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‘We find also on Antoninus’s Pillar, Houses made of Wood and Straw, with a round Covering like a round vaulted Roof. There too seem of no unelegant Structure. They have no Light but through the Door, which is very large, and in some reaches up to the Roof. The Gauls built after the same Manner’.
Bernard de Montfaucon, Antiquity explained, and represented in sculptures, By the Learned Father Montfaucon, translated into English by David Humphreys (London, 1721), 5 vols., Suppl. vol. 3, p. 289.
Bernard de Montfaucon, L’antiquité expliquée, et représentée en figures (Paris, 1719), 5 vols. in 10, Suppl. vol. 3, plate 26, detail (German houses).
This image shows domestic houses of the Germanic tribes as depicted on the Column of Marcus Aurelius, which stands in the Piazza Colonna, Rome. The triumphal column, modelled on Trajan’s Column located in Trajan’s Forum, was built to commemorate the victory of Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius (121 AD-180 AD) over the Marcomanni tribe and their allies, the Quadi, whose territories bordered on Rome’s northern Danube frontier. The free-standing column, which was completed by 193 AD, measures 39.72 metres in height above ground level and contains an internal spiral stairway that leads to a platform atop a Doric capital. A continuous spiral band of relief sculpture winds around the shaft of the column, which narrates Marcus Aurelius’s campaigns against the Germanic tribes. The column was restored by the architect and engineer Domenico Fontana (1543-1607) by order of Pope Sixtus V (1521-1590) in 1589. The restoration is recorded on an inscription on the column’s pedestal, which mistakenly identifies the column as the Column of Antonius Pius, only the base of which survives today.
André Félibien, Des principes de l’architecture, de la sculpture, de la peinture, et des autres arts qui en dependent. Avec un dictionnaire des termes propres à chacun de ces arts (Paris, 1690), p. 135 (cross section showing construction details).
André Félibien (1619-1695) had a distinguished academic and court career becoming one the founding members of the Academie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres in 1663 and serving as secretary to the Académie Royale d’Architecture from 1671. He was appointed to several prominent positions in the court of Louis XIV (1638-1715) including historian of the king’s buildings (Historiographe des Bâtiments du Roi) in 1666 and keeper of the cabinet of antiquities at the Palais Brion, Paris in 1673.
Félibien’s Des principes de l’architecture, de la sculpture, de la peinture … (Paris, 1690) was written as a handbook to describe the principles and working methods of the crafts and trades associated with architecture, sculpture, and painting. The first section of the book deals with architecture and includes descriptions and illustrations of the Classical orders. There are engraved illustrations of the tools associated with different trades such as masonry and carpentry with the names of each tool depicted listed on the facing page. The above image depicts a cross section of a timber-framed building showing the beams and joists of the first floor and the framework of the roof structure. The image below shows a selection of roof types, starting from the top down: a pitched cross gable roof, a hipped roof, a hipped roof with dormer windows and an end pavilion, and a mansard roof.
André Félibien, Des principes de l’architecture, de la sculpture, de la peinture, et des autres arts qui en dependent. Avec un dictionnaire des termes propres à chacun de ces arts (Paris, 1690), p. 155 (roofs).
The following image of the ‘Pied’ or foot unit of measurement is taken from the fourth volume of the supplement to Bernard de Montfaucon’s L’antiquité expliquée, et représentée en figures (Paris, 1719). It demonstrates the difference in length between the foot unit of measurement used in different countries, starting from the top down: Roman ‘Palme’ or palm, Roman foot, royal or Philetaerian foot, French foot, English foot and Spanish foot.
Bernard de Montfaucon, L’antiquité expliquée, et représentée en figures (Paris, 1719), 5 vols. in 10, Suppl. vol. 4, plate 41 (unit of measurement).
Beckmann, Martin, The column of Marcus Aurelius : the genesis and meaning of a Roman imperial monument (The University of North Carolina Press, 2011).
Curl, James Stevens & Wilson, Susan, The Oxford dictionary of architecture, 3rd ed. (Oxford, 2016).
Savage, Nicholas, et al., Early printed books 1478-1840 : catalogue of the British Architectural Library Early Imprints Collection. Volume 2, E-L (London, 1995) 586.
Skliar-Piguet, Alexandra, ‘Félibien, André’ entry in Oxford Art Online.
Wiebenson, Dora & Baines, Claire, The Mark J. Millard architectural collection. Volume I : French books, sixteenth through nineteenth centuries (Washington, 1993) 180, 183-184.
Text: Antoine Mac Gaoithín, Library Assistant at the Edward Worth Library.