BIBLIO — Electronic Facsimiles

The Electronic Facsimile Editions

There currently exist five “electronic facsimiles” of the Villard portfolio of which I am aware, four on the internet and one on CD. These are facsimiles only in the sense that they (except 2) reproduce all the leaves in the portfolio. Only 4 reproduces the leaves in color.


WOODROW, ROSS. Album of Villard de Honnecourt c. 1230-35. Newcastle [Australia]: The University of Newcastle, 2000.

This edition is a “facsimile” only in the sense that it reproduces each of the 33 folios, recto and verso, in a digitalized black and white format. The leaves are also called “pages,” these being keyed to the folio numbers, e.g. fol. 2v = p. 4.

Commentary is limited to an introduction, and the unique value of this item is that it makes available to anyone with Internet access all the leaves of the portfolio. The images vary in quality (sharpness) and in some instances it is difficult to read the inscriptions.

The images were scanned digitally from what the Woodrow calls a privately printed edition of the portfolio that appeared in Paris in 1927, printed by Catala Fréres, apparently the 1927 reprint of the Omont edition (F.III).

Villard’s profession is not addressed. The assemblage is termed a “portfolio.”

Woodrow is Senior Lecturer in the School of Fine Art at the University of Newcastle and specializes in Analysis of Visual Images. His e-mail address is:

2 .

GAGNE, CLAUDE. The Album de Villard de Honnecourt, n.d.

This is a facsimile edition only in the sense that it reproduces the leaves in the portfolio that are taken from Lassus (F.I) and intersperced in the author’s textual commentary. The inscriptions on the leaves themselves are not given, save in summary form. The author believes that the Lassus edition is “sans aucun doute la meilleure [édition]” and “pour la partie technique, le travail de Lassus, publié dans l’édition de Laget [en 1976] reste pertinent.”

Gagne’s interpretation, from a freemasony perspective, is that Villard was an apprentice, both in his metier and in life, and (p.3) that he was working toward becoming a magister latomus or maître d’oeuvre in the metier of construction. The portfolio is called both an “album” and a “carnet.”

Gagne has some personal interpretations that run at odds with generally accepted interpretations, for example, that the letters AGLA on fol. 8r are not botched Greek, but a Hebrew Kabbalistic acronym for Ateh Gibor Le-olam Adonai, “God is mighty forever.”

He suggests that the crouched figure hiding his face on fol. 23v is behaving as if the departing horseman “lui causait un grand chagrin,” whereas the two figures, of very different scale, probably are unrelated iconographically.

The identificatuion of the figure Ecclesia on fol. 4v as the “Reine du Ciel” is simply incorrect.

A suggestion that I find appealing is that the standing nude on fol. 11v “… n’est peut-être pas de la main de Villard.”


BIBLIOTHÈQUE NATIONALE DE FRANCE. Le carnet de Villard de Honnecourt, L’art et les techniques d’un constructeur gothique, CD, 2001.

The interpretations on this CD are largely those of Roland Bechmann. See my review in Speculum, vol. 77 (2002), pp. 485-487.


BIBLIOTHÈQUE NATIONALE DE FRANCELe carnet de Villard de Honnecourt, n.d.

This is the only means of obtaining color images of the portfolio on the internet, as far as I know. These images are of acceptable quality and generally accurate in color. Each face of each leaf is termed a “folio,” so that this accounting of the portfolio assigns it 66 folios. There are brief commentaries with most of the leaves. The approach to Villard is traditional, essentially the interpretation of Roland Bechmann as in 3.  above.


ASSOCIATION VILLARD DE HONNECOURTLe carnet de Villard de Honnecourt, n.d.

NOTE: This is the website (hhtp:// of the French society devoted to the Villard portfolio, headquartered in the village of Honnecourt (Nord), the presumed birthplace of Villard. Oddly, the site does not illustrate the reconstruction of Villard’s hydraulic saw (fol. 22v) erected in the village square in 1984.

The site gives an overview of the history of the village, and a summary biography of Villard, called a “maître d’oeuvre,” dating his activities to the 12th century rather than to the 13th century. The section “Le carnet de Villard” presents each of the remaining 33 leaves in black-and-white, apparently reproduced from the Stock edition of the portfolio (F.VIII). Each leaf, unfortunately called a “planche” and numbered consecutively in Roman numerals, has three texts: title (in red, without indicating that the title is supplied by the association); original text (in black); modern French translation (in blue).

The titles are occasionally misleading. For example, fol. 2r reads “De hennecort ci quil fut en hongrie (xv e siecle). Other than mistaking the first “o” in “Honnecourt” as an “e,” one is left with the impression that “xv e siecle” is part of the original inscription rather than a modern dating of the inscription. The group on fol. 13r is called “le roi justicier,” whereas the iconography of the drawing is unknown and disputed. The seated couple on fol. 14r is identified as two men, not as a man and a woman.

The transcriptions of the original inscriptions present some major problems. For example, the inscription on fol. 5r concerning the perpetual motion device is rendered as “maint jorse sunt despute de faire torner une ruee par li seule …” whereas it should read “maint ior se sunt maistre despute de faire torner une ruee par li seule ….”

It is a major surprise to find on fol. 30v a translation of “dautretel maniere doivent celes de canbrai so[n](= si on) fait droit” as “Celles de Cambrai doivent differentes, si on les construit.”  As best I know, this is the only translation anywhere of this inscription to claim the Cambrai chapels must be different from those at Reims if built (correctly).

This site should be used with great care.


5 November 2006

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