Treatise of Architecture and Machinery of Juan de Herrera

Treatise of Architecture and Machinery of Juan de Herrera

Spain — Probably 1575

From the builder of the famous El Escorial: a practical treatise for early modern engineers and architects

  1. An engineering treatise by the famous architect of Spain's El Escorial: Juan de Herrera (1530–97)

  2. The treatise is a combination of theoretical texts and various practical diagrams

  3. The function of pulleys and other mechanical devices for construction is explicitly explained

Treatise of Architecture and Machinery of Juan de Herrera

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  1. Description
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  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
Treatise of Architecture and Machinery of Juan de Herrera

The Spanish architect Juan de Herrera, royal architect and counselor to Philip II, is known not only for his famous construction project, the monastery- and palace-complex of El Escorial near Madrid, but was also active as a scientist and scholar in the fields of mathematics, philosophy, and others, in addition to composing more treatises. His Treatise of Architecture and Machinery is a special specimen, with whose help the famous architect was able to teach his king the operating principles of machines.

Treatise of Architecture and Machinery of Juan de Herrera

The Spanish architect Juan de Herrera, royal architect and counselor to Philip II, is known not only for his famous construction project, the monastery- and palace-complex of El Escorial near Madrid, but was also active as a scientist and scholar in the fields of mathematics, philosophy, and others, in addition to composing more treatises. His Treatise of Architecture and Machinery is a special specimen, with whose help the famous architect was able to teach his king the operating principles of machines.

The Architect of the Spanish King

Beginning in 1563, King Philip II (1527–1598) commissioned the construction of Spain’s El Escorial, a royal monastery dedicated to Saint Lawrence. Today, the El Escorial palace and monastery counts among the most important sites in Spain and impresses with its gigantic size and austere reticence of the Renaissance architecture. Juan de Herrera (ca. 1530–1597) took over the building project in 1563 from Juan Bautista de Toledo, and directed the work until its completion in 1584, his visions lent El Escorial its distinctive appearance.

An Instructive Text

Juan de Herrera composed a treatise on architecture and machines in order to make the various building projects more understandable for the king, who supported the construction of the St. Lawrence Monastery with his heart’s blood. Probably originating between 1567 and 1577, alongside the theoretical part, it contains seven pages with drafts along with interesting scientific explanations. In this way, for example, the function of pulleys is demonstrated as they would have been employed in the construction of the royal monastery complex. The only signed drawing by the Spanish architect to survive can be found among them. Dedicated to the King, the treatise explains the complex mechanical processes related to architecture in a descriptive manner. With this formula, Juan de Herrera’s document stands in the tradition of Vitruvius, who also employed mechanics in his architectural teachings. Based on geography and natural philosophy, Herrera sought to make the fundamental principles of wondrous machines understandable. The treatise is a grandiose essay of both the architecture and – in the modern sense – engineering of the 16th century.

Architect and Scientific

Herrera’s treatise is stored today in the Archivo General in Simanca. The significance of the author not only as a royal architect, but also as a counsellor of the King in all scientific and technical matters, has not been lost today. Nonetheless, his role as a scholar and a scientist – he owned a large library with countless scientific essays – cannot be overestimated and the Treatise of Architecture and Machinery is considered to be an impressive example thereof.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Tratado de Arquitectura y Máquinas de Juan de Herrera
Das Traktat der Architektur und der Maschinen von Juan de Herrera
Traité d’Architecture et de Machines de Juan de Herrera
Trattato di Architettura e Macchinari di Juan de Herrera
Tratado de Arquitectura e Máquinas de Juan de Herrera
Origin
Spain
Date
Probably 1575
Illustrations
7 diagrams
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
Treatise of Architecture and Machinery of Juan de Herrera – Leg. 258 – Archivo General (Simancas, Spain)
Patrimonio Ediciones – Valencia, 1996
Limited Edition: 979 copies
Detail Picture

Treatise of Architecture and Machinery of Juan de Herrera

Evidence of a Broken Pen

The author’s otherwise clear and elegant handwriting is marred by an ink blot, likely the result of a broken pen. Mistakes such as an ink blot remind us that manuscripts were not merely printed one day but were works in progress spanning months or years. While an incomplete miniature offers us insights into the process of their creation, all this ink blot tells us is that Juan de Herrera might have been in a rush that day and pressed the tip of his pen too hard into the parchment.

Tratado de Arquitectura y Máquinas de Juan de Herrera
Single Page

Treatise of Architecture and Machinery of Juan de Herrera

Torque

The concept of torque first emerged with the Greek polymath Archimedes of Syracuse, considered to be one of the greatest mathematicians of all time, when he was working with levers. Simply put, torque is the rotational equivalent of linear force, so rather than being a matter of push and pull, torque is the twisting force around a specific axis.

This page shows scenarios involving torque in which levers of unequal length are brought into balance with one another with the help of clearly drawn and labelled diagrams, which are incorporated into the text without being crowded by them. They show the relationship between the length of a lever and the position of its fulcrum, the same basic principle that governs the transmission of a car.

Tratado de Arquitectura y Máquinas de Juan de Herrera
Facsimile Editions

#1 Tratado de Arquitectura y Máquinas de Juan de Herrera

Patrimonio Ediciones – Valencia, 1996
Treatise of Architecture and Machinery of Juan de Herrera – Leg. 258 – Archivo General (Simancas, Spain)
Treatise of Architecture and Machinery of Juan de Herrera – Leg. 258 – Archivo General (Simancas, Spain) Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Publisher: Patrimonio Ediciones – Valencia, 1996
Limited Edition: 979 copies
Binding: Red silk binding
Commentary: 1 volume (122 pages) by Luis Cervera Vera
Language: Spanish
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Price Category: € (under 1,000€)
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