The annotated Vitruvius in Puebla
The Palafoxiana Library was part of the Tridentine Seminary, the city’s primary higher education institution after the Jesuit Colegio del Espiritu Santo. The Tridentine Seminary’s principal objective was the education of diocesan clergy. The seminary started as the small College of San Juan Evangelista, which possessed a modest book collection, and grew into a system of three colleges - the Colleges of San Juan, San Pedro, and San Pablo by the 1640s - largely boosted by the sponsorship of Bishop Juan de Palafox. The library’s collection covered topics that were of interest to the seminary students, such as canon law, theology, philosophy, and others, but also possesses, due to the collection’s eclectic nature, volumes ranging from astronomy and mathematics to music theory and architecture.63
Among the architectural volumes in the library’s collections are the Apparatus urbis ac templi Hierosolymitani, published in 1604, by the Spanish Jesuit and architect Juan Bautista Villalpando, a treatise on the City of Jerusalem and Solomon’s Temple. Other outstanding volumes in the library’s collection were also the most widely read architectural treatises in New Spain: De re Aedificatoria by Leon Battista Alberti, in a Spanish translation published in 1797; as well as the third and fourth books of the Tutte I’opere d’arcbitettura e prospetiva by Sebastiano Serlio, in a Spanish edition of 1573.
There are also two copies of De architectura libri decern by Vitruvius. The first is a 1582 edition of the first Spanish translation by Miguel de Urrea, printed by Juan Gracian at the University of Alcala de Henares’s printing press. The second Vitruvius is a 1552 edition printed in Lyon, France, characterized by the inclusion of French humanist Guillaume de Philandrier’s commentary on Vitruvius’ text. An outstanding feature of this volume is the high number of handwritten annotations at the margins, with comments written in both Latin and Spanish. The handwriting appears to be carried out by the same reader throughout the treatise, in ink, judging by the handwriting’s consistency throughout the book. The precise origin of the volume is unknown, so the identity of the reader or annotator remains anonymous. However, the book displays a College of San Juan fire mark in the book’s fore edge, indicating the book might have entered the collection through the donation of the prominent cleric Juan de Larios, in 1596, or as part of Bishop Juan de Palafox’s donation in 1642.64 The previous owner(s),and the identity of the annotator, however, remain unknown.65
Another remarkable dimension to the annotations is the occasional drawings and sketches present throughout the book, which illustrate the way the reader, as either an architect or a well-educated scholar (perhaps a priest), engaged with the text actively. The numerous items of technical information recorded by hand-drawing were conveyed either through the reader’s sketches or by markings and annotations superimposed on printed illustrations. Also, a considerable amount of underlining is present throughout the book, as well as several manicules or other marks used to point to or highlight portions of the text (see Figure 3.3).
An inventory of the whole volume’s incidences of underlining, comments, and hand sketches by the reader pointed, quantitatively, toward the idea that the anonymous reader’s interest fell mostly on two general subjects. On the one hand, issues related to building technology, such as craftsmanship and design functionality: the production of high-quality pigments for decoration; pavement design patterns; the geometrical tracing of stairs; the correct number of steps to place in a temple’s facade; the recommended height of stairs; and water engineering topics enjoy a great deal of attention too, such as healthy water sources and appropriate soils. On the other hand, the reader seemed intent on studying issues related to the systematic proportionality of the architectural orders and their parts, and subjects related to ornamental questions.
Book III of Vitruvius’ treatise, for instance, dedicated to issues regarding the architectural orders, the proportionality between its components and
Figure 3.3 Three details of marginalia from a 1552 Vitruvius (Lyon), with Guillaume Philandrier’s comments, annotated by an anonymous reader.
Source: Courtesy of Gobierno del estado de Puebla/Secretarfa de cultura del estado de Puebla/ Organismo piibiico descentralizado denominado “Museos Puebla.” its relationship to the human body, and the subject of intercolumniation in temples were subjects that greatly attracted the reader’s imagination, as evidenced by the copious number of annotations in those sections of the book. By far, the most consulted parts of the treatise (evidenced by the amount of marginalia and underlining), however, are in Book VII, dedicated to pavements and plasterwork, and in Book VIII, dedicated to aqueducts and hydraulic engineering.66
The presence of the annotated Vitruvius in the Palafoxiana Library coincides with the rise of Classicism as a preferred architectural language adopted by the civic and ecclesiastical authorities in Puebla (see Figure 3.4). The annotations, in turn, provide a unique window into the mind of the reader, which point toward interest in specific topics; namely, the system of proportionalities among the parts and elements of the architectural orders, the philosophical definition of architecture as a discipline, as well as several technical topics, such as the making of capable pigments, floors, and stair design.
Another exciting volume found in Puebla’s Lafragua Library rare book collection is a copy of the 1582 edition of Vitruvius’ De architectura libri decern, translated by Miguel de Urrea and printed by Juan Gracian in Alcala
Figure 3.4 Marginalia in a 1582 Spanish edition of Vitruvius (Alcala de Henares), containing handwritten annotations by anonymous reader(s).
Source: Courtesy of Biblioteca Historica Jose Marfa Lafragua, Benemerita Universidad Autonoma de Puebla, reference number 1527.
de Henares. This edition constitutes the first complete translation and edition of Vitruvius’ treatise in the Spanish language. As Fernando Marias notes, this edition was based on the Philandrier one discussed previously and the engravings in the Urrea translation were taken from several other editions, such as those by Cesare Cesariano, Fra Giovanni Giocondo, Dan- iele Barbaro, and others.67 The Lafragua volume contains a series of hand annotations at the margins, some of them of considerable interest. On page 6, right after the prologue, a hand annotation states: Lo mismo le falta toda la substancia que son las anotaciones (All the same, it is missing all the substance, which are the annotations). As Fernando Marias notes, Urrea’s edition of Vitruvius, although based on Philandrier’s, did not include the French humanist’s commentaries.68
The annotation by the Lafragua Vitruvius reader reveals that he knew Urrea’s edition not only lacked Philandrier’s analysis but that the reader understood the value of Philandrier’s commentary. The reader’s note also reveals the reader’s knowledge regarding Vitruvius and his familiarity with the various editions of the Roman architect’s text. The Lafragua Vitruvius also contains an annotation on page 8, which references Ramon Lull’s Ars magna (1305-08; The Great Art) relative to Vitruvius’ comment regarding an architect’s need to be acquainted with various disciplines, such as astrology, medicine, and many others. This note suggests the reader might have been a well-educated priest, a Jesuit perhaps, as the Lafragua Library has its origins in Puebla’s Jesuit college. This interesting volume also contains a series of textual and graphic annotations regarding water pumps and similar machinery, which speaks of the high level of engagement readers had with it over the years.
Ultimately, the presence of a considerable number of treatises in the city, and the apparent level of hermeneutic interpretation evidenced by the annotations, prompts us to put forward the idea that in viceregal Puebla, readers were interested in engaging with some of the essential architectural texts of the period.