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3.8 Translation of Vitruvius’s Ten Books into modern (Tuscan) Italian

erstellt von Kulawik Veröffentlicht 05.06.2019 20:47, zuletzt verändert: 05.06.2019 20:47

However, for this next book there surely would have been a much wider audience interest:

Le cose d’Architettura son disiderate assai, e praticate hoggidi da huomini che non hanno molta intelligenza di lingua latina, si come scoltori, dipintori, maestri di legname, e Architettori volgari. Per la qual cosa insino a questi tempi Vitruvio è stato tradotto almen tre volte di latino in volgare, ma cosi stranamente, e con parole, e costruzzioni cosi aspre, ed intrigate, che senza dubbio manco assai s’intende in volgare, che non sa in latino. Il che è avvenuto per non haver quei traducitori le vere regole, e la vera forma di trasferire una lingva in una altra; oltre che molti luoghi come difficili non sono stati da loro intesi. Farassi dunque ancor questo utile al mondo, traducendo nuovamente Vitruvio in bella lingua Toscana, ingegnandosi fare in tal modo, che s’egli é cosi difficile per la sottigliezza de la materia, non sia almen ruvido per l’asprezza, e intrigamento de le parole.[Tolomei 1547, 82r-82v]

The architectural things are desired and practiced today by men who do not understand the Latin language very well, like sculptors, painters, carpenters or common architects. Because of this reason up to our times Vitruvius has been translated at least three times from Latin into Italian, but in such a strange way, and with dark and intricate words and [grammatical] constructions, that without any doubt one can hardly understand them in Italian who does not know Latin, too. This resulted from the fact that those translators did not know the true rules and the true form how to translate one language into another; even more, many difficult places [in Vitruvius’s text] have not been understood correctly [by these translators]. Therefore, something very useful to the world will be done by trandlating anew Vitruvius into the beautiful Tuscan language, and it is planned to do this in a way that where he is difficult to understand because of the difficultie of the subject matter, he / the text will not be harsh due to the darkness and intricacy of the words.

With this desideratum, a wide audience would be presented with a trustworthy new translation of Vitruvius into the Tuscan dialect, which had been regarded as the best Italian dialect since Dante Alighieri’s time. Therefore, it could be expected that this part of the project was promoted with some effort. And there is even a well-known candidate for a published version of this book:

In April 1555 the spiritus rector of Tolomei’s network and widely acclaimed scholar of mathematics, architecture and Greek literature, Marcello Cervini, died three weeks after his election as Pope Marcellus II. The following year, Daniele Barbaro published his annotated Italian translation of Vitruvius’s Ten Books.[Vitruvius / Barbaro 1556] Its subtitle mentions:

due Tavole, l’una di tutto quello si contiene per i Capi nell’Opera, l’altra per dechiaratione di tutte le cose d’importanza.[Vitruvius / Barbaro 1556, title page]

two tables, one with everything contained in this work according to the chapter titles, the other one with a declaration of all the important topics.

Looking back over the planned volumes already mentioned by Tolomei, this should sound quite familiar. This edition seems to resemble the translation described by Tolomei quite closely. It seems as if it has never been investigated why Barbaro, the learned churchman from a family with a long tradition in theological, philosophical and humanist studies, turned to architecture and Vitruvius at all in the 1550s. His earlier studies and books do not give any hint as to why he developed an interest in architecture. Perhaps his close collaboration with the young architect Andrea Palladio in this publication came into being through their common friend, Palladio’s mentor Giangiorgio Trissino. Trissino had discovered the talented young stonemason Andrea di Pietro della Gondola, taken him to Rome to study the ancient ruins, and given him the classical name «Palladio».

Although Trissino was involved in a controversy with Tolomei about the correct form of letters to be used in the modernized Italian that both of them attempted to develop, he took part in the meetings of the antiquarian network around Tolomei and Cervini — and in fact he had been a member of the original Accademia Romana before its dissolution in the Sacco di Roma , i. e. the Sack of Rome in 1527. Could it be possible that Barbaro took up the idea from this new Roman network to publish an annotated and illustrated edition of Vitruvius in Latin and Italian after Cervini’s death — an event that must have ruined the dreams of the academicians to realize the project Tolomei described with the help of papal money and influence? Barbaro had visited Rome together with Palladio in the early 1550s to study the ancient ruins, and it would be difficult to imagine that they both would not have met with members of the Accademia, even though Trissino himself had died already in 1550: The lack of further information about the origins of Barbaro’s interest in architecture and his collaboration with Palladio may have led modern researchers to concentrate their investigations into these important topics on Palladio’s and Barbaro’s common background in the Veneto. For the moment, the parallels in the chronology and between the aims of Tolomei’s project and the printed results of Barbaro’s Vitruvian studies may seem interesting enough to encourage further research on additional sources or connections — for example, personal contacts between Barbaro and Tolomei or Cervini.