Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Jamnitzer Perspectiva

Perspectiva Corporum Regularium

Perspective of the Regular Solids: that is, a diligent exposition of how the five regular solids of which Plato writes in the Timaeus and Euclid in his Elements are artfully brought into perspective using a particularly new, thorough and proper method never before employed. And appended to this a fine introduction how out of the same five bodies one can go on endlessly making many other bodies of various kinds and shapes.
[The two halves of the book appear in reverse order below]


Perspectiva Corporum Regularium -  Wenzel Jamnitzer 1568 q



Perspectiva Corporum Regularium -  Wenzel Jamnitzer 1568 d



Perspectiva Corporum Regularium -  Wenzel Jamnitzer 1568 a



Perspectiva Corporum Regularium -  Wenzel Jamnitzer 1568 e



Perspectiva Corporum Regularium -  Wenzel Jamnitzer 1568



Perspectiva Corporum Regularium -  Wenzel Jamnitzer 1568 c



Ignis titlepage - Perspectiva Corporum Regularium -  Wenzel Jamnitzer 1568

Fire -- Tetrahedron



Ignis (a) - Perspectiva Corporum Regularium -  Wenzel Jamnitzer 1568



Ignis - Perspectiva Corporum Regularium -  Wenzel Jamnitzer 1568



Aer titlepage - Perspectiva Corporum Regularium -  Wenzel Jamnitzer 1568

Air -- Octahedron



Aer - Perspectiva Corporum Regularium -  Wenzel Jamnitzer 1568



Aer (a) - Perspectiva Corporum Regularium -  Wenzel Jamnitzer 1568



Terra titlepage - Perspectiva Corporum Regularium -  Wenzel Jamnitzer 1568

Earth -- Hexahedron



Terra (b) - Perspectiva Corporum Regularium -  Wenzel Jamnitzer 1568



Terra (c) - Perspectiva Corporum Regularium -  Wenzel Jamnitzer 1568



Aqua titepage - Perspectiva Corporum Regularium -  Wenzel Jamnitzer 1568

Water -- Icosahedron



Aqua (a) - Perspectiva Corporum Regularium -  Wenzel Jamnitzer 1568



Aqua (c) - Perspectiva Corporum Regularium -  Wenzel Jamnitzer 1568



Coelum textless titlepage - Perspectiva Corporum Regularium -  Wenzel Jamnitzer 1568 (from British Museum)

Heaven -- Dodecahedron

[The British Museum - search on 'Wenzel Jamnitzer' -
has early versions without text of all the chapter title pages]



Coelum (b) - Perspectiva Corporum Regularium -  Wenzel Jamnitzer 1568



Coelum (c) - Perspectiva Corporum Regularium -  Wenzel Jamnitzer 1568


[Wenzel Jamnitzer]: "Goldsmith, designer, etcher and inventor of scientific instruments.. Born Vienna 1508, died Nuremberg 1585. Stems from a long line of goldsmiths. Wenzel, with his brother Albrecht (d. 1555), was trained by their father, Hans the Elder. He became a citizen of Nuremberg and master in the goldsmiths' guild in 1534, and lived and worked for the next fifty years in the house in the Zisselgasse (now Albrecht-Dürer-Str. 17), in which his parents died in 1548 and 1549. Until 1550 he worked in collaboration with his brother Albrecht and after that with his sons, Hans, Abraham and Wenzel (the last of whom was killed in Paris, on St Bartholomew's Night 1572), and perhaps also his sons-in-law, Hans Straub, Martin Holweck and Valentin Maler. Wenzel was city seal-cutter from 1543, and served in various capacities on the city council, becoming finally a member of the inner cabinet in 1573.

His career was marked with a rare distinction, the granting of a life-long annuity by the Emperor Rudolf II, as a recognition for the service rendered to the Habsburg House by the Jamnitzer family over the past century. He was the leading German goldsmith of the Renaissance: as well as working for the patrician families of Nuremberg, he produced pieces for successive emperors, from Charles V to Rudolf II, and a great patron of the time, the Archduke Ferdinand of Tyrol.
With his highly ornate and profusely encrusted goldsmiths' work, Wenzel Jamnitzer dominated the taste of the rich and powerful in the empire not only throughout his career but also through the perpetuation of his style by his sons after his death." [biography from: British Museum]

"Jamnitzer created an extraordinary collection of both regular and semi-regular bodies in his Perspective of Regular Solids (1568) which, as he explained in his title, was based on Plato's Timaeus and Euclid's Elements. Accordingly, he associated the tetrahedron with fire, octahedron with air, hexahedron with earth, icosahedron with water and dodecahedron with heaven respectively. Using a "particular new adroit method never before in use" he provided six regular, six truncated, six stellated and six double stellated variants for each of the regular solids to create a total of 120 versions which, as he pointed out in his long title, was but an 'introduction how, out of these five bodies, many other bodies of various kinds and shapes may be made and found without end'."

"Jamnitzer never managed to to publish his fine introduction. Nonetheless, his method was clear. Part one had five sections, each headed by one of the five vowels (a, e, i, o. u), corresponding to one of the five regular solids and one of the five basic types of matter: earth, air, fire, water, heavens. Each section contained 24 illustrations, i.e. a solid followed by 23 truncations and stellations. Scholars have suggested that Jamnitzer's 24 variations were an allusion to the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet, in which case these shapes are a metaphorical alphabet of Nature's forms.

Later writers such as Lencker and Halt were explicit about these comparisons. Part two opened with five pages again headed by five vowels, each showing two transparent regular solids mounted on a stand. Six pages of variations on the seventy-two sided figure followed. The first of these was based directly on Leonardo's illustration which Brother Giovanni had used in Verona. Four pages of pyramids and three pages of cylinders completed the book. Jamnitzer's work remained popular, was reprinted and went through three pirate editions in the early seventeenth century."

I first encountered the fascinating treatise, 'Perspectiva Corporum Regularium' [1568] --featuring engravings by Jost Amman after designs and drawings by Wenzel Jamnitzer -- from a post at the sadly missed Giornale Nuovo site from 2003. Mr H had displayed photocopy quality scans from the TU Bergakademie site at Freiberg.

I knew that a better quality version of the work had been uploaded in the recent past by SLUB at Dresden [click on the book icon for thumbnails] -- (the source of the majority of chapter title pages above; and the third image from the top) -- but I was finally persuaded to make this post by the scan-happy magnanimity of Will from A Journey Round My Skull who sent me the bulk of the images you see above (obviously not weird enough for his site). The balance of these scans can be viewed in this Flickr set. {about half the book illustrations are seen above}

Will's source for the images was the 1969 book by MM Prechtl*, 'Jamnitzer, Lencker und Stoer, drei Nürnberger Konstruktivisten des 16. Jahrhunderts' [WorldCat]

A limited view (including the intro.) is available of a 2003 Spanish edition of 'Perspectiva Corporum Regularium' at Googlebooks.

[If you're wanting to find more information/references, it will probably help to include the name Albert Flocon in your searches (in addition to 'jamnitzer' + 'perspectiva ..') - he was a perspectival theoretician and disciple/pupil/friend of MC Escher. The BSZ catalogue page lists some reference material (if that link works) but this subject matter is esoteric enough and the scope of related literature large enough that I'll refrain from adding further links.]

2 comments :

Archidemon said...

[Wenzel Jamnitzer]: "Goldsmith, designer, etcher and inventor of scientific instruments.. Born Vienna 1588, died Nuremberg 1585.

you mean: [Wenzel Jamnitzer]: "Goldsmith, designer, etcher and inventor of scientific instruments.. Born Vienna 1508, died Nuremberg 1585.

peacay said...

Heh. A point for close reading. I will tell the British Museum!

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