lecture_2 - Lecture 2: The Primacy of the Word: Vitruvius...

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Lecture 2: The Primacy of the Word: Vitruvius and the mystery of his missing images. Transcribed by Yanni Loukissas. This segment of the course will focus on the characteristics of handwritten manuscripts which deterred the use of images prior to the availability of printing. It will begin with a description of the materials used in the production of manuscripts and the methods used to make multiple copies of them. It will cover the inherent problems which led to the primacy of writing over illustration, especially within technical fields. In conclusion, it will show that these conditions prompted the two main writers of architectural theory, preceding the advent of print, to produce works that are almost exclusively text based. The previous lecture described the conditions surrounding the work of Leon Battista Alberti. Alberti was a Renaissance humanist who composed his treatise, De Re Aedificatoria , around 1452, just prior to the adoption of the printing press in Italy. Although current publications of Alberti’s manuscript have been embellished with images, the original was devoid of diagrams and illustrations. This lecture will introduce the work of the earlier writer, Vitruvius, who wrote the first know treatise on architecture. His manuscript was the only link to the architectural knowledge of antiquity, which Renaissance scholars believed to be sacred. For many years it was widely believed that Vitruvius’s original manuscript contained illustrations. However, this lecture will suggest that Vitruvius may have also deliberately avoided the use of images. The Dominance of Text Parchment and papyrus were the two primary sheet materials used in the production of handwritten manuscripts. Parchment was made from animal skin; individual sheets of parchment were bound together to form a codex. Papyrus, as the name suggests, was produced out of the papyrus plant. Manuscripts written on this material took the form of a long scroll instead of a compilation of pages. Before the widespread use of printing, manuscripts were not expected to have a wide distribution. One could hope for 1,000 copies, at best. This was because copying texts manually was
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This note was uploaded on 11/10/2011 for the course ARCH 4.500 taught by Professor Lawrencesass during the Fall '08 term at MIT.

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lecture_2 - Lecture 2: The Primacy of the Word: Vitruvius...

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