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HYPNEROTOMACHIA POLIPHILI: the strife of love in a dream.

HYPNEROTOMACHIA POLIPHILI: the strife of love in a dream

By Francesco Colonna. Translated by Joscelyn Godwin. London: Thames & Hudson. 1999. [pounds]42

Published in 1499 by the renowned Venetian printer Aldus Manutius, the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili quickly cast a spell over humanists and architects. John Soane described the book as of extraordinary merit', while Alberto Perez-Gomez recently used it as a basis for a critique of technology. Its enigmatic tale of the quest for love by a hero named Poliphilo, set in a landscape of antique temples, arches and tombs whose harmonic properties are illustrated in the beautiful woodcuts, explained the poetic richness of antique architecture in a way in which the later more orthodox treatises by Serlio and Palladio could not. Its authorship is a mystery, thought by most to be a Dominican, Francesco Colonna, following the cryptic sentence made by the first letters of each chapter, but such is the work's power that recent (somewhat implausible) claims have even been made for Alberti.

The historic influence of the Hypnerotomachia has been despite its text, in an arcane form of Italianized Latin, while the anonymous English translation of 1592 is of a reduced version. Hence it is with no small delight that we can now for the first time read a full English translation, published to mark both the book's 500th year and Thames & Hudson's 50th birthday. Printed in the same size (folio) and format as the original, this is a beautiful edition, fluently translated in an accessible style and accompanied by a short introduction (which accepts Colonna's authorship), glossary and original woodcuts. 1499 was celebrated as the eve of a new era. On the eve of a new millennium, Poliphilo's enchanted world should remind us all of the potential of architecture to seduce.
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Publication:The Architectural Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 2000
Previous Article:A brighter future.

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