Rare first edition of this important and graphically striking work on sixteenth-century fortification by Girolamo Portigiani (c. 1540-91). Consisting entirely of finely engraved images of star forts and details of their defensive systems, the volume is in fact as much a book about virtuoso perspective as it is an exploration of this new form of military architecture: Portigiani's impressive insight here is that, in theorizing an architecture ruled by artillery, in which life and death rely on precise modulations to lines of sight, only renderings taking full advantage of the most up-to-date techniques of perspective (the science of sight lines) can properly convey the strengths and weaknesses of a proposed plan. The work presents 20 original designs first conceived by Portigiani sometime in the second half of the sixteenth century: That they were considered fit for publication more than a generation after Portigiani's death comes as no surprise given their remarkable visual appeal.
Portigiani's complex perspectival renderings, with forts and details of their bastions severely foreshortened instead of depicted as customary ground plans, owe their presentation more to the groundbreaking early treatises on perspective of the sixteenth century (e.g., Pacioli, Duerer, Rodler, Cousin, Barbaro, Jamnitzer, Vignola, etc.) than to merely illustrative treatises on military architecture. With his depiction of bastions, glacis, covered ways, cross-section passageways, scarps and counter scarps (all devoid of soldiers and artillery) viewed from the low vantages approximating those experienced by both attackers and defenders, it could be said that in his perspectival choices Portigiani fully grasps the link between the new warfare of artillery and the theorization of vision itself: Here the trajectory of projectiles (and the invention of forts around the enfilade fire of these trajectories) is seen as analogous to the very rays of light which guide the construction of his foreshortened renderings. To see the efficacy of a fort's design is to look down the enemy's barrel, and a viewer who is struck by the daring angles of Portigiani's depictions easily imagines being struck by a ball fired from the ramparts.
Portigiani's martial concepts appear to relate most closely to those published by Francesco de Marchi (1504-76; Della Architettura Militare ) and Hans van Schille (d. 1586; Maniere, reigle, moyen et façon de bien bastir … ), although, given the uncertainty surrounding the genesis of Portigaini's original drawings, it is unclear in which direction influence flowed. Little is known of the Florentine Portigiani (this is his only published work), who is described on the title of this volume as a captain and an engineer and whose birth and death dates are gleaned from the text here surrounding his author portrait.
Although undated on its title, this first edition of the Prospettiva di fortificationi likely appeared in the late 1630s, a time when its publishers, Agostino Parisini and (fl. 1625-39) Giovanni Battista Negroponte, are known to have collaborated on other works. A second edition, identical except for its address, was released in 1648 by G. G. de Rossi in Rome.
Inside the upper cover the engraved bookplate (with shelf mark) of "El Duque de Alba Marques de Villa Franca" José Álvarez de Toledo (1756-96), today best remembered as a patron of the artist Francisco Goya. The bookplate is engraved by Juan Antonio Salvador Carmona after the design of Ysidro Carnizero.
OCLC and KVK locate copies of this first edition at the University of Michigan, Columbia, National Art Library (V&A), Canadian Centre for Architecture, Biblioteca civica di Padova, Biblioteca Oliveriana (Pesaro), and the Bibliotheca Hertziana (with only 16 leaves). Copies of the 1648 edition (Rome, G. G. de Rossi) are held by The Getty, Trinity College (CT), Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Biblioteca nazionale Braidense (Milan), Biblioteca communale Giosuè Carducci (Spoleto), and the Biblioteca Reale (Turin).*L. Marini, Biblioteca istorico-critica di fortificazione permanente, pp. 94-5 (the 1648 Rome edition). (Inventory #: 5895)