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Templum Vaticanum

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(VATICAN CITY) (ST. PETER’S BASILICA) FONTANA, Carlo. Templum Vaticanum et Ipsius Origo. Rome: Jo. Francisci Buagni, 1694. Large thick folio (13-1/2 by 18 inches), early 20th-century full vellum with the arms of Pope Pius XI tooled on covers as centerpiece, red morocco spine label, uncut.

First edition of this richly illustrated chronicle of the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica, with 79 folio plates and plans (ten folding or double-page), finely engraved by Alessandro Specchi from Fontana’s drawings. A lovely, clean, uncut copy, bound with the arms of Pope Pius XI, who was Pope when the Vatican was made an independent city-state in 1929.

“The Templum Vaticanum caused a sensation in the contemporary art world; it was ardently discussed, for instance, in the correspondence of the director of the French Academy in Rome for the next two years. The publication was an ambitious visual, intellectual, and typographic enterprise” (Millard). The work is divided into seven books: Book I deals with the antique site of St. Peter’s; Book II the basilica constructed by Emperor Constantine in about 320; Book III the transportation in 1585 of the obelisk to its present site in the square in front of St. Peter’s; Book IV the square and Bernini’s oval colonnade; Book V is a detailed survey of the construction of St. Peter’s; Book VI the relative cost of St. Peter’s in comparison with the Temple of Solomon; Book VII a comparison of St. Peter’s, the Pantheon and the Duomo in Florence. Upon his ascension in 1585, Pope Sixtus V appointed Domenico Fontana architect of St. Peter’s (construction had begun in 1506). Fontana oversaw completion of the dome, the tallest of its kind in Christendom, and proposed the prolongation of the interior in a well-defined nave. (Carlo Fontana claimed to be descended from Domenico’s family, though there is no proof of this.)

“The work begins by incorporating Domenico Fontana’s plates on the moving of the obelisk, and then surveys the vanished Constantinian basilica in plan and section. One of the plates is a superimposed plan of the new basilica over the old, which is in turn superimposed over the circus of Gaius and Nero, with a numbered guide to the hundreds of altars and shrines which had to be moved and reconsecrated in the new church. Fontana was a faithful student of Bernini, and he includes plates which he alleges represent Bernini’s plans for the prolongation of the piazza, not only through the addition of the terzo braccio but also through the demolition of the blocks of houses that made up the spina or backbone of the Borgo. In an interesting piece of late baroque archaeology, Fontana reconstructs the delicate, arched structure which, he feels, represents the original Pantheon before Agrippa’s overlay of ornamental and structure-concealing forms” (Avery’s Choice 59). Parallel title page and text in Latin and Italian. Millard, Italian Books 38. Fowler 122. Avery’s Choice 59. Berlin Kat. 2678. Achille Ratti was an accomplished scholar, librarian and priest; on February 6, 1922, he was elected Pope and took the name Pius XI. He served as Pope until his death in 1939. The independent Vatican city-state was established in 1929 by the Lateran Treaty, while Pius XI was Pope. Later bookplate. Penciled annotations in pencil in a neat hand giving building measurements in Italian.

Minor paper repair to leaf 3L4. Interior clean and fine, engravings particularly crisp and fresh. Vellum clean with only minor expert restoration to vellum at joints near foot of spine only and to lower front corner. An excellent uncut copy of this beautiful tribute to the Vatican, bound for Pope Pius XI.