Fine Books from a Distinguished Private Library

Fine Books from a Distinguished Private Library

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 91. Nicola Zabaglia and Domenico Fontana | Castelli, e ponti con alcune ingegnose pratiche. Rome, 1824, finely bound.

Nicola Zabaglia and Domenico Fontana | Castelli, e ponti con alcune ingegnose pratiche. Rome, 1824, finely bound

Auction Closed

November 28, 01:19 PM GMT


6,000 - 8,000 GBP

Lot Details


Nicola Zabaglia and Domenico Fontana.

Castelli, e ponti con alcune ingegnose pratiche, e con la descrizione del trasporto dell’ obelisco Vaticano [bound with] Contignationes ac pontes. Rome: Crispino Puccinelli, 1824

Second edition, 2 volumes bound in one, folio (520 x 370mm.), engraved portrait of Zabaglia by Girolamo Rossi after a drawing by Pietro Leone Ghezzi, engraved vignettes on both title-pages, 62 FINE ENGRAVED PLATES, 10 OF THEM FOLDING, after designs by Francesco Rostagni, SPLENDID CONTEMPORARY RED MOROCCO, VERY ATTRACTIVELY GILT, covers with frames formed by thick and thin gilt rules filled with alternating fleuron tools above an undulating ribbon roll, central panel framed by multiple gilt rules connecting ornate floral corner- and sidepieces, spine similarly gilt

A fine copy in every respect of the second, enlarged edition of a fundamental work for the history of engineering and the construction of buildings, expanding the original 1743 edition for educational use, with text in academically appropriate Latin in addition to the original Italian. Nicola Zabaglia (1667-1750) began working as a day labourer on the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica in 1686, and was employed full time on the project by 1691. According to Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, “by 1696, he was able to demonstrate his ability as a mechanic, moving the large porphyry cup and the bronze statues placed in the Vatican baptistery”. Although illiterate, he was an ingenious practical engineer. DBI notes that “the preparation of scaffolding and exceptional castles, and the transport of extraordinary weights” were his strongest skills. For the Vatican, he organized the removal, transportation, and installation of several obelisks at St. Peter’s and other churches, figured out a way to move a large marble altar, and prepared the scaffolding needed to construct, maintain, or restore areas of St. Peter’s. He was involved in strengthening its famed dome after the earthquakes of 1703 and 1730, inventing the necessary machines to do the work and training the construction crew.

This volume’s splendid, oversized engravings illustrate the machinery and instruments

used for the restoration of the dome—elaborate hoisting devices, construction tools, pulleys, scaffolding, ornamental tiles, etc.— as well as the craftsmen at work. The transportation of the Vatican obelisk by Domenico Fontana in 1590 is represented by a fine selection of plates from Carlo Fontana’s work on St. Peter’s (Templum Vaticanum, published in 1694 and derived from Domenico’s original Della trasportazione dell’obelisco Vaticano). This undertaking may be compared with the plates depicting Zabaglia’s methods for transporting and erecting obelisks. The greatest honour conferred on the unofficial “Engineer of the Vatican” in his lifetime was the first edition of this work, published at Rome by Niccolò & Marco Pagliarini in 1743, with a total of 55 plates. The present second edition is enlarged with a biography of Zabaglia written by jurist Filippo Maria Renazzi (1742-1808) and with eight more plates, which are among the very best and largest in the book; it is less common than the first edition. This may be because, if put to the intended use in educational settings, copies of the 1824 edition would have seen far more wear and tear than the earlier printing.

REFERENCES: Berlin Katalog 2755; Brunet V, 1515 ; Graesse VII, 501; Cicognara 968 (all citing the first edition)