BIBLIO — Facsimiles

The Twelve Printed Facsimile Editions

To date (2009) twelve printed facsimile editions of the Villard portfolio have been published. These vary in nature and in content, and none is a facsimile in the literal sense of an “exact replica.” The only facsimile to publish the Villard folios in color, a key to understanding Villard’s technique of drawing, is that by Barnes, F.XII.

There is available a CD-ROM that reproduces the leaves in color: Le carnet de Villard de Honnecourt: L’art et les techniques d’un constructeur gothique. Commentary by Roland Bechmann. (L’Œil de l’historien.) Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France, Hexagramm, and SDI, 2001. CD-ROM (Mac and Windows). Review in Speculum, vol. 77 (2002), pp. 485-487.

Certain editors (Lassus, Willis, Bowie, and Bouvet) omit folios from their editions. Lassus, Willis, Bucher, Chanfon, and the Dover edition intersperse their commentaries and reproductions of the folios. Because the various editors have employed different numbering schemes for the folios, a concordance between the first eight editions and the portfolio itself is provided.

Note: Roland Bechmann’s Villard de Honnecourt, La pensée technique au XIIIe siècle et sa communication (1991.4) is not included here because while he deals with architectual and technical drawings in the portfolio, he has rearranged the drawing into what he believed were related categories.

For electronic facsimilies on the internet, see Electronic Facsimiles.


LASSUS, J[EAN]-B[ATISTE]-A[NTOINE]Album de Villard de Honnecourt: Architecte du XIIIe siècle, manuscrit public en facsimile. Paris: Imprimerie impériale, 1858. Photographic reprint. Paris: Léonce Laget, 1976, xviii + 189 pp., 72 pls. + text figs.

This was the first facsimile edition of the Villard drawings and remains the only extensive scholarly edition in French. It served as the basis for later editions, especially that of Willis. This edition was substantially completed in manuscript form by Lassus when he died on 15 July 1857. Final editing and actual publication was by Alfred Darcel, a pupil of Lassus who was charged with this responsibility by the Lassus family. According to Darcel in his “Notice sur Lassus” (pp. ii-ix), “j’y ai travaillé avec un pieux respect pour sa [Lassus’s] mémoire . . . et conformément à ses manuscrits.”

Lassus (1807-1857) is best known for his work as a restoration architect, sometimes in collaboration with Viollet-le-Duc, on such Gothic monuments as the cathedrals of Chartres and Paris and the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris. He published extensively on his restoration work and shared with Viollet-le-Duc an unrestrained belief in the “rationalism” of French Gothic architecture. He viewed Gothic as “notre art national,” and had an intense loathing for the neoclassical revival in the France of his day. It was in defense of this view that he undertook publication of the Villard drawings, and in his “Preface” (pp. xi-xviii) he explains his views in strong terms, accusing the neoclassicists of being pygmées of ignorance concerning the history of architecture and construction.

Lassus, in his preface (p. xvi), gives a more specific reason for publishing the Villard drawings: “bien que cet ouvrage du célébre architecte du XIIIe siécle me soit qu’ un simple album de voyage, l’habi1eté des dessins et la variété des objets qu’il contient permettent cependent d’ apprécier l’étendue des connaissances thé oriques et pratiques de ces grands artistes qul ont élevé nos admirables cathédrales.” Lassus acknowledges (p. x) that it was Quicherat (1849.1) who first brought the Villard drawings to public attention and that he agrees with Quicherat s conclusions and explanations, his purpose being to make the entire content of the portfolio available to the public.

Following his preface is a long (pp. 1-41) essay entitled “Considérations sur la renaissance de l’art français au XIXe siécle,” which defends the Gothic revival and his own views but does not even mention Villard.

Lassus then (pp. 43-52) offers a biography of Villard, based on the contents of the portfolio. Lassus’s main points are that Villard was active between 1230 and 1250 at the outside, and he attributes (p. 45) to Villard the design of the choir of Cambrai, which Lassus dates 1227-1251. He proposes (pp. 50-51) that on the basis of his fame at Cambrai, Villard was called to Hungary where, ca. 1250, he designed Kassa and assisted in the restoration of other Hungarian churches destroyed during the Tartar invasion of 1242. Lassus also suggests (p. 51) that Villard may have been at least indirectly involved in the design of Marburg. At the end of this brief summary of Villard’s career, Lassus terms (p. 52) the manuscript an encyclopédie pratique and dates it in the second third of the thirteenth century.

Lassus next gives (pp. 53-56) an analysis of the portfolio itself, before considering the folios one by one. He observes that while its binding is thirteenth-century, the drawings were made before being installed in this binding because one drawing continues through the gutter. Lassus’s examination of the manuscript led him to propose (p. 54) that twenty-one leaves (forty-two pages) are missing. His “table of contents” of the Villard drawings is taken from Quicherat, but he notes (p. 55) that the actual arrangement of materials “résu1terait pour nous une confusion fâcheuse.”

Lassus’s plates are lithographs, slightly larger than the originals, by an artist named Leroy who died just after completing his work. Folios 3 and 33 are omitted and eight comparative supplemental plates (LXV-LXXII) are included. All plates are numbered sequentially in Roman numerals and are separate from the text. Some plates have been inverted, top-to-bottom, from their arrangement in the portfolio.

The Lassus plates have frequently been reproduced elsewhere without warning that they are lithographs after the originals. All who study Villard should be aware of this.


WILLIS, ROBERTFacsimile of the Sketch Book of Wilars de Honecort with Commentaries and Descriptions by M. J. B. A. Lassus and by M. J. Quicherat: Translated and Edited with Many Additional Articles and Notes by the Rev. R. Willis. London [Oxford]: John Benry and James Parker, 1859, ix + 243 pp., 73 pls. + text figs.

Willis (1800-1895) was an ordained minister who held the Jacksonian Professorship of History at Cambridge University. An individual of varied interests&emdash;he wrote on chess strategy, on the relationship between the vowel sounds of the human voice and the notes of pipe organs, and on mechanics for engineers&emdash;Willis is now best known for his architectural histories of a number of important English cathedral foundations, most notably Canterbury and Winchester, and for his edition of the Villard portfolio. He also wrote a dictionary of medieval architectural terms, and his interest in medieval architectural practice probably explains his interest in Villard.

Willis’s edition of the Villard portfolio is essentially an English translation of the Lassus edition with extensive additional commentary by Willis, enough to justify his comment (p. vii) that ‘The text of the present volume differs in many respects from that of the French edition. . . .” In his preface (pp. v-ix) Willis says (p. vii) that the existence of the Villard portfolio came to his attention through the article by Quicherat (1849.1), the first part of which Willis included (pp. 1-7) in translation in his edition. In 1851 Willis ‘obtained [from the Bibliothèque impériale in Paris] the rare privilege of tracing those of its [the portfolio’s] pages which interested me as belonging to architecture and mechanism [i.e., mechanics].” He was preparing his own, English edition of the portfolio when he learned of Lassus’s efforts and was thereby “induced to postpone the publication of the results I have arrived at.”

It is not clear from his edition whether or not Willis was personally acquainted with Lassus (whom he praises on p. ix of his preface), although Lassus corresponded with James Henry Parker, the antiquarian-archaeologist who published the Willis facsimile.

Willis’s justification for his facsimile of the Villard portfolio was twofold. One was his belief in the importance of the portfolio itself. The second was his belief that the Lassus edition was incomplete (p. viii): “But as his [Lassus’s] labours have been unhappily cut short and left imperfect, I have ventured to add to them my own, and to attempt the formation of a commentary that should include the opinions of writers who have as yet interested themselves in the question [of the portfolio].” When this was written, only a few writers had shown any interest, as the entries in this bibliography show.

Willis’s facsimile is organized as follows: Preface (pp. v-ix), in which he summarizes the importance of the drawings and recounts his own involvement with the portfolio; Table of Contents (p. x); List of Plates (pp. xi-xii); translation of the first part of the Quicherat 1849 article (pp. 1-7), followed by a two-page (pp. 8&emdash;9) commentary on Villard’s activities in Hungary; “Description of the Manuscript and Its Contents” (pp. 10&emdash;15) followed (p. 16) by a diagram of the codicological reconstruction of the manuscript; and a “Classified List of Subject Matter” (pp. 17-20) arranged as follows: sacred or emblematical figures, secular human and animal figures, architecture and construction plans and drawings, practical geometry, masonry, carpentry, machines, and receipts [formulas]. Willis omits “as foreign to the illustration of our artist” Lassus’s long essay defending the Gothic style. The greater part of Willis’s facsimile (pp. 21-238) consists of his “Explanation of the Plates.”

Willis’s organization of these involves reproducing the Lassus lithographs, each followed by commentary; thus the folios are separated by text and difficult to compare. He employs Lassus’s numbering scheme. Both in the text and footnotes, Willis carefully notes whether the commentary is his own or whether it is translated from Lassus or from Quicherat. Willis provides with most plates, where appropriate, transcriptions of the Picard inscriptions, the Lassus French translations, and the best English translations to date, far more accurate than those in the Bowie (F.V) facsimile. Willis’s most extensive additions to or revisions of Lassus’s commentary occur in connection with the geometrical and stereometrical drawings found on fols. 20r and 20v. Willis did not realize that these drawings were not by Villard.

For Willis, the significance of the Villard portfolio was in what it revealed about thirteenth-century drawing (p. v): “The manuscript which is the subject of the present volume is a most valuable monument for the state of delineation in the thirteenth century.” He also claims that “The architectural drawings are especially interesting for the light they throw upon mediaeval [architectural] practice.’ In the first connection, Willis notes that Villard drew after the antique and makes the claim that he also drew “from living models set in attitudes for the purpose [of making academic studies].” Willis praises Villard’s architectural drawings for their interest as distinct from “the mechanical copying which is the reproach and misfortune of our own [age],” but he appears to be suspicious of Villard’s powers of observation. It is Willis who first set up (p. vi) the dubious proposition that “Villard appears even to have altered parts of the buildings he was sketching, improving them as he thought, and giving them a more fashionable air as he went along, to save himself the trouble of doing so when he wished to engraft them upon one of his own designs.”

One of the most useful parts of the Willis facsimile is his “Description of the Manuscript and Its Contents” (pp. 10-20) based on Burges (1858.1), Lassus, and Quicherat (1849.1). Until Barnes and Shelby (1988.1) this was the most precise English summary of the codicological state of the portfolio. His principal points are (p. 12) that twenty-one leaves can be proved to be missing from the manuscript, that (p. 14) the manuscript is a “veritable sketch&emdash;book” for which “the sketches were made at separate times,” and that the drawings are not “a collection made up or rearranged in after-life by its possessor.” Willis also noted that the “inscriptions are subsequent additions [to the drawings] for the information of posterity, and [were] not contemplated at the time the drawings were made, for no space had been reserved for them.” Save for the number of folios Willis estimates to be missing, these observations or interpretations are generally accepted as correct even today.

For all his interest in Villard, Willis was not greatly concerned with Villard’s professional career. As his title indicates, he accepted without question Lassus’s and Quicherat’s view that Villard was an architect, and Willis refers (p. v) to Villard’s “practice [of architecture].” But he was not interested in what buildings Villard may have designed. In his preface (p. v) he attributes Cambrai to Villard, but in discussing (pp. 86-90) Villard’s drawing of the plan of Cambrai (fol. 14v), Willis appears to deny or to question this attribution. He reports (pp. 8-9) the “state of the question” of Villard’s association with Hungary based on Henszlmann (1857.1) but takes no stand on the various attributions made.

The Willis facsimile has never been reissued and remained from 1859 to 1959, when the Bowie facsimile (F.V) appeared, the only English edition of the manuscript. These have subsequently (1979) been joined by the Bucher facsimile (F.VI). The Willis facsimile was, therefore, for a century the only source on the Villard manuscript for English-speaking scholars. Long out of print and what Robert Branner (1960.4) termed a “bibliographic rarity,” the Willis edition was superseded in 1935 as the most critical edition of the Villard manuscript by the Hahnloser facsimile.


BIBLIOTHÈQUE NATIONALE, ed. H[ENRI AUGUSTE O[MONT]. Album de Villard de Honnecourt: Architecte du XIIIe siècle. Paris: Herthaud Frères, n.d. [1906]. Reprints. Paris, 1927 and 1931, 18 pp. + 68 pls.

Born the year that Lassus died, Omont (1857-1940) was Conservateur en Chef of manuscripts at the Bibliothèque nationale from 1903 until 1935 and is credited with much of the organization and prestige of that research facility. Omont published hundreds of catalogs and other works on the manuscripts in his care, and his edition of Villard, published three years after he became conservator, was but a minor effort in a long career.

Omont appears to have had no special interest in Villard per se. It is unclear why he published a facsimile edition of the Villard manuscript unless it was to provide the public with an inexpensive edition of Villard by contrast to that of Lassus or whether by 1906 the Lassus edition was out of print. His motivation may have been to provide a more accurate edition, since his plates are glass negative prints of, rather than lithographs made after, the originals. The Omont edition is brief and uncritical, summarizing the earlier literature on the manuscript and tracing its history down to 1865 when it was assigned its current shelf number in the Bibliothèque nationale. He gives a transcription of the manuscript inscriptions and a brief description of the contents of each folio, together with a brief index arranged by subject.

A trained codicologist, Omont designated the manuscript folios as folios, but only as secondary to his plate numbers. He estimated that thirteen folios are missing from the manuscript. Omont reproduced each of the thirty-three extant folios and provided unnumbered illustrations of the binding of the manuscript itself. Since Omont illustrated folios omitted by Lassus and Willis, his numbering scheme (in Roman numerals) is different from theirs (see “Concordance between the Portfolio and Facsimile Editions”).


HAHNLOSER, HANS R[OBERT]Villard de Honnecourt: Kritische Gesamtausgabe des Hauhiittenbuches no. fr. 19093 der Pariser Nationalbibliothek. Vienna: Anton Schroll & Co., 1935, xi + 342 pp., 66 pls. + text figs.

2d rev. and enlarged edition. Graz: Akademische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, 1972. xi + 404 pp., 66 pls. + text figs. [All references below are to the second edition.]

This is the most scholarly edition of the Villard to date. Hahnloser considered and studied virtually every aspect of the drawings and inscriptions. There are, however, two difficulties with Hahnloser’s edition that must be faced by all who use it. One is that it is written in some of the most abstract philosophical German ever put to paper and is, therefore, very difficult to read. The other is that Hahnloser, as his subtitle indicates, firmly believed that the Villard portfolio was a lodge book (Bauhüttenbuch) and approached every question with this predisposition. Most readers will find certain interpretations and conclusions forced to satisfy this prejudice.

Hahnloser (1899-1974) was a Swiss art historian trained in Vienna under Julius Von Schlosser (1914.3) and was later professor of art history at the University of Bern. Interested in modern as well as medieval art, Hahnloser is known principally as a medievalist and mainly for his facsimile of the Villard portfolio, the most frequently cited source for any Villard question since 1935. Hahnloser also published a facsimile of the Wolfenbüttel model book (Das Musterbuch von Wolfenbüttel, Vienna, 1929) and a study of the stained glass and altars in Bern Cathedral (Chorfenster und Altäre des Berner Munsters, Bern, 1950).

The organization of Hahnloser’s facsimile is the following: “Vorwort zur Zweiten Auflage” (pp. ix-xi); “Einführung zur ersten Auflage” (pp. 1-4); “Sprachkritischer und ikonographischer Kommentar” (pp. 5-176); “Zur Literatur” [to 1935] (pp. 177-81); “Zur Technik des Buches” (pp. 182-88); “Erhaltung und Unfang der Handschrift” (pp. 189-93); “Villards Nachfolger am Werk” (pp. 194-200); “Villards Stilwandel und sein Verhältnis zum Vorbild” (pp. 201-15); “Der personliche Zeichenstil des Künstlers” [i.e., Villard] (pp. 216-24); “Zur Biographie des Künstlers” (pp. 225-37); “Das Hüttenbuch [Villard portfolio] als Ganzes” (pp. 238-46); “Wahl und Wert der Exempel” (pp. 247-79); “Anhang,” including Bibliography (pp. 280-81), “Reconstruction of the Foliation of the Portfolio” (pp. 282-87), Glossary (pp. 288-97), and Index (pp. 298-340); “Seit 1935 erechienene Spezial-Literatur” (pp. 341-42); “Nachträge von 1971” (pp. 343-403); 66 Tafeln; and 213 Abbildungen.

The “Supplement of 1971” is in effect an insert into the photographically reproduced 1935 edition and is keyed to the original page and plate numbers. For the most part, this supplement brings together literature and commentary published between 1935 and 1971, including models for and parallels to Villard’s drawings published during that period. In no case did Hahnloser modify or recant any significant conclusion contained in the first edition (p. x). In the “Foreword to the Second Edition” Hahnloser complained (p. ix) that his designation of the Villard portfolio as a Bauhüttenbuchhad not been accepted by French scholarship which persisted in employing the “falschen Ausdruck ‘Album.'”

Hahnloser’s reproductions of the portfolio folios are photographs of the originals reproduced at approximately the same size as the latter. His reproductions are the best in print and, together with those of Bouvet, are the easiest to study because they are reproduced without intervening text and commentary and without cropping or inversion. Hahnloser termed the folios Tafeln (plates) and thus has a total of sixty-six, counting each face of each folio as a Tafel. Along the outer edges of the reproductions appear small Arabic letters referring to different details and inscriptions found on the folios themselves, to which the commentaries are keyed. These letters are visible yet sufficiently inconspicuous so as not to detract from the reproductions themselves. This scheme is preferable to that of adding handwritten letters to the reproductions themselves as it was employed by Bowie in his first edition.

There are many “firsts” in Hahnloser’s facsimile, which is why it is an irreplaceable source. Hahnloser was able to obtain authorization from Henri Omont in 1926 to have the portfolio unbound (pp. 4, 283) so it could be examined as never before or since. He was also able to employ ultraviolet light and ultraviolet photography in his examination and thereby discovered inscriptions (fols. 1r and 23v) not previously seen or deciphered. Finally, he was able to examine the remains of cut folios disengaged from the gutters of the extant bifolios when the portfolio was unbound. He complains in several places that these were lost, and that certain folio “tails” were reversed when the portfolio was rebound, falsifying the codicological (re)construction of the portfolio as it exists today. [This author’s examination of the Villard portfolio does not confirm this claim.]

On the basis of this examination, Hahnloser proposed (chart on p. 192) that the portfolio originally contained a minimum of fifty-six leaves plus a probable eight more, hence a total of sixty-four, of which thirty-three now remain. Thus only about half of the original is now extant.

Another very significant “first” of the Hahnloser facsimile is that he was the first art historian to recognize the different hands at work in the portfolio. On the basis of Schneegans’ study (1901.1) of the inscriptions, Hahnloser identified two artists other than Villard, individuals whom he designated as Master II and Master III, using the Latin designation magister (pp. 194-200 and passim). Hahnloser reversed Schneegans’ order, believing (p. 194) that the latter’s “Ms. 3” “unmittelbar nach Villard am Buch gearbeitet hat.” The key to Hahnloser’s basic thesis is that Master II and Master III were followers of or successors to Villard in the same lodge (p. 199), “… es ist nicht als personalisches ‘Album,’ ‘Skizzen-buch’ oder ‘Promemoria’ entstanden, sondern als ein wirkliches Bauhüttenbuch; es ist tatsächlich in derselben Sprach- und Baugegend, d. h. von den Nachfolgen der gleichen pikardischen Werkstatt benützt worden….” This single sentence states the tradition that Hahnloser established concerning the Villard portfolio. Only in recent years has the rigidity of his interpretation been challenged.

Hahnloser’s principal interest in Villard’s life was not so much in the specifics of his career as in his artistic personality. He believed (p. 232) that Villard worked ca. 1230-1235 and that he was a “fertiger Meister” when he went to Hungary ca. 1235, either through his Cistercian connections or due to his association with Cambrai, but what he built in Hungary is unknown: “Was Villard in Ungarn gebaut hat, wird zu weiteren Funden ein Geheimnis bleiben.” However, Hahnloser was not inclined (p. 226) to attribute Cambrai to Villard. The one building that Hahnloser proposes (pp. 236-37) Villard may have designed is Saint-Quentin, adopting the thesis of Bénard (1864.1).

Much consideration is given to Villard as an artistic personality, especially in the sections “Villard’s Stylistic Development and his Treatment of Models” (pp. 201-15), “The Personal Drawing Style of the Artist” (pp. 216-24), and “The Selection and Usefulness of [Villard’s] Models” (pp. 247-79). Hahnloser’s contention is that Villard selected models for different reasons, either for their beauty or for their practicality (ideally combining the two when possible), and that he treated different models in different ways. Hahnloser’s most controversial conclusion (p. 207 and elsewhere) is that Villard’s human figures in which the facial features are missing were drawn from sculpture: “Wir dürfen demnach jene Zeichungen, bei denen die Innenzeichnung der Köpfe fehlt, als Abbilder von Skuipturen (oder, wenn es der Gegenstand fordert, nach der Natur) ansprechen.” This is a very doubtful proposition indeed, but typical of Hahnloser’s personal approach to Villard as an artist.

Hahnloser’s approach to Villard is unique among commentators. In the same way that Bucher in his facsimile attempted a more detailed biography of Villard than anyone to date, Hahnloser attempted a psycho-artistic analysis approached by no one before or since 1935. His analysis is intensely subjective and personal, with the result that one agrees or disagrees strongly. Whatever his shortcomings or limitations, Hahnloser attempted more thoroughly than any other author to solve the riddles of the artist who (p. 2) “biete vorläufig noch mehr Ratsel als Lösungen” (see Gall, 1925.1).


BOWIE, THEODORE [ROBERT]The Sketchbook of Villard de Honnecourt. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, n.d. [1968 but © 1959]. 80 pp. [There is confusion about the proper bibliographic designation and dates of the three printings of this item. Bowie’s (p. 9) claims that the two earlier editions were printed privately, but each carried an Indiana University copyright dated 1959. Bowie also states that the second printing was in 1961, when in fact the date was 1962. Both editions were distributed by George Wittenborn, New York. The second printing or edition is termed “revised” in its preface, but differs very little from the first edition save as noted below. The first two editions have translations and brief commentaries preceding the illustrations; the third edition has these on pages facing the appropriate illustrations.]

This was the second English edition of the Villard portfolio, appearing exactly a century after that by Willis. It was later followed by the English edition of Bucher, both now out-of-print. Bowie’s edition is a facsimile only in a very special sense, and less so than any other facsimile discussed in this section. It does reproduce most of the Villard folios but these are arranged in a sequence different from that of the portfolio itself. Bowie claims (p. 5) that his arrangement is based, insofar as possible, on the “logic of their [the folios’] subject matter.” Admitting this to be a “major liberty,” one of the great understatements in all Villard literature, Bowie attributes this idea to the warm encouragement of Erwin Panofsky and other scholars.

Bowie’s edition is very difficult to use when studying the original portfolio or when comparing it with other facsimiles that are arranged, in Bowie’s phrase, in the “official order.” In all three Bowie editions there is a Table of Concordance” at the back. In the second and third editions, in response to Barnes’s review (1960.1), a concordance number is given with each plate, keyed to Hahnloser. This is not as useful as might appear, however (assuming that the user has the Hahnloser facsimile available), for the following reasons: it is keyed to Bowie’s arrangement of the folios, as is the “Table of Concordance;” it contains errors (Bowie’s pl. 17 = Hahnloser Taf. 33, not his Taf. 38; Bowie’s pl. 41 = Hahnloser Taf. 28, not his Taf. 23); and it is given in a confusing manner (Hahnloser’s plates are assigned Roman numerals rather than Arabic, and in the third edition each number is preceded by “C.”, for example, “C.XI”, with the “C” standing for concordance and not the Roman numeral for 100). Because of this and because Bowie omitted fols. 33r and 33v&emdash;until 1978, the Bibliothèque nationals did not possess negatives of fols. 33r and 33v, which may explain their omission by Bowie&emdash;it is virtually impossible to compare Bowie’s edition with the original or with other facsimile editions without recourse to a separate concordance (see pp. ØØØ).

Bowie’s plates are photographic reproductions after negatives in the Bibliothèque nationale, apparently the same negatives employed by Hahnloser. Bowie’s notes when he turns a folio 45° or 90° but he fails to note anywhere (save regarding fol. 21r where a recipe has been omitted) that he has severely cropped his reproductions, occasionally eliminating materials and giving the misleading impression to anyone unable to examine the portfolio or other facsimiles that the original portfolio is a much neater production than it actually is. In response to Branner’s review (1959.2), in the third edition Bowie removed Arabic letters which he (?) had inked in on his illustrations and which were easily confused with earlier additions to the portfolio. This apparently explains the severe cropping of illustrations in third edition.

Bowie states (p. 5) that his edition is, “neither critical nor scholarly… [and] is intended for the nonspecialist.” He admits that most of the contents of his introduction are based on earlier writers and he adds nothing new to understanding the Villard portfolio.

In 1982 Greenwood Press, Publishers, Westport, CN issued a handsome hardback reprint of the 1959 edition of the Bowie facsimile, including its misprints and omitted folios. The differences from the earlier editions are that (a) the folios (called “plates”) are presented in Bowie’s order but each is faced with Bowie’s identifications and translations of the inscriptions; (b) the confusing lettering with the different drawings have been removed; (c) a new page called “The Plates and Their Inscriptions” has been inserted; fol. 21v is placed at the end of the folios and is numbered as Plate 64.

Bowie (1905-1995) was an American art historian at Indiana University who was interested in many aspects of art. He wrote on film, on Baudelaire, and on the art of the Far East. He also collaborated on an edition of the drawings of Jacques Carrey de Lyon made in Athens in 1674.


BOUVET, FRANCIS. “L’Album de Villard de Honnecourt.” In La France glorieuse au moyen Age. Paris: Club des éditeurs, 1960. Unpaginated.

This presentation of the Villard portfolio is along the lines of that by Omont in the sense that it offers little critical commentary, and to that by Bowie’s in the sense that Bouvet omitted fols. 33 and 33v which did not interest him. Bouvet claims he “n’a d’autre ambition que de faciliter l’examen des planches [which he assigns Roman numerals], et de restituer&emdash;dans la mesure possible&emdash;l’esprit extraordinairement vif et curieux de seul témoignage que nous possedons sur ce qu’il est convenu d’appeler le Haut Gothique.”

Bouvet in fact does this better than any other facsimile edition except Hahnloser’s by reproducing the Villard folios as contained in the portfolio itself, uninterrupted by intervening commentary. The author notes that he reproduces the “plates” as they appear in the portfolio , including inversions, but does not give the source of his plates. I was able to obtain this publication only in an electrostatic photocopy, from which it is impossible to discern the details of the reproductions. They appear to be made from photographic negatives, assembled to replicate the foliation of the portfolio itself. [Addendum, 26 April 2007: Dominic Boulerice kindly confirmed that the Bouvet plates were made from photos of the original plates and are not re-drawings of the original leaves.]

Bouvet provides literal French translations of the Villard inscriptions, the most accurate French translations published to date. The author’s brief commentary preceding the translations is enthusiastically misleading on several points, yet contains certain important and restrained observations. Bouvet claims that the Villard portfolio is one of only two medieval documents providing information on craft techniques, the other being Theophilus’s Diversarium artium schedula. On the other hand, he resists speculation about who Villard was in a professional sense, save to claim that he was “incontestablement ‘du batiment'” and that he may have worked for the Cistercians. Bouvet does not attribute any building to Villard, and concerning his trip to Hungary he says, “La date, l’objet et l’emploi du temps de ce voyage sont autant de mystères pour nous.”

Bouvet traces briefly the history of the portfolio, basically summarizing Omont’s account with some commentary on additions made after the portfolio left Villard’s possession. He is very critical of Villard as a draftsman (“ses notions de perspective sont enfantines”) and of his use of geometry.

The title of this book is taken from an essay by Marcel Aubert, and readers are cautioned that Bouvet’s essay is not included in the first edition (Paris, 1949).


BUCHER, FRANÇOIS. “[The Lodge Book of] Villard de Honnecourt.” In Architector: The Lodge Books and Sketchbooks of Medieval Architects. Vol. 1. New York: Abaris Books, 1979, pp. 15-193.

This is the third English facsimile of the Villard portfolio and the only one to form part of a larger undertaking, a four-volume survey of medieval architectural drawings. Bucher (1927-1999) was professor of fine arts at Florida State University at Tallahassee and published extensively on medieval architecture and manuscripts, especially concerning architectural design, as well as on Joseph Albers. He is a former president of the International Center of Medieval Art and was the first editor of its journal, Gesta. Bucher was educated in his native Switzerland and was a student of Hahnloser, whom he terms (p. ii) his “mentor” and to whose memory he dedicated this volume as well as 1977.2. Hahnloser had planned to prepare an introduction for this section of Bucher’s facsimile but died in 1974 before this was accomplished.

Bucher’s organization of his facsimile is as follows: Introduction (p. 15); “Tentative Biography” [of Villard] (pp. 15-26); [Villard’s Role in the Tradition of] “The Humanist Architects” (pp. 27-28); “Appendix I: Physical Description, Purpose, and History” [of the Portfolio] (pp. 28-30); “Appendix II: Contents, Style, and Iconography” [of the Portfolio] (pp. 30-33); Conclusion (pp. 34-35); Bibliography (pp. 36-39); and Glossary (p. 40). [Additional discussion of Villard is promised in vol. 4 of this publication, not yet published.]

These sections are followed (pp. 42-176) by photographic reproductions of the portfolio folios at actual size without cropping and without inversions. No folios are omitted. Bucher’s illustrations are quite dark, with an unpleasant, muddy gray tone. However, this printing serves better than that of any other facsimile to convey a sense of the variations in texture and tone of the original folios. Bucher employs Hahnloser’s scheme of designating each surface of each folio with an Arabic number as if it were a plate, hence a total of sixty-six pages or plates. Because this portfolio is but a part of Bucher’s planned total study, it is designated “V” for cross-referencing purposes, hence each folio number is preceded by “V,” for example, “V1” (fol. 1r), “V2” (fol. 1v), etc. Bucher indicates different details, figures, or scenes on various folios as “a,” “b ” “c,” etc., although this is not done consistently.

Bucher intersperses his commentaries and his reproductions of folios. For the most part, folio and related commentary are contained on facing pages although certain extended commentaries disrupt the neatness of this scheme. Within his commentaries he provides English translations of the portfolio inscriptions, but no transcriptions of the original inscriptions are given, rendering the glossary rather useless. Bucher’s translations of the portfolio inscriptions are his own (p. 41) in which “we adhered to the often clumsy style and punctuation of the inscriptions which frequently differ from previously published interpretations in order to approximate the basic fabric of the original [inscriptions].” By and large, Bucher’s translations are somewhat “free,” and Willis’s translations are preferable to Bucher’s.

Bucher’s facsimile terminates (pp. 177-93) with forty-one figures to accompany and supplement the Villard drawings. Many of these figures are found in (and are taken from?) Hahnloser, but some reconstruction drawings of Villard’s mechanical devices (e.g., sawmill, fol. 22v) and certain perspective renderings of other Villard drawings (e.g., horologe, fol. 6v, and lectern, fol. 7r) are helpful in visualizing what Villard may have observed and/or intended the viewer to understand.

The interpretation Bucher gives to the Villard portfolio (p. 15, “our most direct visual witness to the expansive attitude of the first three decades of the thirteenth century”) is standard. But his specific view that the portfolio was a lodge book follows Hahnloser’s interpretation closely. In addition, Bucher is a disciple of Paul Frankl (1960.6) in believing that Villard attempted to organize his manuscript into a ‘text [book] which others would consult’ (p. 26). Bucher cites (p. 28) Frankl’s claim that Villard was “the Gothic Vitruvius” and says he is not unjustly so designated.

For Bucher, Villard was an architect, but he insists on two qualifications in this regard. The first is that Villard was quite versatile, worked in stone and in timber, and may have also been a sculptor in stone and wood, possibly also in metal (or, at least, that he was interested in metalwork). The second is that Villard was at best an individual with “mediocre design talents” (p. 18) who “was probably never given a major commission” (p. 27). This view does not accord well with Bucher’s attribution of work to Villard (see below). His best summary (p. 26) of Villard as medieval artisan may be this: “Villard strikes me as a busy individual who may never have realized his professional limitations.”

What Bucher terms “A Tentative Biography [of Villard]” (pp. 15-26) is more detailed than any offered to date and is the only attempt to reconstruct his entire professional life. According to Bucher, Villard was born ca. 1175 at Honnecourt and entered the architectural profession at Vaucelles where he was a journeyman after 1190, becoming a master ca. 1216 when the choir there was largely completed. It was at this time that Villard began making his drawings.

During the next five years, ca. 1215-1220, Villard traveled around northern France, visiting Laon, Meaux, Reims, and Chartres where he may have been employed as a sculptor on the south arm porch ca. 1217. At about the same time he may have made a trip to the Meuse Valley region to study metalwork, and he visited Reims to study and to sketch sculpture. Sometime after 1221 he was called to Hungary, either by the Cistercians or due to some association with Saint Elizabeth of Hungary. Bucher postulates that Villard may have passed through Bamberg where his drawings (fols. 9v and 10r) of the then-new Laon tower influenced the design of the Bamberg towers.

Bucher does not attribute any Hungarian architectural commissions to Villard, insisting that he may not have remained in Hungary for a very long time. He does suggest that Villard may have designed choirstalls for installation in one or more Hungarian churches, and he accepts Gerevich’s contention (1974.1) that Villard “may have designed and/or participated in the construction of the tomb of Gertrude de Meran at Pills Abbey.” Villard then returned to France, passing through Lausanne ca. 1226/1227, possibly after an excursion into Italy that may have included visits to Milan and Venice. Back in France, Villard found work as a subcontractor at Reims, where he was responsible for aisle window and triforium arcade tracery and for tas de charge vault springers and later discarded vaulting ribs.

Finally, in 1233, Villard became associated with work at Saint-Quentin and also possibly with work at Cambrai. Bucher accepts Bénard’s interpretation (1864.1) that Villard had a hand in the design of the Saint-Quentin choir (see Bucher, 1977.2; Barnes, 1978.1; Bucher 1978.3). Bucher states this in different ways in different places, but his most unqualified claim (p. 25) is that “It is even possible to defend his [Villard’s] presence as maitre d’oeuvre [at Saint-Quentin] from 1233 onward.” Since Bucher categorically denies that Villard was a cleric, this means master of the architectural work, not keeper of the fabrica. It may be that Villard did not remain at Saint-Quentin very long. His drawings show none of the newer architectural forms or ideas employed there, or elsewhere, and Bucher seems to suggest that by the mid-1230s Villard was something of an anachronism. Then, ca. 1235 he began, with the assistance of Master II, to attempt to organize his sketchbook into a lodge book for the benefit of others, although much of his material was then out-of-date and no longer useful. Villard would have died, according to Bucher, ca. 1240, perhaps some sixty-five years of age.

One may or may not accept the specifics of Bucher’s essay on Villard’s life and career, but no one has better evoked the mood of the world in which Villard must have lived and worked.

In the sections (pp. 28-35) in which Bucher treats the history and significance of the portfolio, his commentary very closely follows that of Hahnloser. Bucher accepts the portfolio as a lodge manual and sees it as a treatise so well organized that he refers to its “chapters.” He proposes (p. 28) that the portfolio originally consisted of six quires of sixteen leaves each (ninety-six pages) and states that the original “total number of pages was a minimum of eighty-two.” He also claims that the folios were in Villard’s day larger (255 mm x 180 mm) than they are now, and he estimates that there were originally between 341 and 425 drawings of which 256 remain.

Bucher dates (p. 29) the drawings between ca. 1215 and ca. 1235. His most distinct departure from Hahnloser and others is his contention (pp. 29, 118, 122) that Master II worked with, not later than, Villard in redoing certain of the folios, although this Master II inherited the portfolio from Villard.

Bucher believes that Master III may have been a cleric and that the portfolio, no longer of any use to the architectural profession after ca. 1240, became something of a curiosity and entered one or more clerical libraries where it was preserved for the very reason that it was no longer practical.


ERLANDE-BRANDENBURG, ALAIN, RÉGINE PERNOUD, JEAN GIMPEL, ROLAND BECHMANNCarnet de Villard de Honnecourt, Paris: Éditions Stock, 1986; 128 pp., 66 plates + 1 text figure.

This paperback facsimile edition of the Villard portfolio is unique in that it is the only one that is a collaborative effort. The intention of the authors was to make available to non-specialists a complete set of illustrations of the 33 leaves of the Villard portfolio, and this is essentially a non-scholarly edition despite the very academic credentials of one of the collaborators, Alain Erlande-Brandenburg. The essays of the four authors discuss various aspects of Villard’s drawings, and their commentaries vary in quality.

A notable departure from earlier French facsimile editions (F.I, F.III, and F.VI) is that in this edition the portfolio is termed a carnet rather than album, the traditional French designation. Carnet is preferable because it suggests a less formal codicological construction than album, just as “portfolio” is a more accurate rendering in English than “manuscript.”

Régine Pernoud (“Villard, témoin de son temps,” pp. 9-16) attempts to recreate a biography for Villard, and to place him in context. Much of what she proposes is unfounded and her essay must be used with caution. Pernoud’s interpretation of Villard’s life and career is traditional, and she compares (p. 9) the intention of Villard’s carnet to that of Theopolius Presbyter’s Diversarum artium schedula. Her persuasiveness is weakened by errors, for example, misidentifying (p. 11) the Chartres rose (fol. 15v) as being at Reims, and failing to differentiate between Villard and Master II.

Alain Erlande-Brandenburg’s essay (“Villard de Honnecourt, architecture et sculpture,” pp. 17-25) is a better effort. He analyzes Villard’s architectural and sculptural drawings and his conservative artistic tastes, and he is rare among French authors in recognizing (“Introduction,” p. 6) that Villard’s profession is unknown: “L’analyse du document [=portfolio] ne nous apporte aucune certitude sur le métier exercé par Villard.” While Erlande-Brandenburg departs from tradition on this point, his view that Villard intended to organize the portfolio into chapters follows the Frankl (1960.6) and François Bucher (F.VII) tradition. The author makes no attempt to justify his claim that at least eight of the leaves lost from the portfolio concerned architecture.

The essay by Jean Gimpel (“Villard de Honnecourt, architecte-ingénieur,” pp. 27-38) is essentially repetition of material Gimpel has published elsewhere (1958.3, 1970.1, and 1976.2), although here he analyzes Villard’s mechanical drawings one by one. Gimpel believes that Villard was something of a cross between Vitruvius and Leonardo da Vinci who has never been properly honored by French officialdom. In his efforts to redress this oversight&emdash;in 1983 Gimpel founded the Association Villard de Honnecourt in Honnecourt and was responsible for having a model of Villard’s saw (fol. 22v) constructed in the town square&emdash;he has proven to be more enthusiastic than accurate about his hero.

Roland Bechmann’s study (“Les dessins techniques du Carnet de Villard de Honnecourt,” pp. 39-50) is a thoughtful and informative essay by an architect and historian. Bechmann has discovered the purpose or function of several of Villard’s drawings that had remained mysteries to earlier scholars, for example, the cross-bow on fol. 22v “which cannot miss” (ki ne faut) (1986.2 ). In this study his focus is on Villard’s perspective schemes and examples of practical or constructive geometry, but readers should be aware that Bechmann does not distinguish between drawings by Villard and those by Master II.

The illustrations of the leaves in the portfolio are termed planches, and are reproduced after negatives in the Bibliothèque nationale. These reproductions are for the most part printed too darkly, and have the unpleasant muddy appearance of the reproductions in the Bucher facsimile (F.VII). The transcriptions of the written addenda to certain of the drawings (pp. 121-127) are carelessly done and inconsistent in conveying Villard’s abbreviations. The French translations of these addenda are rather freely rendered, and those in Lassus (F.I) and Bouvet (F.VI), especially, are preferable. The transcriptions and translations are accompanied by folio numbers as well as by planche numbers.

This facsimile contains summary bibliography.

Note: This edition of the portfolio has been translated into Italian and into Spanish.


Spanish: Villard de Honnecourt, Cuaderno, Madrid: Ediciones Akal, S.A., 1991. In the series Fluentes de Arte, vol. 9, translated by Yago Barja de Quiroga. This is a literal translation of the French edition. The plates are a bizarre mauvish pinky color.


CARREIRA, EDUARDOEstudos de Iconografia Medieval – O Caderno de Villard de Honnecourt, Arquiteto do Século XIII, Edição, Tradução e Comentários: Eduardo Carreira, Brasilia: Editora Universidade de Brasília, 1997.

I have not seen this publication, called to my attention by Marcus Rezende, who informed me that “It contains all the folios, the original texts, a Portuguese translation, and a short ‘explanation notes’ page by page, a small glossary of Gothic architecture and a bibliography containing references to the six [facsimile] editions and 19 references of ‘Estudos de Interesse.'”


CHANFÓN OLMOS, CARLOSWilars de Honecort, su Manuscrito, Colección Mexicana de Tratadistas. Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1994; 308 pp. + illus, maps.

This is the only Spanish edition of the portfolio I have found to reproduce all 33 leaves, recto and verso, although it is based on a 1978 publication (that I have been unable to obtain) by Chanfón, El libro de Villard de Honnecourt, Manuscrito del siglo XIII. Chanfón (1928-2002) was a Mexican professor of architecture trained in classics and philosophy and a specialist in the theory and practice of restoration of historic monuments.

Chanfón’s approach to Villard (who, in this work, he consistently called Wilars de Honecort) is (p. 9) that he was a Picard “master builder” (maestro constructor) whose drawings and commentaries were ultimately passed on to his apprentices. The author dates Villard’s activities between 1220 and 1250.

The author relies heavily on Viollet-le-Duc (1854.1) and Bechmann (1991.4) for his interpretations and, overall, these are dated. His view of the portfolio (p. 12) is that it is an “autêntico Tradato de Architecctura.”

The illustrations in the text are for the most part reproductions of illustrations in Viollet-le-Duc’s Dictionnaire raisonné (1854.1). It is impossible to tell the source of the illustrations of the leaves. The drawings are thin line drawings with no indication of the edges of the leaves. My first impression is that they were reproduced after the Lassus lithographs, but there are many inconsistencies. For example, the drawings are not the same size, some being smaller and some being larger; on fol. 10r, both Mancel’s and C-18’s paginations are reproduced but on fol. 30r and elsewhere Mancel’s is missing; the centerpoints of the arcs on the choir stall on fol. 29r are missing.

The leaves are not presented facing one another, the back of each page being given over to text: the original Picard, French, and Spanish. The transcriptions are mostly accurate and the French translations attempt to be literal. The Spanish translations are somewhat freer.


ANONThe Medieval Sketchbook of Villard de Honnecourt, Mineola: Dover Publications, Inc., 2006; ix + 146 pp.

This is a curiously eclectic edition of the portfolio. The commentary and translations are taken from the Bowie facsimile (F.V) and the plates are from the Willis facsimile (F.II) which were reproduced from the Lassus facsimile (F.I). The leaves are here reproduced in the order found in the portfolio and not in Bowie’s rearranged sequence. Included are the eight supplemental drawings from the F.II edition.

It is misleading that this edition calls the portfolio a “sketchbook” and that the leaves are called “plates.” See “What’s in a Name?”


BARNES, CARL F. JR.The Portfolio of Villard de Honnecourt, A New Critical Edition and Color Facsimile, Farnham: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2009; xxvi + 266 pp., 49 in-text figures, 48 black and white plates, 71 color plates.

This is the most recent published facsimile of the portfolio and the only facsimile edition to reproduce the front and back covers and all thirty-three leaves of the Villard drawings in full color and the same size as the originals.

In addition to the Acknowledgements and the Preface, the text is divided into three chapters: “The Portfolio, pp. 1-29; “The Individual Folios,” pp. 30-230; “Villard de Honnecourt: A Minimalist Biography,” pp. 215-230. This is followed by a “Glossary” (pp. 231-239) prepared by Dr. Stacey L. Hahn, Associate Professor of French at Oakland University, Rochester Michigan; a “Bibliography,” pp. 241-253; an “Iconographical Index of Drawings, pp. 255-257; and an “Index” (pp. 259-266).

The overall approach to Villard follows what Barnes has proposed over some forty years in various writings. The author continues to argue that Villard was not a professional architect or master builder, that Villard may have used a professional scribe to add captions to certain of the drawings, and that there is still no obvious explanation for why the artist drew the mishmash of things he drew. However, Barnes does suggest that Villard may have been employed as a lay representative or agent of the bishop and/or chapter of Cambrai cathedral. In this connection, his detailed drawings of construction at Reims and church furnishings could have been useful to the bishop and/or chapter at Cambrai where a new cathedral was begun ca. 1220. It is likewise possible, although not proven, that Villard was sent by the bishop and/or chapter of Cambrai to Hungary to obtain a relic of St. Elisabeth of Hungary (d. 1231; canonized 1235), who helped fund the new construction at Cambrai. See Barnes 2007.2.

Chapter 1 studies the physical makeup of the portfolio, and its history from the 17th century to the present. The most novel proposal in this chapter is that the traditional attribution of scrips accompanying the drawings to three individuals (Villard, so-called Masters II and III) is too few and that eight different hands can be seen in the calligraphy. The chapter also has a section devoted to Villard’s Use of Language and his Technical Vocabulary. The hands identified by Barnes, with their dates are: Hand I (Villard or his scribe); Hand II (Schneegans’ “Master III,” Hahnloser’s “Master II”), 1240s/1250s?; Hand III (Schneegans’ “Master II,” Hahnloser’s “Master III”), 1250s?; Hand IV, 1275/1300?; Hand V (Jehanne Martian), 14th century; Hand VI (J. Mancel), 15th century; Hand VII, 1533; Hand VIII, 1600s/1700s. The author makes the point that terming any of these hands “masters” is misleading because nothing is known about the profession of any one of them, including Villard.

The bulk of the book is Chapter II which analyzes each folio, giving size and condition, codicology, paginations, and a concordance with earlier facsimile editions (F.I-F.XI above). Next every drawing on each folio in the portfolio is analyzed individually, a first in Villard studies, giving size and drawing technique. Where there are captions or inscriptions, each is transcribed, then translated literally and freely. For example, fol. 15v:

Transcription: Jestoie une fois en hongrie la u ie mes maint ior la vi io le pavement dune eglize de si faite maniere.

Literal Translation: I was once in Hungary, there, where I remained many days. There I saw the pavement of a church made in such manner.

Free Translation: I was once in Hungary where I stayed a long time. There I saw a church pavement that looked like this.

Another first of this facsimile is Professor Hahn’s Glossary that translates every word, Picard and Latin, into English.





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