BIBLIO — Writings 1982-1999

Writings on Villard de Honnecourt, 1982-1999


BARNES, CARL F. JR.. Villard de Honnecourt, the Artist and His Drawings, A Reference Publication in Art History, Boston: G. K. Hall, 1982.

The first edition of this book, an annotated bibliography of over 200 published references to Villard from 1666 to 1981, with a chapter (pp. xli-lvii) describing the content and approach of each of the seven facsimile editions of the portfolio published between 1858 and 1979. A concordance between the portfolio and each of these editions is provided (p. lvii).

In a long essay (pp. xix-xxxix) called “Introduction: The Manuscript and Its Artist,” the author summarizes the history of the portfolio and scholarship about Villard, concluding (p. xxxix) that Villard cannot be associated with a specific profession and perhaps should be thought of as a 13th-century “dilettante . . . delighted in the world around himself.”

This is the most complete reference source on materials concerning Villard de Honnecourt.

Reproduces fols. 9v and 10r.


BUCHER, FRANÇOIS. “Villard de Honnecourt,” Macmillan Encyclopedia of Architects, New York: The Free Press, 1982, IV, pp. 322-324.

A condensed version of the essay in F.VII, with some additional reconstructions of Villard’s life and interpretations of his significance. The portfolio is called variously an “architectural treatise,” a “lodgebook,” a “manuscript,” and a “sketchbook;” and it is incorrectly claimed (p. 323) that “Villard himself defines his manuscript as a treatise….” It is reported (p. 324) that the portfolio contains approximately 1215-1233 entries, but no explanation is given of what constitutes an entry. The portfolio leaves are referred to as pages, so that in Bucher’s scheme the portfolio now has 66 pages.

Villard’s activity is dated between ca. 1190 and the mid 1230s, and he is associated with the design or construction of Vaucelles (as journeyman), Pilis, Reims (subcontractor for detailed parts of the choir triforium and choir aisle windows), Saint-Quentin (consultant), and Cambrai. Villard is misquoted (p. 322) as having said that the towers of Laon were “the finest I have seen;” and it is suggested (pp. 322-323) that his drawings of Laon (fols. 9v-10) “may have occasioned an abrupt change in the design of the western tower of the cathedral [of Bamberg].”

Bucher explains discrepancies between Villard’s drawings and their architectural sources as his willful modification of models. He proposes (p. 323) that Villard “unsuccessfully tried to predetermine the proportion of Human figures through geometric overlays [fols. 18r, 18v, 19r, 19v] so that ‘work will be facilitated’.”

Reproduces fols. 9r, 10r, 15r, and 30v. The drawing of the interior of the radating chapel at Reims (fol. 30v) is captioned “Drawing of the choir at Reims Cathedral with masons’ marks.”



BUCHER, FRANÇOIS. Review of Barnes, Villard de Honnecourt, in Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, vol. 42 (1983), pp. 299-300.

A review of 1982.1 which describes (p. 299) its bibliographic analyses as “thorough, fair, and a pleasure to read … and without a visible bias.” Bucher proposes that the medieval architect was skilled in a number of crafts, and that “Villard’s intent and purpose must be viewed more flexibly” than generally is done because of the lingering effects of 19th-century antiquarianism.

The author modifies his earlier (1977.2; 1982.2; F.VII) view that Villard played a major role in the design of Saint-Quentin, and notes (p. 299) that “While I once believed that he [Villard] may have assigned certain details of windows and the triforium gallery of the choir [at Reims] to his small shop, I am now more inclined to identify the specific marks that accompany the cross sections of mullions, embrasures and voussoirs as marks identifying the specific templates of details to which Villard refers [fol. 32] in his text.”


GETSCHER, ROBERT H. Review of Barnes, Villard de Honnecourt, in Art Documentation, May 1983, p. 83.

Terms the analyses of the 260 bibliographic entries on Villard and his portfolio “well-reasoned and opinionated” and notes that the indexes are inconsistent.


MECKSEPER, CORD. “Über die Fünfeckkonstruktion bei Villard de Honnecourt und im später Mittelalter,” Architectura, vol. 13 (1983), pp. 31-40.

Analyzes the drawing of Villard and the inscription of Master II (fol. 21r) for designing a tower with five edges or angles, and explains how this was done using a mason’s square. The procedure is a variation of rotation-of-squares, and the author concludes (p. 36) that Villard’s geometry was geometria practica, what Shelby (1972.6) termed “constructive geometry.”


VERDIER, PHILIPPE. “La ‘Sepouture d’un Sarrazin’ de Villard de Honnecourt,” Journal des Savants, Paris, 1983, pp. 219-228.

Identifies (p. 228) the model of Villard’s Sepulchre of a Saracen (fol. 6r) as a lost Hellenistic monument, probably earlier than the Monument of Philopappos in Athens, erected A.D. 114/116. Verdier is the first author ever to claim (p. 219) that Villard travelled in the Near East, describing the drawing as “la mise en point d’un croquis levé au cours d’un voyage dans le royaume de Jérusalem.” Verdier did not know about the preliminary drawing for Villard’s Sepulchre of a Saracen (see Barnes and Shelby, 1986.1).

Reproduces fol. 6r.



BECHMANN, ROLANDLes racines des cathédrales: l’architecture gothique, expression des conditions du milieu, Paris: Payot, 1984.

Terms (p. 150) Villard an “architecte de l’epoque gothique” and calls (p. 191) his portfolio a “carnet de chantier.” Villard is nowhere discussed in detail, but various of his drawings are used to illustrate or to prove points the author makes about Gothic design and construction. One of his more interesting observations (p. 244) is that Villard’s groundplans with vaulting patterns shown, e.g., Vaucelles (fol. 17r) proves that at the outset of design the vaultings of churches were known.

Other observations are (p. 233) that the geometric figures on fols. 18v and 19r have the geometry drawn over the previously-drawn figures, and that the purpose of the geometry was to permit transfer of the design from one medium to another; and (p. 256) that the the earliest known example of the vérin (screw-driven hoist) is shown in Villard’s fol. 22v.

Reproduces numerous figures after Lassus. In some instances details are juxtaposed which are on separate folios in the portfolio itself.


FERGUSSON, PETERArchitecture of Solitude, Cistercian Abbeys in Twelfth-Century England, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984, pp. 78-79.

Dates the Villard portfolio “about 1230” and says (p. 78) that Villard’s Cistercian church plan based on squares (Fol. 14v) proves the currency of that design scheme; and notes that Villard drew his plans without thick [solid?] walls. [This is true only of Villard’s Cistercian church plan; in every other church plan he drew a double wall.]

Illustrates fol. 14v, called fol. 28b.


MURDOCH, JOHN EAlbum of Science: Antiquity and the Middle Ages, New York: Charles Scribners Sons, 1984.

The stereotomy drawings found on fol. 20r are reproduced on p. 169 as fig. 153 and mistakenly attributed to Villard. In the lengthy caption, Villard is called an “architect and scholar, who was responsible for developing plans for several churches and abbeys.”

On p. 226 fig. 203 there is a collection of pictures of lions from medieval works, including Villard’s drawing (fol. 24v) of lion and porcupine.

Illustrations apparently from Bibliothèque nationale negatives.

[Reference provided by Scott L. Montgomery]



ADAM, JEAN-PIERRE and PIERRE VARÈNE. “La scie hydraulique de Villard de Honnecourt et sa place dans l’histoire des techniques,” Bulletin monumental, vol. 143 (1985), pp. 317-332.

Demonstrates that water-powered wheels and the long saw were in use in western Europe since antiquity, and cites (p. 319) two literary mentions from the 4th century A.D. of hydraulic saws, one by Gregory of Nyssa in his Homilia and one by Decimus Magnus Ausonius in his poem Mosella.

The authors report that no archaeological evidence of such mechanisms survives, and claim (p. 321) that the drawing by Villard of a hydraulic saw (fol. 22v) is the earliest known representation of this device. It is noted (p. 322) that it is impossible to understand the mechanics of Villard’s saw, either because he did not understand how the saw worked, or because of his personal system of twisted perspective used in his drawing, or both. Villard’s drawing is analyzed, and two reconstruction drawings are included (p. 320 figs. 5 and 6) to make his drawing more comprehensible.

Villard is termed (p. 321) a Picard architect of the period 1220-1240 and his portfolio, called a carnet, is characterized as “un véritable préfiguration des carnets des ingénieurs de la Renaissance italienne.”

Reproduces a detail of fol. 22v after Lassus.


BECHMANN, ROLAND. “Villard de Honnecourt: architecte et ingénieur médiéval,” Pour la science, vol. 94 (August 1985), pp. 69-75.

Not yet seen.


GEREVICH, LASZLO. “Ergebnisse der Ausgrabungen in der Zisterzienserabtei Pilis,” Acta Archaeologica Academiae Hungaricae, vol. 37 (1985), pp. 111-152.

A well-illustrated summary of Gerevich’s earlier publications on his excavations at Pilis (1971.2, 1971.3, 1974.1, and 1977.3).


TOKER, FRANKLIN. “Gothic Architecture by Remote Control: an Illustrated Building Contract of 1340,” Art Bulletin, vol. 67 (1985), pp. 67-95.

Notes briefly (p. 67) the “current confusion about Villard de Honnecourt: To the 19th century Villard was the most celebrated of Gothic architects. In recent literature he appears as no architect at all, but as a master mason, a carver, a metalworker curious about building, an administrator, and even as a cleric dabbling in architecture.” Toker then includes (p. 69) Villard in a list of “Gothic masters [who] executed buildings far from their home base[s].”

The author claims (p. 85) that Villard included dimensions on his drawing of a catapult; but these numbers are done with a different pen and in an ink different from either the drawing or its inscription, and are a post-medieval addition to the leaf.



BARNES, CARL F. JR. “Villard de Honnecourt,” Dictionary of the Middle Ages, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, vol. 11 (1986), p. 448.

Short summary of the entry in the Dictionary of Art (1996.1 ) with minimal bibliography. Notes that there is no proof that Villard was an architect and that his drawing technique suggests he may have been trained as a metalworker.

No illustrations.


BARNES, CARL F. JR. and LON R. SHELBY. “The Preliminary Drawing for Villard de Honnecourt’s ‘Sepulchre of a Saracen’,” Gesta, 25/1 (1986), pp. 135-138.

Announces (p. 135) that the authors have found in the Villard portfolio about a dozen previously unknown preliminary drawings on palimpsest leaves, one of the most significant of which is the preliminary drawing on fol. 5v for Villard’s “Sepulchre of a Saracen” on fol. 6r. The drawing is illustrated and analyzed, and the authors offer (p. 137) a reconstruction of Villard’s drawing with its pediment restored. It is argued that Villard’s model was a late antique funerary monument (cf. Verdier, 1983.4), not a Roman or Byzantine consular ivory (Adhémar, 1939.1).

Reproduces fols. 5v and 6r.


BECHMANN, ROLAND. “L’arc de Villard de Honnecourt: un piège pour médiévistes,” Historia, vol. 475 (1986), pp. 94-96.

An essay in which Bechamann figured out the purpose and function of Villard’s crossbow (fol. 22v) which cannot miss (ki ne faut). What Villard drew is a fixed crossbow beside a path travelled by animals such as deer. A tripwire is strung across the path and when an animal trips the wire, the arrow is projected into the animal’s flank. In case the arrow misses, it is on a line and can be retrieved for resetting, rather like modern reeled line on bows used for shooting fish or birds. Bechmann notes that in Tristan there is a 12th-century literary account of a similar device.

Contains (pp. 99-100) two short notes on other subjects: “Villard de Honnecourt et les gadgets et les automates” and “Le cadre de vie de Villard de Honnecourt.” The former concerns itself mainly with an explanation of the mechanics of Villard’s sing-and-cry (fol. 9r); the latter claims that “prés de la moitié de ses [Villard’s] dessins ont disparu” and gives a brief biography of Villard, noting that Picardie was an intellectual center in the first half of the 13th century.

Reproduces a detail of fol. 22v after Lassus.


TERRENOIRE, MARIE-ODILE. “Le carnet de Villard de Honnecourt: culture orale, culture savante,” Artistes, artisans et production artistique au Moyen Age, Paris: Picard, vol. I (1986), pp. 164-181.

A long undocumented and uncritical essay, repeating many of the standard assumptions, clichés and errors about Villard. The author argues that Villard had the specialized vocabulary of a craftsman and that his concerns were practical, not theoretical, and that he was neither a clerk nor a cleric.



ANON. [Association Villard de Honnecourt], Villard de Honnecourt, architecte du XIIIe siècle, Honnecourt sur Escaut: Association Villard de Honnecourt, n.d. [1987].

A pamphlet catalogue to an exhibition of enlargements of various drawings from the Villard portfolio, with French and English captions. The approach is somewhat simplistic, intended not for the specialist, but to introduce Villard and his world to the layman. The variety of Villard’s interests is fully conveyed in the selection of drawings. The portfolio is termed (p. 1) a carnet de croquis(“sketchbook”) and Villard throughout is referred to as an architect, although it is noted that “we don’t even know if he built anything.”

These panels were exhibited at in connection with The Association Villard de Honnecourt for the Interdisciplinary Study of Medieval Science, Technology, and Art (AVISTA) sessions, “Villard de Honnecourt: the Artist and His Drawings” at the XXIVth Annual International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan, in May 1989.


BARNES, CARL F. JR. “A Note on the Bibliographic Terminology in the Portfolio of Villard de Honnecourt,” Manuscripta, vol. 31 (1987), pp. 71-76.

Analyzes use of the words livre, “book” (fols. 1v, 9v, and 14v), feuille, “leaf” (fols. 18v and 19v), and pagene, “page” (fols. 30, 30v, and 32v) by Villard or his scribe, proving that whoever added the inscriptions to the leaves of the portfolio made a clear distinction between “leaf” (a single, two-sided sheet) and “page” (one of the two sides of a leaf). It is shown how this terminology helps to reconstruct certain of the quires in the portfolio and therefore sheds light on its original composition and extent.

Diagrams of linkages of quires.


BARNES, CARL F. JR. Review of F.VII, in Archives internationales d’histoire des sciences, vol. 37 (1987), pp. 191-193.

Contains essentially the same information as in  F.VII.


BRANNER, ROBERT. “An Unknown Gothic (?) Drawing from Saint-Quentin,” Gesta, vol. 26/1 (1987), pp. 151-152.

A short note written ca. 1957 analyzing a drawing engraved in the dado wall of the central bay of the northwestern radiating chapel of Saint-Quentin. Branner concludes that the drawing, if medieval and not modern, may have been a rejected design for a pier. This is not the drawing resembling Villard’s Chartres rose (1864.1, 1977.2, 1978.1, 1978.3).

As for Villard’s association with Saint-Quentin, the author says, “Villard may have been active as early as about 1215, when the basilica was begun, but it is doubtful that he was the architect.”

In an appendix, Carl F. Barnes, Jr., explains the history of and confusion about two wall engravings at Saint-Quentin. See 1977.2, 1978.1, and 1978.3.


BUCHER, FRANÇOIS. Review of Terrenoire 1986.4 , in Avista Forum, vol. 1 no. 2 (Spring 1987), p. 3.

A short review without extensive commentary in which Terrenoire’s article is termed “an elegant, somewhat loosely presented overview [of Villard’s portfolio].”


LALBAT, CLAUDE, GUILBERT MARGUERITTE, and JEAN MARTIN. “De la stéréometrie médiévale: la coup des pierres chez Villard de Honnecourt,” Bulletin Monumental, vol. 145 (1987), pp. 387-406 with English précis, p. 443.

Terms the portfolio a manuscript and states (p. 387) that study of certain of the stereometical drawings on fols. 20r, 20v, and 21r establish “une filiation directe de Villard de Honnecourt aux auteurs [des traités de stéréometrie] de la Renaissance. Having made this claim, the authors then note (p. 406 n. 10) that they do not take into account that the drawings and inscriptions in question are not by Villard.

The drawings discussed are 39i (fol. 20r), 40c, 40d, 40e, and 40f (fol. 20v), keyed to the numbering scheme in F.IV and F.VIII. The first concerns how to design a barrel vault (biais passé) passing at oblique angle through a wall. The other drawings together constitute what the authors term (p. 397) the “Théorème de Villard,” how to design the keystones for three- and five-point arches without laying the entire arch out on the ground or on a tracing surface. This is accomplished using plane geometry and a tool called a biveau-cerce, a square with one extension curved to give the curve of the intrados of each voussior. This instrument is shown in Pl. 39f. An explanation of Pl. 39e is also given. The geometry of each construction is discussed in detail and accompanied by drawings.

Reproduces fols. 20r (erroneously termed 20v), 20v (erroneously termed 20r), and 21r.


SCHELLER, ROBERT W. “Towards a Typology of Medieval Drawings,” Drawings Defined, ed. Walter Strauss and Tracie Felker, New York (Abaris Books, 1987), pp. 13-33.

This article originated as a paper presented at Harvard University in March 1985 in association with an exhibition of drawings from the collection of Ian Woodner.

Robert Scheller is best known to most medievalists for his study, A Survey of Medieval Model Books (1963.4; rev. ed. 1995.Ø ). In this article, the author concentrates on preliminary drawings and notes that few such drawings survive because they were mostly made on waste products (pottery shards, bones, parchment scraps) or on materials which could be used repeatedly, for example, wax tablets.

The author categorizes medieval drawings as autonomous; nature studies (including Villard’s animals); quick sketches; preparatory drawings in manuscripts or on walls; working drawings, especially in manuscripts and, finally, copies and models.

Of Villard the draftsman, Scheller says, “Although Villard clearly makes use of some pictorial conventions, his drawings indicate that an observant eye and a meticulous registration of the distinctive peculiarities of the subject … could at times be put to good use in the study of natural objects.” Villard’s “geometer” (actually, a surveyor on the bottom of fol. 20v) comes in for special praise: a “magnificent little drawing … with a touch as sure as that of any modern master.”

Reproduces fols. 7v and 20v.


ANON. (POUR LA SCIENCE). “L’Art du trait en infrarouge,” Pour la Science, vol. 115 (May 1987), pp. 9-10.

A short, generalized and simplified summary of the material in 1988.2 . Villard is termed a “maître d’oeuvre” and the portfolio is called “carnets.” The leaves are referred to as “planches” and given continuous Arabic numbering.

Reproduces (after Lassus?) a detail of the upper part of fol. 20v


BECHMANN, ROLAND. “Le trébuchet de Villard,” Pour la Science, vol. 119 (September 1987), pp. 11-12.

An analysis of the functioning of the trebuchet drawn and described by Villard on fol. 30r of his portfolio. Fol. 30r shows only the plan of the device. It is known from the text that there was also a section or elevation drawing of the device on the facing leaf (“en cele autre pagene”) that is now lost.

Bechmann built a scale model of the trebuchet, a device which hurled large arrows, not stones as did catapults. Based on his model, the author proposes (p. 12) that the counterweight in Villard’s machine weighed between twenty and thirty tons, and could project an arrow weighing 100 kilograms up to 400 meters at an initial speed of seventy-five meters per second.

In his introduction (p. 11) the author notes Villard’s diversity of interests, especially in mechanical devices: “. . . la curosité de Villard s’exerce dans tous les domaines.” He claims that Villard’s representations of a hydraulic or water-powered saw (fol. 22v) and a saw designed to cut off piles under water (fol. 23r) are the earliest known “schémas” for these devices.

Bechmann admits that “on ignore sa [Villard’s] profession ou sa function exacte.” He terms the portfolio a “manuscrit” and a “carnet des dessins,” and claims that about half of its original leaves have been lost.

Reproduces fol. 30r (after Lassus?).



BARNES, CARL F. R and LON R. SHELBY. “The Codicology of the Portfolio of Villard de Honnecourt (Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, MS Fr 19093),” Scriptorium, vol. 47 (1988), pp. 20-48.

The most detailed codicological analysis of the portfolio since Hahnloser (F.IV). The authors examine and reconstruct the Villard portfolio quire by quire and leaf by leaf and conclude (pp. 37-38) that on the basis of physical or textual evidence a maximum of thirteen leaves can be proven to be lost from the portfolio, although there is the possibility that two additional leaves may be lost.

They demonstrate that both the seven quires and the leaves within the individual quires are substantially as Villard himself left them, and that while Villard thought of his assemblage as a book (fols. 1v, 9v, and 14v), the portfolio left his possession before the leaves were stitched together.

Appendix I (pp. 38-41) is a detailed analysis of the 13th-, 15th-, and 18th-century paginations schemes in the portfolio and Appendix II (pp. 41-48) is a diagram of the composition of each quire.

The authors conclude (pp. 37-38) that codicological evidence does not support the contention of Hahnloser and others that up to half of the contents of the portfolio has been lost, that it was organized into chapters (Frankl, 1960.6; Bucher, F. VII), or that its contents have been shuffled around and rearranged (Lefrançois Pillon, 1949.3; Alain-Brandenburg, F.VIII). The portfolio was, therefore, a less extensive and less formal production than has been claimed, and was neither a Bauhüttenbuch or a Lehrbuch.

Reproduces fols. 8v, 9, 14, and 30.


BECHMANN, ROLAND. “About Some Technical Sketches of Villard de Honnecourt’s Manuscript, New Light on Deleted Diagrams: An Unknown Drawing,” The British Journal for the History of Science, vol. 21 (1988), pp. 341-361.

Using newly-made ultraviolet and infrared photographs of fol. 20v, the author discovered erased drawings that permit him, first, to reconstruct the means of designing a five-point keystone (“clef del quint point”) and, second, of tracing accurately a right angle. Bechmann notes that he was able to see erasures unseen by Robert Branner (see 1960.5 ).

The author calls the portfolio a “manuscript” and suggests that, because the drawings are in one ink and the captions in another, the drawings made have been made by Villard and the captions added by so-called “Master II.” He suggests (p. 360) that the erasures were made in part to give symmetry to the layout on the leaf.

Bechmann concludes (p. 361) “. . . when one realizes, while studying this manuscript (for instance folio 20, pl. 39), that Villard’s Manuscript proves the knowledge of geometric methods for cutting stones that were publicly disclosed only during the sixteenth century by Philibert de l’Orme and during the seventeenth century by Mathurin Jousse, the knowledge of the thirteenth century builders appears to have been much more extensive than is generally believed and accounts for the astonishing achievement of the Gothic cathedrals.”


BECHMANN, ROLAND. “Engins de guerre médiévaux à balancier: Le trébuchet de Villard de Honnecourt,” Historia, vol. 501 (September 1988), pp. 52-62.

The most complete of Bechmann’s several studies on Villard’s trébuchet, providing an overview of medieval siege machines and explaining why the counterweight trébuchet that fired projectiles (arrows) was more accurate than than those that hurled stones.

The term “trébuchet” came from the balance scales used by jewelers, and first appeared in writing concerning a siege engine in a description of the siege of Lisbon in 1147.

Bechmann proposes that Villard’s trébuchet would have been approximately 17m 50 long and 20 m tall.

Reproduces fol. 30r (after Lassus?)



ERLANDE-BRANDENBURG, ALAINGothic Art, New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1989 (French ed. Paris: Mazenod, 1983).

Mentions Villard only twice. On p. 29 the author writes, “The notebook of the itinerant architect Villard de Honnecourt leaves little doubt that he was that he was versed in areas of knowledge&emdash;for example, ‘the technique of drawing and portraiture’&emdash;that he could not have acquired in the course of his everyday life.” Later he mentions Villard’s trip to Hungary. (In F.VIII Erlande-Brandenburg states that Villard’s profession is unknown.)

Elsewhere (p. 528) the author notes that Villard’s drawing of the plan of the choir of Meaux (fol. 15r) confirms the original scheme of ambulatory and three radiating chapels.

Reproduces as Fig. 515 a severely cropped image of fol. 3v, in the caption of which the portfolio, called a notebook, is dated to the first third of the 13th century.


SNYDER, JAMESMedieval Art: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture 4th-14th Century, New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1989, pp. 345-346.

Provides proof that outdated claims die slowly. Snyder appears to follow Harvey’s interpretation (1945.2, 1950.2, 1966.2) of the Villard portfolio literally: “The lodge Sketchbook of a thirteenth-century French architect, Villard de Honnecourt, an encyclopedic manual with illustrations of ground plans, elevations, building devices, and ornamentation useful for the apprentice informs us that in it ‘you will find strong help in drawing figures according to the lessons taught by the art of geometry.'”

Snyder’s fig. 442 is fol. 18v, dated 1220-1235; his fig. 458 is fol. 10r, undated.


ANON. [Editors of Time-Life Books]. The Mongol Conquests, Time Frame 1200-1300, Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1989, pp. 146-147.

These two pages constitute an interlude called “An Architect’s Album,” and attempt to characterize the careers and functions of Gothic master masons, Villard being cited as an example of a master who “participated in every stage of the erection of a building.” Villard is said to have executed commissions “as far afield as Switzerland and Hungary.” His sketchbook was “intended as an exemplar for his apprentices or possibly for his lodge.”

The only bibliography given is the Willis facsimile (F.II), misattributed to Lassus (F.I).

Reproduces, in color, cropped photographs of fols. 10r and 22v and details from fols. 17r (sleeping apostle misidentified as the fallen Christ) and 19v.


BARNES, CARL F. JR. “Le ‘Problème’ Villard de Honnecourt,” Les Bâtisseurs des cathédrales gothiques Strasbourg: Editions les musées de la ville de Strasbourg, pp. 209-223.

The most detailed analysis to date on why it is unlikely that Villard was an architect or master mason. The author cites ten reasons for questioning the “Villard as architect” tradition: (i) Villard does not claim any profession or any monument; (ii) Villard is unknown from any source other than his portfolio; (iii) the portfolio was not a professional treatise or lodge book (Bauhüttenbuch); (iv) fewer than three percent of Villard’s drawings concern stereometry; (v) those drawings that would have potentially been usedul to masons are not by Villard, being later additions to palimpsested leaves; (vi) Villard’s instructions are not technical; (vii) Villard’s use of geometry is inconsistent, and he appears not to have understood the most fundamental Gothic design principle of quadrature or rotation of squares; (viii) Villard misunderstood the geometric proportions of buildings or parts of buildings that he drew; (ix) Villard did not understand the construction of buildings he drew, especially Reims; and (x) Villard was much better at rendering small objects than at drawing architectural features.



BARNES, CARL F. JR. “What Price Progress?,” AVISTA FORUM Journal of the Association Villard de Honnecourt for the Interdisciplinary Study of Medieval Technology, Science, and Art, vol. 5-1 (Fall 1990), pp. 5-6.

A criticism of Eugene Csocsán de Várallja’s claim (1990.2) that “Villard de Honnecourt wrote in Latin in his notebook and this implies that he could follow the arguments of the ‘schools.'” The author gives a brief account of the use of Latin in the portfolio, none of which is by Villard, and pleas for accuracy in dealing with material in the portfolio.

No illustrations.


CSOCSÁN DE VÁRALLJA, EUGENE. “Note,” AVISTA FORUM Journal of the Association Villard de Honnecourt for the Interdisciplinary Study of Medieval Technology, Science, and Art, vol. 4-2 (Spring 1990), p. 7.

In the context of suggesting that, unlike Benedictines, Cistercians built [designed?] their own churches, the author makes the astonishingly inaccurate claim that “Villard de Honnecourt wrote in Latin in his notebook and this implies that he could follow the arguments of the ‘schools.'” What “the schools” were is not explained.

No illustrations.


FAVIER, JEANThe World of Chartres. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, 1990.

In an illustration caption (p. 76), terms Villard an “architect.” In the caption to Villard’s drawing of the Chartres west rose (p. 77 unnumbered illustration), the author claims erroneously that Villard “reproduced the tracery [of the Chartres west rose] with extreme precision.”

Reproduces fols. 15v, 30v, and 31v.


HEARN, M. F. “Villard de Honnecourt’s Perception of Gothic Architecture,” Medieval Architecture and Its Intellectual Context, Studies in Honour of Peter Kidson, Eric Fernie and Paul Crossley, editors, London and Ronceverte: The Hambledon Press, 1990, pp. 127-136.

Hearn proposes (p. 136) that whatever the practical or aesthetic purpose of Villard’s architectural drawings in his portfolio, certain of them “reveal to us what he [Villard] regarded as most important about Gothic architecture, namely that the linear articulating members that animate its surfaces are the key to the aesthetic expressiveness of the Gothic style.” This explains, according to Hearn, why Villard was especially interested in the cathedrals at Laon and Reims where interior articulation first found expression on the exteriors of major French Gothic buildings. See also Calkins, 1998.ØØØ.

Hearn seems to deny that Villard was an architect when he says (p. 127), “Considering the range of building types that anyone would be likely to illustrate when evincing a serious engagement with architecture, it is significant of a particularized interest that Villard included only great churches and even then only examples exhibiting limited aspects of some recent developments in the Gothic mode. There are, for instance, no castles, urban fortifications, bridges, or any other types that an architectural expect would include in order to demonstrate a comprehensive grasp of the subject …”

Reproduces fols. 9v, 10r, 10v, 15r, 21r, 30v, 31v, and 32r.


TITUS, HARRY B. JR. Review of Carl F. Barnes, Jr., “Le ‘Problème’ Villard de Honnecourt” (1989.4)  AVISTA FORUM Journal of the Association Villard de Honnecourt for the Interdisciplinary Study of Medieval Technology, Science, and Art, vol. 5-1 (Fall 1990), p. 7.

Summarizes the argument of Barnes that Villard could not have been an architect or master mason and views the portfolio as “… a non-technical document: irregular in terms of overall organization of the sheets; mysterious in choice of subject and scale in drawings; and tantalizingly diverse in the relationship of text to picture. Therefore the portfolio is shown [by Barnes] to have none of the technical clarity necessary for an illustrated technical treatise.”

No illustrations.


BECHMANN, ROLAND. “Le Necessaire et l’Imaginaire,” L’Art Militaire, vol. ? (1990), pp. 12-13.

A brief recension of Roberto Valturio’s treatise on military arts, De re militari, completed in 1445 and published in 1472.

Villard’s drawings of various machines are brought in as a parallel to those of Valturio. Bechmann notes that drawings in manuscripts frequently are of imaginary devices but when of actual devices often contain errors because they were drawn by artists, not technicians.

The portfolio is called (p. 12) a “carnet.” Bechmann’s given name is listed incorrectly as “Laurent.”


FUJIMOTO, YASUOViraru do Onekuru no Gajyu ni Kansuru Kenyku [Study Concerning the Sketchbook of Villard de Honnecourt], Tokyo: Chuo Koron Bijutsu Shippan, 1990.

This extensive publication (302 pages) is in part an update of the author’s 1968 thesis at Kyoto University. The text is in Japanese with a 21-page synopsis in French entitled “Recherches sur quelques problèmes du Carnet de Villard de Honnecourt.” This part of the study treats each folio individually and deals with issues of codicology as well as questions of the various “Masters” in the portfolio. The author apparently believes that Villard was a practicing architect.

In a second section, Fujimoto tackles a wide variety of topics, including foot measurements in medieval Europe, the Plan of St. Gall, and the Reims Palimpsest.

Each folio of the Villard portfolio is illustrated in black and white, and there are 225 additional illustrations that are relevant to the author’s study. Fol. 9v showing one of the towers of Laon Cathedral is reproduced in color as a frontispiece.

Note: This précis was provided to me by Professor Yoshio Kusaba of the California State University at Chico, who is preparing a more detailed review for publication in AVISTA FORUM Journal.



BARNES, CARL F. JR. ” Roland Bechmann and Villard de Honnecourt,” AVISTA FORUM Journal of the Association Villard de Honnecourt for the Interdisciplinary Study of Medieval Technology, Science, and Art, vol. 5-2 (Spring 1991), pp. 6-7.

Praises (p. 6) Bechmann as “the most significant thinker and prolific writer about Villard de Honnecourt in our time,” and lists and briefly summarizes a number of Bechmann’s writings and his belief that Villard’s drawings were in part mnemonic devices.

No illustrations.


BARNES, CARL F. JR. Review of Hearn, “Villard de Honnecourt’s Perception of Gothic Architecture” (Hiscock4),” AVISTA FORUM Journal of the Association Villard de Honnecourt for the Interdisciplinary Study of Medieval Technology, Science, and Art, vol. 5-2 (Spring 1991), pp. 5-6.

Summarizes Hearn’s thesis that Villard was interested in the linear articulation of Gothic architecture as seen in the cathedrals of Laon and Reims. Barnes questions Hearn’s claim that Villard “… clearly was knowledgeable about Gothic architecture.”

No illustrations.


BECHMANN, ROLAND. “Villard de Honnecourt, était-il un constrecteur de cathédrales?,” Historia spécial: le temps des cathédrales, vol. 10 (March-April 1991), pp. 39-46.

Not yet seen.


BECHMANN, ROLANDVillard de Honnecourt, La pensée technique au XIIIe siècle et sa communication, Paris: Picard Éditeur, 1991.



WILSON, CHRISTOPHERThe Gothic Cathedral:The Architecture of the Great Church, 1130-1530, London: Thames & Hudson, 1990.

In Villard studies there is an ever-widening rift between those who believe that certain of Villard’s drawings would have been useful to Gothic architects or masons and those who believe they would not. The foremost proponent of the first view is Roland Bechmann (1991.3 ). One of the more outspoken representatives of the latter view is Christopher Wilson. He states (p. 141), “Villard’s renderings of the eastern part of Reims Cathedral are not merely crude but riddled with crass mistakes showing that he lacked such basic architectural skills as the ability to correlate cross sections and elevations.” As Barnes has pointed out (1989.0), such a shortcoming raises grave doubts that Villard could have been an architect or mason.

Wilson continues, “Equally revealing of his ‘outsider’ status is the series of diagrams showing formulas for setting out pointed arches, keystones and the like. Neither architects nor executant masons would have had any need of such a compilation: their procedures were enshrined in current practice and would have been transmitted orally and by example.” It appears that Wilson failed to distinguish between Villard’s work and that of later hands in the portfolio, but one cannot be certain because Wilson does not indicate the specific drawings to which he refers.

Wilson concludes his analysis, “But if Villard’s drawings cannot be accepted as the work of a northern French cathedral architect, they do at least confirm that the main conventions of architectural drawings in use today were known by ca. 1230.”

Elsewhere (p. 227) Wilson notes that Villard’s rendering (fol. 21r) of a vault in the shape of a star is one of the earliest drawn examples of this vaulting type that became so popular in later Gothic architecture, especially in Central Europe.


COLDSTREAM, NICOLAMedieval Craftsmen: Masons and Sculptors, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1991.

States (p. 7) that “Detailed study of the Villard Portfolio has thrown severe doubt on his claims to have built churches, and indeed on his understanding of architecture, while his drawings, although interesting, are no longer generally thought to be those either of an architect or of a masons’ workshop.”

This succinctly summarizes the interpretation in the early 1990s (and some twenty years later) about Villard. Coldstream is mistaken is stating that Villard claimed “to have built churches.”

Reproduces fol. 32r from a negative in the Bibliothèque ntionale de France.



BECHMANN, ROLAND. “Les connaissances des bâtisseurs du XIIIe siècle, à travers le carnet de Villard de Honnecourt,” Travaux de la loge nationale de recherches Villard de Honnecourt, 2nd ser, vol. 25 (1992), pp. 187-221.

An excellent overview of Bechmann’s interpretations of various aspects of the Villard de Honnecourt portfolio, mostly as previously published, especially in 1991.4.



GIMPEL, JEAN . “The View from Honnecourt,” AVISTA FORUM Journal of the Association Villard de Honnecourt for the Interdisciplinary Study of Medieval Technology, Science, and Art, vol. 7-1 (Spring and Summer 1993), p. 1.

Describes the Association Villard de Honnecourt in Villard’s birthplace and notes the attractions of the town, including a full-scale replica of Villard’s hydraulic saw (fol. 22v). The author modestly does not mention that he was instrumental in persuading the town officials to honor their famous citizen, whom Gimpel calls an “architect and draftsman.”

Gimpel calls the portfolio a “notebook” and a “sketchbook.”

No illustrations.


MARCQ, MICHEL. “Villard de Honnecourt, notre architecte du Moyen-Age, doit-il être rayé de l’ordre?, Le Voix du Nord, 2 August 1993, page number unknown.

Reports that after more than a century of considering Villard to have been “le plus célébre des architectes du moyen age” a revolution has begun questioning that supposition, and that the first bomb was thrown by me in a lecture in Los Angeles in 1973 [SIC = 1977] when I first made the points that ultimately became the article “Le ‘Problème’ Villard de Honnecourt (1989.4).

Marcq summarizes that and other studies by this author that cast doubt on the “Villard as architect” tradition. He also gives some curious percentages concerning the surviving drawings in the portfolio: a total of 325 drawings, of which only twenty-nine percent [SIC, twenty-three percent] concern architecture. Of these, only thirty-three out of a total of seventy-four are by Villard. The drawings concerning stereotomy comprise but three percent of the drawings in the portfolio, called an “album” by Marcq.

As I pointed out in 1982.1 , Villard was better at drawing small objects such as insects than large things such as architecture.

No illustrations.


SCHWARZ, MICHAEL V. “Li Sepouture dun Sarrazin: Bilder von Antike bei Villard de Honnecourt,” Acta Archaeologica Academiae Hungaricae, vol. 36 (1993), pp. 31-40.

This article attempts to determine the sources for two of Villard’s more enigmatic drawings: the tomb of a Saracen on fol. 6r, and the standing nude in a chlamys beside an altar on fol. 11v.

Schwarz notes correctly that no one has come up with a totally convincing explanation of the model for the tomb. He acknowledges that the tomb drawing may have incorporated actual architectural elements that Villard saw during his travels, but claims that specific source was a wall painting or tapestry that illustrated Hector’s tomb as described in Benoît de Saint-Maure’s Roman de Troie, written in Normandy ca. 1160. No pre-Villard examples of this image are known, the oldest known survival being a tapestry of 1470 from Tournai now in the Burrell Collection in Glasgow.

Schwarz explains that Villard’s drawing is so jumbled architectually for three reasons: first, Benoît de Saint-Maure’s text is itself fanciful, the writer’s imaginary construction of the tomb of Hector; second, the painter or tapestry maker who made the object Villard saw freely interpreted the text, using elements of real antique architecture he had seen; and, third, Villard made his reconstruction based partly on the painted or woven model and partly on features of antique architecture that he had seen.

The author identifies the model for the drawing on fol. llv as one or more small antique bronzes, the traditional explanation. He interprets the expression on the nude as being evil or sinister, intensified by very careful drawing and shading. Schwarz suggests that the nude represents a pagan figure from antiquity and, by showing him making an offering to the image of the emperor on the altar, is a direct affront to Christianity.

Reproduces fols. 6v and 11v.


ERLANDE-BRANDENBURG, ALAIN. “Villard de Honnecourt,” Cathedrals and Castles: Building in the Middle Ages, New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1993, pp. 82-87.

The author denies that Villard was an architect, noting (p. 82) that “interpretations that he was one only serve to obscure the true man.” Villard’s multiplicity of interests is praised, and his deviations from known buildings or parts of buildings (Chartres and Lausanne roses, Laon tower, Reims chapels) are explained as having been made from models or rejected drawings rather than from the actual buildings. The odd claim is made (p. 84) that Villard studied drawings “of Swiss buildings” while at Reims.

Villard was not above trying to fool his contemporaries: his lion (fol. 25r and 25v) was not drawn “from nature'” and his tomb of a Saracen (fol. 6r) was drawn from a wing of an antique diptych.

The drawings are claimed (p. 82) to have been begun “around the 1220s.”

Reproduces in color fols. 10r, 31v, and 32r (each slightly cropped) and details of fols. 16r (Lausanne rose) and 32r (Reims templates).


BOSMAN, LEX. “Robert de Luzarches & Villard de Honnecourt, bouwmeesters,” Kunstschrift, vol. 37/4, pp. 24-29.

Not yet reviewed. Reference found on the Internet.



GIES, FRANCES and JOSEPH GIESCathedral, Force, and Waterwheel: Technology and Invention in the Middle Ages, New York: HarperPerennial.

The main discussion of Villard is found on pp. 197-199, and is based on John Harvey’s The Gothic World (1950.2). Many of the secondary sources used by these authors date from the 1950s and 1960s.

Villard is called “a Picard mason” and is said to have expressed “a philosophic conviction suggestive of Platonism,” this being a quote from R. J. Forbes, Man the Maker: a History of Technology and Engineering, London, 1958, p. 105.

Illustrates fols. 5r, 18v, 22v, 23r, and 32v, taken from the Bowie facsimile edition (F.V).

[Reference provided by Scott L. Montgomery]


SCHÖLLER, WOLFGANG. “Die Entwicklung der Architekturzeichnung in der Hochgotik,” Dresdner Beiträge der Technikwissenschaften, vol. 23/1, pp. 2-9 and vol. 23/2, pp. 39-48.

[Reference supplied by the author. Not yet reviewed.]


TAKÁCS, IMRE. “Villard de Honnecourt utazása Müveszettörténetben,” Ars Hungarica, vol. 22 (1994), pp. 15-19.

A brief overview of Villard literature from 1825 to the 1990s, noting the change in how Villard is considered, especially the idea that he was not an architect by Branner (1973.1) and Barnes (1989.4). This short article should be compared to an article with a similar thesis by Wirth (2008.4). Takács ends by pointing out that Villard was in Hungary, even if his purpose for being there is unknown.

In Hungarian with German précis.




BARNES, CARL F., JR. “Villard de Honnecourt,” Medieval France, an Encyclopedia, eds. William W. Kilber and Grover A. Zinn, New York and London: Garland Publishing, Inc., p. 957.

A summary version of 1996.2 .

No illustrations.


BECHMANN, ROLAND. “Villard de Honnecourt and the Birth of Architectural Drawing,” AVISTA FORUM Journal of the Association Villard de Honnecourt for the Interdisciplinary Study of Medieval Technology, Science, and Art, vol. 9-1 (Spring and Summer 1995), pp. 14-15.

An abstract of a paper delivered at the 30th International Congress on Medieval Studies in 1995 in which the author claims that drawings in the Villard portfolio prove that in the early 13th century stonecutters knew the methods of stereotomy published by Philibert Delorme in the 16th century and by ??? Jousse in the 17th century that “permitted precise pre-fabrication of stones used in the construction of vaults.”

Bechmann asks “Was Villard de Honnecourt a precursor of the art of architectural drawings?” but the drawings he analyzes were additions made to the portfolio, called a “manuscript,” after it left Villard’s possession.

No illustrations.


HISCOCK, NIGEL. “Villard de Honnecourt and Cistercian Planning,” AVISTA FORUM Journal of the Association Villard de Honnecourt for the Interdisciplinary Study of Medieval Technology, Science, and Art, vol. 9-1 (Spring and Summer 1995), p. 14.

An abstract of a paper delivered at the 30th International Congress on Medieval Studies in 1995. The author notes that Villard drew two Cistercian plans (Vaucelles, fol. 17r, and an unidentified [idealized?] church, fol. 14v), and suggests that the latter ad quadratum plan was included “… because it consisted only (Hiscock’s emphasis) of squares.”

The portfolio is termed a “sketchbook.”

No illustrations.


GREENBERG, ROBERT. “Villard de Honnecourt ‘s Sketches: Reality or Imagination?,” AVISTA FORUM Journal of the Association Villard de Honnecourt for the Interdisciplinary Study of Medieval Technology, Science, and Art, vol. 9-1 (Spring and Summer 1995), p. 15.

An abstract of a paper delivered at the 30th International Congress on Medieval Studies in 1995. This abstract is too brief and obtuse to glean from it the author’s thesis about Villard himself. It would appear to be that sketches in the ‘sketchbook’ (fols. 18v?, 19r?, 20r? and 20v?) “… formed a vital part of this process [of drawings leading to actualization of stonework pieces] … and was a means of internalizing the object, a form of mnemonic device.”

No illustrations.


KELLER, A. G. Review of Bechmann 1991.4 , in British Journal for the History of Science, vol. 34 (December 1995), pp. 462-463.

Praises Bechmann’s effort to explain the drawings in the portfolio, called an “handbook,” and deems Villard to have been an architect.

No illustrations.


SHORTELL, ELLEN M. “The ‘Villard de Honnecourt’ Drawings at Saint-Quentin Reconsidered,” AVISTA FORUM Journal of the Association Villard de Honnecourt for the Interdisciplinary Study of Medieval Technology, Science, and Art, vol. 9-1 (Spring and Summer 1995), p. 14.

An abstract of a paper delivered at the 30th International Congress on Medieval Studies in 1995 in which the two engraved drawings at Saint-Quentin are analyzed in comparison to drawings in the Villard portfolio. The author claims that similarities between them “reveals something of design transmission, conceptualization, and construction in the thirteenth century …,” but notes that the attribution of Saint-Quentin to Villard remains unproved.

The author terms the portfolio a “sketchbook” and is one of the rare authors to make a distinction between the drawings by Villard and those later added to several of the leaves.

No illustrations.



ALEXANDER, JENNIFER S. “Masons’ Marks and Stone Bonding,” The Archaeology of Cathedrals, ed. Tim Tatton-Brown and Julian Munby (Oxford University Committee for Archaeology Monograph, No. 42), pp. 220-236, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Villard’s marks of Reims cathedral on fol. 32r are discussed in an Addendum, p. 234. Alexander proposes that Villard recorded three marks at Reims discovered during the restoration at Reims following World War I by Henri Deneux (“Signes lapidaires et épures du XIIIe siècle à la cathédrale de Reims,” Bulletin Monumental, vol. 84 [1925], pp. 99-130).

One is a triangle, said to be on fol. 30v&emdash;but not found there by this author&emdash;that Deneux discovered in the south side of the choir. Another is an “X” Villard drew on the “super arches above” on fol. 32r, an example of which Deneux found on the springing of the high vault between bays five and six of the Reims nave. The third is a pierced soffit cusp of an oculus on fol. 32r, identical to a mark Deneux found on the bedding planes of the south window in the axial radiating chapel.

The author says this latter is the “most interesting correlation between sketchbook and building,” and that their purpose was identical: “to identify the stone as part of the inner oculus to which the soffit cusp was to be fitted.”

Alexander apparently believes that Villard was a master mason who worked at Reims. She refers to his “method of using marks at Reims” and notes that “it would have been necessary to provide a reminder for the construction [of the new feature of cusped oculi] to masons who were working with an unfamiliar idea.”

Reproduces a detail of fol. 32r.


BARNES, CARL F., JR. “Villard de Honnecourt,” Dictionary of Art, vol. 32 (London: Macmillan Publishers Limited), pp. 569-571.

The most recent serious attempt to separate fact from fancy in analyzing the portfolio. Divided into two sections (Life and Work [of Villard]; the Portfolio), the essay reminds readers that nothing whatsoever is known about Villard save what is to be gleaned from his drawings, and that they pose as many questions as answers. Villard’s activity is dated to the 1220s and 1230s.

The composition of the portfolio is explained: seven quires, thirty-three leaves, possibly in their original container. The maximum number of lost leaves that can be proven is thirteen, with possibly two additional leaves lost. The leaves left Villard’s hands neither stitched to the covering nor to one another, thus to call the ensemble a “sketchbook” or “notebook” is both inaccurate and misleading. The subject matter is given as: (1) animals, (2) architecture, (3) carpentry, (4) church furnishings, (5) geometry, (6) human figures, (7) masonry, (8) mechanical devices, (9) recipes or formulas, and (10) surveying.

Barnes denies that Villard was an architect or that the portfolio was ever a shop manual (Bauhüttenbuch). The author’s summary (p. 571) is “The most that can be accurately claimed is that the portfolio of drawings of Villard de Honnecourt records in visual form the multitude of interests of an intelligent, well-travelled 13th-century Picard, possibly made for mnemonic use as a model book.”

Reproduces fols. 9v and 10r and the Humility figure from fol. 3v.


CAMILLE, MICHAELGothic Art: Glorious Visions, New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1996, pp. 143-144.

Camille’s analysis of Villard’s lion-training image (fol. 24r) is more significant than its brevity might indicate. He argues that Villard did not draw the lion “from life,” and that this is proved by his use of the word contrefait, a word that in the 13th century had the sense of the current English word “counterfeit.” Camille claims that Villard did have a model, perhaps a drawing in an encyclopaedia.

Camille calls the portfolio an album and a model book, and dates Villard’s period of activity 1230-1235.

Reproduces fol. 24 slightly trimmed.


PERNOUD, RÉGINE. “Farewell to a Friend: Jean Gimpel (1918-1996), AVISTA FORUM Journal of the Association Villard de Honnecourt for the Interdisciplinary Study of Medieval Technology, Science, and Art, vol. 10-1 (Fall 1996 and Winter 1997), pp. 3-4.

Part of a three-part obituary of Jean Gimpel, founder of the Association Villard de Honnecourt (see 1993.1 ). Pernoud, one of the authors of F.VIII, lists many of Gimpel’s varied interests, and notes the seminal importance of his Les Bâtisseurs des Cathédrales (1958.3 ) for Villard studies.

Pernoud terms (p. 4) Villard “… le très fameux bâtisseur du XIIIe siècle qui nous a lassé ses précieuses notes et dessins.” She terms the portfolio “Carnets.”

No illustrations.



BECHMANN, ROLAND. “Jean Gimpel and Villard de Honnecourt,” AVISTA FORUM Journal of the Association Villard de Honnecourt for the Interdisciplinary Study of Medieval Technology, Science, and Art, 10-2 and 11-1 (Fall 1997 and Spring 1998), pp. 3-4.

A paean to Jean Gimpel (died 15 June 1996) who founded the Association Villard de Honnecourt in France and whose inspiration was instrumental in establishing the American chapter (Association Villard de Honnecourt for the Interdisciplinary Study of Medieval Technology, Science, and Art). Bechmann suggests a parallel between Gimpel’s multiplicity of interests and those of Villard, and notes that Gimpel was important in bringing Villard’s drawings to the attention of a wide audience with his book The Cathedral Builders (1958.3, first translated into English by this author).

Bechmann suggests (p. 3) that Villard should not be termed an architect as the term is now understood and acknowledges that we know nothing whatsoever about Villard except what is found in his drawings. He does believe that Villard was “… certainly a technician, an expert in building and machines.”

Bechmann terms Villard’s drawings both a manuscript and a portfolio, and states (p. 4) that Villard “… dedicated [his portfolio] to his heirs.”

No illustrations.


BECHMANN, ROLAND. “Villard de Honnecourt (XIIIe siècle),” Dictionnaire Encyclopédique du Moyen-Âge, ed. André Vauchez,Paris; Éditions du Cerf, vol. 2, pp. 1589-1590.

Emphasizes Villard’s diversity of interests while acknowledging (p. 1589) that the technical drawings in the portfolio “ne sont peut-être pas tous de la main de Villard.” Villard’s activity is dated to the first quarter of the 13th century.

Bechmann stresses the importance of the technical materials as proof that the builders of the 13th century practiced stereotomy and understood descriptive geometry in a way that foreshadowed the state of the trade in the 16th century.

The author acknowledges (p. 1590) that while “on ignore la fonction précise [de Villard, il] lègue ce recueil aux hommes de métier pour leur instruction.” The portfolio is called a “manuscript,” a “carnet des dessins,” and an “album de dessins et croquis.”

Reproduces LEO (fol. 24v) from a photographic negative in the Bibliothèque Nationale.

Note: There is an English translation of this article: Villard de Honnecourt (13th c.),” Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages, Cambridge: James Clarke & Co., 2001, vol. II, p. 1518.


CROSSLEY, PAUL. “The Architecture of Queenship: Royal Saints, Female Dynasties and the Spread of Gothic Architecture in Central Europe,” Queens and Queenship in Medieval Europe, ed. Anne J. Duggan (Proceedings of a Conference held at King’s College, London, April 1995), London: The Boydell Press, pp. 263-299.

Speculates (pp. 272-274) on the “Villard Connection” with Cambrai, Laon, Bamberg, and Lausanne Cathedrals. The author notes similarities between the towers at Laon and those at Bamberg and Lausanne, but states (p. 274), “Nothing … suggests that Villard was the substantial cause of the Swiss and German imitations of Laon, or that he was the executant of anything at Pilis, including Gertrude’s tomb …” [see Gerevich, 1977.3]

The author terms (p. 272) Villard an architect or “would-be architect” (architect manqué), and dates the start of the portfolio, called a sketchbook or pattern-book, to ca. 1220.

Reproduces a detail of the plan of Cambrai (fol. 14v).


ACKERMAN, JAMES S. “Villard de Honnecourt’s Drawings of Reims Cathedral: A Study in Architectural Representation,” Artibus et Historicae no. 35, vol. 18/1, pp. 41-49.

A very detailed analysis of each of Villard’s drawings of Reims, pointing out the differences between the drawings and the building itself. These discrepancies are attributed to several possible causes, most notably that Villard drew from other drawings and/or that he had to guess at parts of the building not complete when he made his drawings.

Ackerman is especially impressed by the fact that Villard’s orthogonal rendering of a Reims main vessel bay (fol. 31v) is a very early example of this type of drawing, probably (p. 42) copied from a drawing by one of the designers of the cathedral.

The author concludes that Villard was not an architect but rather a “modest technician” who made his drawings for laymen interested in technology.

There is a major error: claiming that the portfolio, called an “album,” has 63 pages; and a major undocumented attribution: that Pierre de Corbie was the architect of Cambrai cathedral.

Reproduces fols. 10v, 30v, 31r, 31v, 32r, and 32v.


HIGGITT, J. “The Travels of Villard de Honnecourt,” Atlas of Medieval Europe, ed. Angus Mackay, with David Ditchburn, London: Routledge, 1997, pp. 150-151.

A brief but very up-to-date summary of the current thinking about Villard, reflecting a knowledge of Barnes’s studies, e.g., that Villard may have been trained as a metalworker, that he might have dictated his captions. Illustrated with a map showing the places Villard presumably visited.



ISCHER, FRANÇOIS. “The Book of Drawings of Villard de Honnecourt,” Building the Great Cathedrals, New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, 1998, pp. 147-149.

Terms (p. 147) Villard an “architect, engineer, artist, and teacher” as well as a “Master” who “may, from time to time, have acted as a consultant to architects who wished to define a project on the basis of several different sets of drawings.” The author explains the inaccuracies of Villard’s architectural drawings by saying (p. 147) that he “copied documents he had been supplied with, principally projects that had been abandoned by their architects.”

The portfolio is termed a sketchbook and Villard is viewed (p. 148) as a “genius inventor, a kind of French Leonardo da Vinci.” See 1858.5.

This short article contains (p. 148) one utterly incomprehensible statement: “[one of Villard’s drawings] shows the technique employed to verify, by means of sightings from the ground, the balance of a keystone in a vault that was forty yards high.” This may refer to the drawing by Villard of a surveyor on fol. 20v), but the drawing has nothing to do with keystones, being how to determine the height of a tower.

Reproduces in color a number of details from the portfolio and fols. 9v, 15v, and 32v, each cropped, the last severely so.


CALKINS, ROBERT GMedieval Architecture in Western Europe from A.D. 300 to 1500, New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Mentions Villard in two contexts. First (pp. 214-215), that his drawings of Reims help to “… confirm that the builders [of Reims], increasingly well-known masters, now concerned themselves with the aesthetic details of architectural correspondences, and analyzed earlier designs to ‘improve’ them by incremental adjustments.” Villard’s visit to Reims is dated in the 1230s. This interpretation is similar to that of Hearn, 1990.4.

Second, on p. 310 Calkins summarizes what is known about Villard and emphasizes the diversity of his drawings, dated between ca. 1225 and ca. 1250. Much of this summary is based on Barnes, 1982.1. He notes that Villard’s drawings are the earliest surviving compendium of architectural drawings.

Calkins terms the portfolio a “portfolio” and a “notebook.”

Reproduces, after Lassus, fol. 31v.


WU, NANCY. “Hugues Libergier and his Instruments,” AVISTA FORUM Journal, vol. 11 no. 2 (Fall 1998/Spring 1999), pp. 7-13.

Notes (p. 8) that the medieval mason’s square “appears at least four times in the drawings of Villard de Honnecourt . . .” and that “the square’s practical usage [is] demonstrated by Villard.”

The four illustrations of the square in the portfolio (three on fol. 20r and one on 20v) are all additions by so-called “Master II” to the leaves after the portfolio had left Villard’s hands and thus prove nothing about Villard himself.



ANON. [Encyclopaedia Britannica]. “Villard de Honnecourt,” Encyclopaedia Britannica® CD 99 Standard Edition © 1994-1999 Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc.

This is the main entry on Villard and gives his dates as ca. 1225-ca. 1250, terming him a “French architect remembered primarily for the sketchbook compiled while he travelled in search of work as a master mason. The book is made up of sketches and writings concerning architectural practices current during the 13th century.”

It is claimed that Villard may have been active in the building of Saint-Quentin and the outlandish statement is made that “In his notes Honnecourt described the work he did on the rose window of Lausanne cathedral,” a reference to fol. 16r where nothing is said about Villard’s participation in any work at Lausanne (or anywhere else).

The unknown author says that the portfolio began as a series of figure studies but “Eventually, Honnecourt compiled a manual that gave precise instructions for executing specific objects with explanatory drawings. In his writings he fused principles passed on from ancient geometry, medieval studio techniques, and contemporary practices.”

Elsewhere Villard is called an engineer and the portfolio is called a sketchbook dated ca. 1235&emdash;which means Villard began the drawings when he was ten years old!


HISCOCK, NIGEL. “Making Sense of Ã2,” AVISTA FORUM Journal, 12/1 (Fall 1999), pp. 20-27.

In the context of discussion of the use ofÃ2 as a basis of design in medieval architecture, the author considers three drawings found in the portfolio of Villard. The first two are found on fol. 20r: a way to double the area of a square; and a way to halve a square stone. Both drawings were additions to the portfolio made after it left Villard’s possession.

Hiscock argues that the geometry involved in both cases may not demonstrate a knowledge of Ã2 or quadrature (rotation-of-squares), but the Virtuvian principle of “counting similar triangles” (p. 20).

According to the author, Villard’s plan of a tower at Laon (fol. 9v), “… could actually be based on quadrature and this would place it alongside the handbooks of Mathes Roriczer and Hanns Schmuttermayer which also used quadrature as a method for extrapolating the elevation of a pinnacle or finial from its plan.”

In Hiscock’s text Villard’s assemblage is called a “portfolio;” in the caption to Fig. 1 it is called a “sketchbook.”

Reproduces fol. 20r from an unidentified photographic source.


SCHLINK, WILHELM. “War Villard de Honnecourt Analphabet?,” Pierre, lumière, couleur: Études d’histoire de l’art du Moyen ge en l’honneur d’Anne Prache, eds.Fabienne Joubert and Dany Sandron (Cultures et Civilizations Médiévales, 20), Paris: Presses de l’Université de Paris-Sorbonne, pp. 213-221.

A long article arguing that Villard was not merely poorly educated or uneducated, but that he was illiterate and that the three different hands who added inscriptions in the portfolio were dictated to by Villard because he could not write.

Schlink proposes a different sequence for these scribes than that traditionally accepted (see Schneegans, 1901.1; Hahnloser, F.IV). He argues that the texts in the beautiful scribal hand, for example, the so-called ‘preface’ on fol. 1v, came last, not first. The first scribe may have been a cleric because he wrote partly in Latin. The second scribe wrote in Old French, and was concerned mainly with iconography (for example, adding the identification of Humility and Pride on fol. 3v). Then, as the portfolio was assuming book form but not yet bound, the more extensive comments were added by a third individual, clearly a trained scribe.

Schlink’s summary (p. 221) is “…die Texte von Ms. fr. 19093 gehen nicht auf verschiendene Verfasser zurück, sondern auf verschiendene Schreiber, die zu verschiedenen Zeiten Diktate ein und derselben Person, des Zeichners Villard de Honnecourt, zu Papier brachten.”

Reproduces fols. 1v, 6v, 7r, 7v, 9r, 31v, 32r, and 32v after Hahnloser F.IV


GIES, FRANCES and JOSEPHDaily Life in Medieval Times, New York: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, 1999.

On p. 300 the authors have a brief mention of Villard: “The brilliant Villard de Honnecourt perpetuated his name and fame by leaving a large parchment sketchbook filled with drawings, plans, and elevations which is one of the priceless documents of the thirteenth century.

No illustrations.


PRACHE, ANNECathedrals of Europe, Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1999.

Prache is one of the few authors to state unequivocably that Villard made drawings of metalwork (p. 202): “… Villard de Honnecourt, author of a manuscript filled with drawings of architecture, sculpture, instruments, and gold and silver work, remarks that he had visited Hungary.”

No Illustrations.


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