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Of the Just Shaping of Letters   By: (1471-1528)

Of the Just Shaping of Letters by Albrecht Dürer

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[ Transcriber's Note:

Every effort has been made to replicate this text as faithfully as possible, including inconsistencies in spelling and hyphenation. No changes have been made to the printed text. ]

OF THE JUST SHAPING OF LETTERS

BY ALBRECHT DÜRER

TRANSLATED BY R. T. NICHOL

FROM THE LATIN TEXT OF THE EDITION OF MDXXXV

OF THE JUST SHAPING OF LETTERS

FROM THE APPLIED GEOMETRY OF ALBRECHT DÜRER BOOK JJJ

DOVER PUBLICATIONS, INC. NEW YORK

ALBRECHT DÜRER TO WILIBALD PIRCKHEIMER HIS PATRON AND VERY GOOD FRIEND GREETING:

[Illustration]

In our Germany, most excellent Wilibald, are to be found at the present day many young men of a happy talent for the Art Pictorial, who without any artistic training whatever, but taught only by their daily exercise of it, have run riot like an unpruned tree, so that unhesitatingly and without compunction they turn out their works, purely according to their own judgment. But when great and ingenious artists behold their so inept performances, not undeservedly do they ridicule the blindness of such men; since sane judgment abhors nothing so much as a picture perpetrated with no technical knowledge, although with plenty of care and diligence. Now the sole reason why painters of this sort are not aware of their own error is that they have not learnt Geometry, without which no one can either be or become an absolute artist; but the blame for this should be laid upon their masters, who themselves are ignorant of this art. Since this is in very truth the foundation of the whole graphic art, it seems to me a good thing to set down for studious beginners a few rudiments, in which I might, as it were, furnish them with a handle for using the compass and the rule, and thence, by seeing Truth itself before their eyes, they might become not only zealous of the arts, but even arrive at a great and true understanding of them.

Now, although in our own time, and amongst ourselves, the Art Pictorial is in ill repute with some, as being held to minister incitement to idolatry, yet a Christian man is no more enticed to superstition by pictures or images, than is an honest man girt with a sword to highway robbery. Certes he would be a witless creature who would willingly adore either pictures or images of wood or stone. On the contrary, a picture is the rather edifying and agreeable to Christian religion and duty, if only it be fairly, artificially, and correctly painted.

In what honour and dignity this art was anciently held amongst the Greeks and Romans, the old authors sufficiently testify; though afterwards all but lost, while it lay hid for more than a thousand years. It has now at length, only within the last two hundred years, by some Italians been brought again to light. For it is the easiest thing in the world for the Arts to be lost and perish; but only with difficulty, and after long time & pains are they resuscitated. Wherefore I hope that no wise man will defame this laborious task of mine, since with good intent & in behoof of all who love the Liberal Arts have I undertaken it: nor for painters alone, but for goldsmiths too, & for sculptors, and stonecutters, and woodcarvers, and for all, in short, who use compass, and rule, and measuring line that it may serve to their utility.

Nor is anyone compelled whether or no to spend gainful hours on these exercises of mine; although I am not ignorant that whoever is well exercised in them will thence acquire not only the principles of his own art, but by daily practice, an exactitude of judgment, with which he will proceed to higher investigations & discover many more things than I have here pointed out.

But since, illustrious Sir, it is clearer than light that you are yourself, so to speak, an asylum of all the noble Arts, it has been my pleasure, out of a singular love I bear towards you, to dedicate to you this book; not because I desire to appear therein as rendering you any great service, but because thereby you may understand how engaged my mind is to you; and since by my work I can confer on you but little favour, at least by the exhibition of a ready mind I may repay the benefits you shower upon me... Continue reading book >>




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