Paper Palaces
The Rise of the Renaissance Architectural Treatise

By Vaughan Hart with Peter Hicks

Published Yale University Press, 1998

De Architectura, the ten books by the Roman architect Vitruvius, survives as the only complete architectural treatise from antiquity. Its influence was enormous, and many architects and theorists in Renaissance Italy, following Vitruvius's example, attempted to codify architectural practice and theory by writing their own treatises. In this important collection of essays, leading specialists examine the early editions of Vitruvius's writings and all the major Renaissance architectural treatises. The collection shows how architectural treatises by such authors as Alberti, Di Giorgio, Colonna, Serlio and Palladio, and others, have affected the development of the art of building. The contributors offer new insights into the ideas of the treatises and discuss their significance in Renaissance Italy and their long-lasting influence throughout Europe. The book also traces the decline of treatises in the late seventeenth century through the influence of the French theorist Claude Perrault. The treatises, written for architects as well as for patrons and builders, illustrated ideal projects for villas, temples, palaces, and indeed cities. These 'paper palaces' sought to establish design norms by adapting the rules of antique architecture to suit northern European building practices and contemporary needs. This book - essential for all students and teachers of architectural history and theory - casts new light on works that did no less than shape the development of western architecture.

Jacket illustration:
Details from Filarete's Libro architettonico, Book I, fol. 5r, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, Venice.

The book can be ordered from Yale University Press and from the on-line bookshop.


Times Literary Supplement, 6 November 1998, p.33
Keith Miller
'Paper Palaces is a collection of essays which synthesize, and in place extend, what we know about the treatises. Most of the contributions are monographic, and the general tone is one of meaty scholarship'.

Burlington Magazine, January 2000, p.41
David Hemsoll
'This work follows the first instalment of the same authors' much-needed English edition of Sebastiano Serlio's architectural treatise, published in 1996 (Yale University Press)... the chapters provide highly succinct and lucid accounts of individual treatises, and those on Filarete (by Luisa Giordano), Francesco di Giorgio (by Francesco Palo Fiore) and Vignola (by Richard Tuttle) can perhaps be singled out for the masterly way they not only convey the basic factual information about the writing and contents of the work in question but also explain the approaches and ideologies it embodies'.

Chronique, January 2000, p.569
'...The book is essential reading for students of the history of architecture, and all Renaissance scholars can, on reading this book, improve their understanding of the influence of Roman on the Northern European culture of the Renaissance. It is well illustrated, and the list of European, American and Canadian contributors is most impressive, as are their contributions. Non-architects will understand it too'.

Architects Journal, 23 March 2000, p.62
John McKean
'...16 scholars each have a chapter; most are the leading authority, and often the translator of the treatise they discuss. This should indeed become a key source for students and teachers. ...Rykwert's model introduction to Alberti... An essay by I K McEwen fascinatingly links civil and criminal regulations with 'Vitruvian' principles for regulating architecture in Colbert's France... The Scamozzi essay...a fascinating rehabilitation of a most original man (and his memory theatre) from the shadow of Palladio... Manuela Morresi's fascinating Tafuri-inspired essay on the treatises in the political life of Venice... Hart's piece on Serlio's theatrical perspective is a fascinating fragment... Perez-Gomez on the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili grabs the reader's attention, really discussing architectural ideas with an immediacy which makes them potent today'.