Sebastiano Serlio on Architecture, Volume Two
Books VI-VII of 'Tutte l'opere d'architettura et prospetiva',
with 'Castrametation of the Romans' and 'The Extraordinary Book of Doors'
by Sebastiano Serlio

Translated from the Italian with an Introduction and Commentary by
Vaughan Hart and Peter Hicks

Published Yale University Press, June 2001

(Click on image for larger version)

Sebastiano Serlio (1475-1554) is famous for having produced one of the most easy to use of the Renaissance architectural treatises. Indeed his was the first ever wide-ranging illustrated book on architecture. Contemporaries praised him for having done nothing less than renewed the art of architecture, making it easy to understand in the wake of the ambiguities bequeathed by his predecessors, notably the Roman author Vitruvius and the Renaissance architect Alberti. Serlio's reputation as the 'Second Vitruvius' has however often overshadowed his sophistication in producing an ambitious range of model designs, from the rustic house to the ideal city, and from the plainest of ornamental forms to the most grotesque. In his later works Serlio became an architectural Machiavelli, shaping the archetypal models of his earlier books into practical solutions for the timeless contradictions and conflicts of everyday life.

Volume one of this edition (Books one to five) brings together Serlio's works on geometry, perspective, Roman antiquity, the Orders and church design. The second volume begins with his now-famous sixth book, illustrating domestic designs ranging from peasant huts to royal palaces. This unpublished book provides a unique record of Renaissance house types, including up-to-date fortresses for tyrants and mercenaries as well as Serlio's unbuilt design for the Louvre. The seventh book illustrates a range of common design problems ignored by past theorists, including how to remodel, or 'restore', Gothic façades following antique principles of symmetry and proportion. The unpublished Castrametation of the Romans - the so-called eighth book - reconstructs a Roman encampment after the description by Polybius, followed by a remarkable military city and monumental bridge supposedly built by the Emperor Trajan. With its forum, consul's palace and baths, the book is part-fantasy and part-archaeology quite unlike Serlio's other more practical works. 'The Extraordinary Book of Doors' illustrates a range of rustic and delicate gateways in which Serlio breaks the rules of ornamental design to signify various natural states, from refinement to bestiality. An apparent recantation of his earlier orthodoxy, this supplementary book was, as ever with Serlio's work, ahead of its time as one of the first explanations of the aesthetics of Mannerism.

This translation of Serlio's later works by Vaughan Hart and Peter Hicks is the first in any language - Robert Peake's 1611 English Serlio being limited to books one to five. Moreover this is the first time that the long lost sixth book has been united with its companion works and restored to its intended position. The publication of this second volume finally makes available, in translated form, Serlio's unfulfilled dream of a seven-book treatise as outlined by him at the start of his enterprise in 1537. It represents a further major step in the recognition of Sebastiano Serlio as the most important architectural writer of the sixteenth century.

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


Times Literary Supplement, 2 November, 2001
Paul Hills
'We can appreciate this alliance [between text and image] in the handsome pair of volumes, Sebastiano Serlio on Architecture, published by Yale University Press. The translation of Books I-V, by Vaughan Hart and Peter Hicks, appeared in 1996, and now in a companion volume they have produced the first translation of Serlio's lesser-known later writings. Impeccably edited by Hart and Hicks, these are an indispensable tool for understanding the diffusion of Renaissance architecture'.