Frontispiece to Andrea Palladio's 'Descritione de le chiese ... in la citta de Roma'
Copyright: RIBA Library Photographs Collection
Fascinated by Rome's history and architecture, Palladio was intent on communicating his knowledge to his contemporaries. Of course, he achieved this through his buildings in the Veneto. But he also did this through various publications.
He began by writing two guidebooks: 'The Antiquities of Rome'; and 'A Description of the Churches, Stations of the Cross, and Relics of the Body of the Saints, in the City of Rome'. Both books, published in 1554, are small in scale, designed to fit in a pocket. Neither have drawings. The RIBA Library has copies of these.
Subsequently, Palladio combined drawings and writing to share his profound and practical understanding of the city's ancient buildings in a new edition of De Architecttura and, most famously, in I Quattro Libri dell'Architettura.
Palladio worked with Daniele Barbaro (1514-1570) on a new edition of De Architecttura by Vitruvius and this was published in 1556. Vitruvius's original Latin had had no illustrations. Various editions had been published in the first half of the 16th century with text and illustrations of uneven quality.
In the version produced by Barbaro and Palladio, text and drawings were carefully translated and formatted. It is the plates that stand out: Palladio's extensive study of Roman architecture is clear to all. Preparatory drawings for this, plus published editions, survive in the RIBA Library collections.
Clearly, Rome was central to Palladio's education, career and legacy. Through his buildings and publications, he contributed to the interest in Roman architecture that continued to dominate Italy, Britain and beyond in the following centuries.