaccio and Brunelleschi and their rediscovery of geometrical perspective. Active until the end of his life, the De Re Ædificatoria, begun in 1450 was not published until after Alberti's death in Rome in 1472.

Subscriber's to the edition included a large number of masons, plasterers, builders and carpenters as well as Nicholas Hawkesmore [sic], Sir John Vanbrugh, Sir Christopher Wren (although deceased when the work was finally issued), Leoni's patron Thomas Scawen and Lord Burlington who both ordered two copies including one, each, on large paper.

[Millard 4; Berlin 2554; Fowler 11; Weinreb 16, 9].
pp. (16), 103; (2), 44, 46 - 47, 49 - 66, 68 - 68, 69 -130; (2), 34; (8), 6. 4 works in 3 vols. Folio. Engraved allegorical frontispiece, printed title in Italian, printed title in English, leaf with Leoni's dedication in Italian to 'Giorgio, Prencipe di Vallia', two leaves with list of subscribers, four leaves with the life of Alberti and list of his works, four leaves with preface by Leoni, parallel text in English and Italian of books I - V (103 numbered leaves) and 9 engraved hors texte plates; printed title in English for vol. II, printed title in Italian and parallel text of books VI - X (130 numbered leaves) and 58 engraved hors texte plates, 3 double-page and one folding on two sheets; leaf with privilege, printed title to vol. III in English, printed title in Italian, leaf with dedication to Thomas Scawen in Latin, parallel text in English and Italian of Books I - III of 'On Painting' and book I of 'On Statuary' (34 numbered leaves) and 8 engraved hors texte plates; printed title in English for Leoni's Works, printed title in Italian, five leaves with 'To the Reader', six leaves with Leoni's text and additional subscribers list and 27 engraved plates, 11 double-page and 9 folding plates on two sheets. All of the plates are by Leoni apart from 3 by Bernard Picart, the engraver - often unnamed - is given variously as Picart, John Harris or J. Cole. Printed titles with woodcut vignettes, woodcut head- and tail-pieces and decorative initials throughout. (Sheet size: 426 x 275 mm). Full modern speckled calf.

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