In 1525, Albrecht Dürer published his manual Underweysung der Messung (‘Instruction in Measurement’), a pioneering German-language treatise on geometry and perspective. Dürer’s target audience were young, well-educated artists, but, as the use of perspective became more widespread, a need arose to instruct less well-educated artisans in the rudiments of the technique. The incipient market for a Persepective for Dummies was recognised by one Hieronymus Rodler, who, in 1531 published Eyn schön nützlich büchlin und underweisung der kunst des Messens, (‘A Fine, Useful Booklet and Instruction in the Art of Measurement’).
In the preface to his booklet, Rodler wrote that Dürer's work on perspective was too difficult for most people to understand, although he acknowledged the great merits of the work. Rodler’s treatise, ‘written in an easy vernacular and illustrated with a simple elegance,’ was a shorter and a more practical one, and was written for the benefit of ‘painters, sculptors, goldsmiths, embroiderers, masons and carpenters,’ to better enable them to master what would still have been, to many, a novel technique. In simplifying Dürer's system, alas, Rodler broke it, such that it could only be used for certain types of simple composition, being ‘dominated by converging orthogonals, with little sense of measured control over scaled distances into the space.’
Rodler was employed as a secretary by Johann II, Pfalzgraf und Herzog von der Pfalz-Simmern-Sponheim, (apparently anglicizable as ‘Landgrave of Simmern,’ or ‘Duke of Pfalz-Simmern’), the head of a junior branch of the Wittelsbachs: Simmern being the town where he kept court. The schön nützlich büchlin was one of the first productions of a private press that Rodler had established for his employer. It is not known who designed the book’s woodcuts: Rodler could have made them himself, or, as another theory has it, Johann II. could have been their author, as it is known that he recieved training in the art of woodcutting some time around 1530.
Some of the woodcuts in the book are purely technical, but others incorporate scenes from life at Simmern’s court: the woodcut on the title page (the first one shown above) shows a workshop wherein a painter, an embroiderer and other craftsmen and their assistants are hard at work. Another (the last one below) shows ‘an artist at work in a room with a grid iron window which permits an easy transfer of the landscape seen through it on a drawing board.’ The present images are details of scans from a reprint edition of the book published in 1970 by Akademische Druck-u. Verlagsansalt, (ADEVA for short), of Graz, Austria: the fourth volume of their Instrumentaria Artium series (of which I have mentioned the second volume before) .
I was unable to find much information about Rodler beyond that he was born in Bamberg, and that he died in 1539. I have quoted and paraphrased most from what I found at these pages, advertising copies of the ‘fine useful booklet’ for sale. There is one other image from the book reproduced here.Posted by misteraitch at November 15, 2005 10:17 AM