Daniela Laube Fine Art

Albrecht Dürer: Treatise on Fortification

Albrecht Dürer: Treatise on Fortification

Nuremberg artist Albrecht Dürer was a polymath of the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. He is generally known as a painter, engraver, printmaker, mathematician, and art theorist; architect, social reformer, and utopian writer are not in the normal list of his achievements. In 1527, Dürer published Etliche Unterricht, zur Befestigung der Städte, Schlösser und Flecken (Instruction on the Fortification of Cities, Castles, and Towns). The book goes beyond being an instruction manual on the design of a fortified city. His plan was functional, pragmatic, and socially responsible, and the purpose of its design was to improve the status and lifestyle of German artisans. Dürer’s ideal city was not an isolated work; it was compatible with his other writings that were directed towards the improvement of artisans’ skills and conditions. (Morrison, Tessa. "Albrecht Dürer and the Ideal City." Parergon, vol. 31 no. 1, 2014, p. 137-160. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/pgn.2014.0050.)

Shown here is a selection of pages from a very rare First Edition, first ‘A’ issue with the colophon “Gedruckt zu Nürnberg .... manat October” and 21 lines on the Errata leaf. There are less than a handful of known copies containing this contemporary coloured title-page making this edition extraordinary in its condition and quality.

Image Credit:

Title page of Treatise on Fortification

"And since geometry is the right foundation of all painting, I have decided to teach its rudiments and principles to all youngsters eager for art."

Albrecht Dürer

Albrecht Dürer

Treatise on Fortification, Nuremberg

October 1527

Woodcut and Typeface

Extremely rare A-Issue of the First German Edition with colored Title-Page



Page 4 from Treatise on Fortification



Page 17 from Treatise on Fortification

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Colophon spread from Treatise on Fortification





In the summer of 1520 the desire of Durer to secure new patronage following the death of Maximilian and an outbreak of sickness in Nuremberg, gave occasion to his fourth and last journey. Together with his wife and her maid he set out in July for the Netherlands in order to be present at the coronation of the new Emperor Charles V. He journeyed by the Rhine, Cologne, and then to Antwerp, where he was well received and produced numerous drawings in silver-point, chalk or charcoal. Besides going to Aachen for the coronation, he made excursions to Cologne, Nijmwegen, 's-Hertogenbosch, Brussels, Bruges, Ghent and to Zealand. He finally returned home in July 1521, having caught an undetermined illness which afflicted him for the rest of his life.

Back in Nuremberg he began work on a series of religious pictures. Many preliminary sketches and studies survive, but no paintings on the grand scale were ever carried out. This was due in part to his declining health, but more because of the time he gave to the preparation of his theoretical works on geometry and perspective, proportion and fortification. Though having little natural gift for writing, he worked hard to produce his works. The consequence was that in the last years of his life he produced, as an artist, comparatively little. In painting there was a portrait of Hieronymus Holtzschuher, a Madonna and Child (1526) and two panels showing St. John with St. Peter in front and St. Paul with St. Mark in the background. In copper-engraving Durer's produced only a number of portraits, those of the cardinal-elector of Mainz (The Great Cardinal), Frederick the Wise, elector of Saxony, and his friends the humanist scholar Willibald Pirckheimer, Melanchthon and Erasmus.

Of his books, he succeeded in getting two finished and produced during his lifetime. One on geometry and perspective, which was published at Nuremberg in 1525, and one on fortification, published in 1527. His work on human proportions was brought out shortly after his death in 1528.

(Biography courtesy of albrect-durer.org)

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