Treatise on Measurement by Albrecht Dürer

Treatise on Measurement by Albrecht Dürer Facsimile Edition

Nuremberg (Germany) — 1525

A bequest of the aging Albrecht Dürer for future generations of painters, goldsmiths, sculptors, stonemasons, and carpenters: the great Renaissance master's theory of measurement and quantity

  1. The manuscript is the oldest surviving German treatise on measurement and quantity ratios

  2. Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528) made woodcuts to clarify the text and depict complicated spatial images

  3. Dürer dedicated the work to his best friend and fellow humanist Willibald Pirckheimer (1470–1530)

Treatise on Measurement by Albrecht Dürer

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  1. Description
  2. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
Treatise on Measurement by Albrecht Dürer

Towards the end of his life, the great Albrecht Dürer created the oldest surviving German treatise on measurement and quantity ratios: the Instructions for Measuring with Compass and Ruler, originally titled Underweysung der messung mit dem zirckel un richt scheyt. Published in 1525, Dürer’s own introduction stated that the work was intended “not only for painters, but also for goldsmiths, sculptors, stonemasons, carpenters, and all those for whom using measurement is useful.” It was dedicated to Willibald Pirckheimer, a humanist scholar and advisor to Emperor Maximilian I who was also Dürer’s closest friend. The artist’s own magnificent woodcuts adorn and help to clarify the text as well as serving as examples of complicated spatial images.

Treatise on Measurement by Albrecht Dürer

Aside from being one of the most prolific and talented artists of the Northern Renaissance, Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528) also had a lasting influence on successive generations, especially with regard to the medium of woodcuts. Furthermore, his artistic techniques had the potential to aid various craftsmen whose occupation required geometry. To this end, Dürer published a treatise on the practical application of geometry in 1525, which was written in German for the common man, making him the first person in Northern Europe to approach visual representation in a scientific way. The work was not only widely used in his own time but continues to be relevant today because Dürer is credited as being the first person to describe ray tracing, a visual modelling technique used in modern computers for creating digital images. This theoretical treatise distinguishes Dürer as one of the greatest minds of Renaissance Europe in addition to being one of its greatest artists.

Four Books on Measurement

The work is divided into four books: linear geometry and the construction of helices, conchoids and epicycloids; two-dimensional geometry and the construction of polygons; the practical application of these principles in architecture, engineering, and typography; and three-dimensional geometry and the construction of polyhedra. Dürer discusses the five Platonic solids, seven Archimedean semi-regular solids, and several of his own invention and finishes with the Delian Problem. The numerous diagrams he made depict the objects as geometric nets and two woodcuts at the end of the work depict mechanisms used for drawing in perspective. While his Latin alphabet is geometrically constructed, his German alphabet was created with a completely different modular system. Dürer relied upon both contemporary sources like the 1522 treatise Libellus super viginti duobus elementis conicis by Johannes Werner and the teachings of Luca Pacioli, Bramante, Piero della Francesca, and Leonardo da Vinci as well as numerous figures from antiquity including Apollonius, Vitruvius, Archimedes, and favored the methods of Ptolemy over those of Euclid.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Albrecht Dürer - Underweysung der Messung
Underweysung der messung mit dem zirckel un richt scheyt
Origin
Germany
Date
1525
Language
Illustrations
Various woodcuts
Content
A combination of a number of classical and contemporary mathematical texts with the knowledge of geometry that Dürer accumulated throughout his life through his artistic practice.
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Marianne Khuner

Available facsimile editions:
Collegium Graphicum – Portland, 1972
Facsimile Editions

#1 Underweysung der Messung

Collegium Graphicum – Portland, 1972

Publisher: Collegium Graphicum – Portland, 1972
Commentary: 1 volume
Language: German
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€)
Edition available
Price: Login here!
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