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Prologue and Chapter Lists, in Vitruvius, 'De Architectura'

Prologue and Chapter Lists, in Vitruvius, 'De Architectura'

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1025

Shelfmark: Cotton MS Cleopatra D I

Item number: f.2v

Length: 23.6

Width: 15.5

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

The most famous ancient Roman writer on architecture, Vitruvius originally wrote his manual, 'De Architectura' or 'On Architecture', for an emperor, probably Augustus, but it became the standard reference on architecture nearly into modern times. Builders of the Italian Renaissance and neo-classical architects consulted it for advice on the classical orders, proportions, and other aspects of design. His book also gives information on flooring, wall decoration, clocks, and construction techniques of many kinds. It was one of the few secular books from pre-Christian Rome that was known in medieval Europe. It was studied by scholars as well as builders. This manuscript copy of it from Anglo-Saxon England shows that it was known in areas where classical architectural styles probably were not built until after the Middle Ages but also it shows the extent of the revival of learning in the 11th century. Vitruvius's prologue begins by addressing the book to the emperor, without naming him. The script or style of handwriting, especially for the capital letters used in the titles, has a clarity that derives from ancient Roman styles, although its presence here is not related the fact that the text is ancient Roman but rather it was the usual kind of script for a nicely produced book in this period. A large capital letter marked the beginning of each major section, and smaller capital letters in the left margin indicate the beginnings of minor divisions (paragraphs). Originally the large capital letters and titles were written in red but with time have changed to a metallic appearance due to the lead used in the pigment.

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