BIBLIO — Writings 2000-2009

Writings on Villard de Honnecourt, 2000-2009


HADINGHAM, EVAN. “Ready, Aim, Fire!,” Smithsonian, vol. 30 no. 10, January 2000, pp. 78-87.

The account of building and testing two trebuchets beside Loch Ness, Scotland in October-November 1998. One of these was built by a crew headed by Renaud Beffeyte (see 2004.7) and based on the plan (fol. 30r) in the Villard portfolio. After various adjustments, both machines worked. Beffeyte’s trebuchet had a “throwing arm” forty-two feet long and used over two tons of sand in hinged baskets as a counterweight.

The article states (p. 85), “The notebook offers a unique glimpse of the mind of a master architect or engineer, a medieval Leonardo, although Villard’s precise professional status and career are unknown.”

There is no illustration of fol.30r, but a diagram (p. 84) illustrates the mechanics of Villard’s trebuchet.


CHICAGO, UNIVERSITY OF (Donald L. Ehresmann). The Sketchbook of Villard de Honnecourt.

Part of the review materials for a course (AH 243 Medieval Art 2) taught in the Department of Art History, six black and white images from the portfolio are reproduced: fols. 10r (Laon tower elevation), 14v (Cambrai plan), 15r (two church plans), 24v (frontal view of Leo), 32r (Reims mouldings and templates) and 31v (Reims interior and exterior elevations). The images appear to be taken partly from photographs of the original leaves and partly from the Lassus facsimile edition (F.I).

The portfolio, called a sketchbook, is dated ca. 1220. There is no commentary on the images or any speculation about Villard.


JENSENIUS, JØRGEN H. “Research in medieval Norwegian wooden churches: relevance of available sources,” Nordisk Arkitekturforskning [Nordic Journal of Architectural Research], vol. 4, 2000, pp. 7-23.

The Villard portfolio, called an “album” and a “notebook,” is mentioned several times as a source that combines practical and theoretical aspects of design, thus (p. 11) “bridging the gap between ‘doing’ and ‘explaining’ in writing.”

The author, an architect now earning a Ph.D. at the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research, notes (p. 13) that [Villard’s] “texts are written in the vernacular of the building craftsmen, replete with the technical terminology and the colloquial phrasing of the carpenter or masons.”

A detail of fol. 18v, taken from Bucher F.VII, showing a castle whose gable is determined by a pentagram is included.


BINDING, GÜNTHER. “Musterbuch eines Werkmeisters: Villard de Honnecourt.” In Was ist Gotik? Eine Analyse der gotischen Kirchen in Frankreich, England, und Deutschland, 1140-1350. Darmstadt (Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft): Primus Verlag, pp. 77-80.

A summary discussion/analysis of a number of the architectural drawings in the Villard portfolio, called a Musterbuch and dated ca. 1220-1230. Offers no new information about or interpretation of Villard, called a Werkmeister in the title. No mention is made of his profession in the text.

Reproduces after Lassus or Bibliothèque Nationale negatives fols. 9v, 10r, 10v, 14v, 17r, 18r, 30v, 31r, 31v, 32r, and 32v.


CHAUFFERT-YVART, BRUNO. “Villard de Honnecourt.” In Reims, la cathédrale. Paris: Zodiaque, pp. 155-162.

A brief but careful analysis of Villard’s drawings of Reims (fols. 30v, 31r, 31v, 32r, 32v), detailing how each differs from the building itself and an explanation of why. For example, the author proposes that Villard added crenellations to the radiating chapels of Reims (fol. 31r) for “le projet qu’il envisage pour l’église de Cambrai.”

Villard’s visit to Reims is dated before 1221, when the vaults of the axial radiating chapel were in place but not shown by Villard in his interior view of the chapel (fol. 30v). [It could be argued that the drawing was made after the vaults were in place but that they were omitted by Villard because he could not figure a way to draw the vaults without covering the pattern of the chapel windows.]

Reproduces each of the Reims leaves, as specified above.


HISCOCK, NIGEL. The Wise Master Builder: Platonic Geometry in Plans of Medieval Abbeys and Cathedrals, Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.

Within the context of studying how geometry was used in devising church plans in the middle ages, various aspects of Villard’s portfolio are examined. The spire design on fol. 20v proves that numerical (1 : 8 in this case) were used in design, but neither the drawing nor the caption is by Villard, being palimpsest additions to the portfolio (p.182) sometime between 1250 and 1255.

Villard himself did understand design ad quadratum, the use of grids of squares, for example, in the face-in-the-square (fol. 19v). He also understood the use of Platonic geometry as a basis of design, proved by his geometric-overlay figures on fols. 18r, 18v, and 19r, even though he made some errors.

It is not clear beyond doubt that Villard or his followers understood the Vitruvian principle of quadrature or rotation of squares. The examples most frequently cited (the planning of a cloister, halving a stone, and making a cloister so that the area of the walk is the same as the courtyard) are not by Villard and may, in fact, be based on a scheme of counting similar triangles.

Hiscock makes (p. 190) this interesting observation:

His [Villard’s] initial intention seems clearly to have been to record interesting novelties encountered on his travels. In addition to sketches of architectural ideas, it includes classical statuary, wild animals, gadgets and any other detail that caught his eye for future reference. Since there was little point in filling pages of expensive parchment with the familiar, it should follow that anything that was familiar to him as common practice would not by definition be found in the book in the first place, not, that is, until the pages of exemplars were added later.

The author concludes that geometry appears to have been used for practical for both symbolic purposes, however much or little Villard may have been aware of the latter. Villard displays a routine familiarity with the figures of Platonic geometry, especially on fol. 18c, which he appears to use as a mnemonic guide.

Hiscock notes (p. 171) that Villard was a keen architecture enthusaist “despite uncertainty as to his occupation.” Throughout the portfolio is termed a “sketchbook.”

Reproduces a number of leaves and details from leaves after Bucher F.VII.


KERN, HERMAN. Through the Labyrinth, Designs and Meanings over 5000 Years, Munich-London-New York: Prestel, 2000.

States (p. 153) that Villard’s labyrinth was “…of, not a model for…” the Chartres nave labyrinth, dated ca. 1230. Kern denies (p. 192) that Villard’s labyrinth drawing was of the labyrinth at Saint-Quentin, noting that its path is black whereas at Chartres the path is white, and he concludes that “Villard’s authorship of Saint-Quentin is highly speculative.”

Reproduces Villard’s labyrinth from a photographic negative.



SEKULES, VERONICA. Medieval Art, Oxford History of Art, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

A survey of later medieval art treated thematically rather than chronologically. Villard is mentioned only in passing. His portfolio, called a “sketchbook,” is dated 1230-1240. The focus is on Villard’s drawing techniques, and he is termed (p. 55) “a practitioner in architecture and associated crafts.”

The author notes the variety of Villard’s interests and especially the importance of geometry to his drawings: “… however immediate the impression created on him by his subject, it seems the artist had to transform it methodically, using his training and professional techniques in drawing and geometry.”

Reproduces fols. 19v and 28r (rotated 180°) from photographic negatives, carefully cropped and called, in the photographic credits, fols. 38r and 88r.


CLARK, WILLIAM W. “Villard’s Drawings of Reims Cathedral,” AVISTA Forum Journal, vol. 12/2 (Fall 2001), pp. 13-14.

The abstract of a paper presented at the Thirty-Fifth International Congress on Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo, MI, in May 2000. See 2004.4.

The author argues that the discrepancies between Villard’s drawings of Reims and the actual building may be explained by the fact that he made the drawings sometime after his visit(s) to the cathedral, and represent what he remembered as the most distinctive aspects of the building.


BECHMANN, ROLAND. “Geometry and Symbolism in Villard’s ‘Tomb of a Saracen,'” AVISTA Forum Journal, vol. 12/2 (Fall 2001), p. 14.

The abstract of a paper presented at the Thirty-Fifth International Congress on Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo, MI, in May 2000. See 2004.8.

Questions whether Villard’s “sepulture d’un sarrazin” (fol. 6r) was an ancient tomb that Villard had seen, pointing out that its geometry is that Villard used elsewhere as part of his mnemonic technique.

The author proposes that the drawing may symbolically reflect Villard’s initiation into the Compagnons de Devoir.


ALEXANDER, JENNIFER S. “Masons’ Marks in the Portfolio [of Villard de Honnecourt],” AVISTA Forum Journal, vol. 12/2 (Fall 2001), p. 14.

The abstract of a paper presented at the Thirty-Fifth International Congress on Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo, MI, in May 2000. See 2004.5.

Proposes that Villard’s mouldings and ciphers on fol. 32v reflect actual details found in the fabric of Reims, and that the combination can be explained as a means of assuring that asymmetrical structural components could be assembled correctly.


SNYDER, JANET. “Costumes in the Portfolio [of Villard de Honnecourt],” AVISTA Forum Journal, vol. 12/2 (Fall 2001), p. 14.

The abstract of a paper presented at the Thirty-Fifth International Congress on Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo, MI, in May 2000. See 2004.6.

An overview arguing that Villard clothed some figures in costumes from ancient statues and others with actual contemporary garments and fabrics.


BARNES, CARL F. JR. “What’s in a Name? The Portfolio of Villard de Honnecourt,” AVISTA Forum Journal, vol. 12/2 (Fall 2001), pp. 14-15.

Considers the various names by which the assemblage of Villard’s drawings are known and argues that authors have given a name depending on what they wanted the drawings, collectively, to be (e.g., Hans Hahnloser: Bauhüttebuch) or that some designations are inaccurate and misleading (e.g., “notebook,” “sketchbook”).

The author concludes that the best accurate and unprejudiced designation is “portfolio,” defined in the American Heritage Dictionary as “a portable case for holding material, such as loose papers, photographs, or drawings.”


BARNES, CARL F. JR. Review of Wilhelm Schlink, “War Villard de Honnecourt Analphabet?” (1993.3 ) in AVISTA Forum Journal, vol. 12/2 (Fall 2001), pp. 15-17.


BUGSLAG, JAMES. “‘contrafais al vif’: nature, ideas and representation in the lion drawings of Villard de Honnecourt,” Word & Image, vol. 17 (October-December 2001), pp. 360-378.

Bugslag explains the melding of Aristoteliansim and Platonism (“Aristotelianized Neoplatonism” or “Neoplatonic Aristotelianism”) in the 13th century and argues that Villard was aware of the developing science of his time. On p. 363 the author states clearly that Villard’s lion on fol. 24v was not drawn directly from life (although Villard may sometime earlier have seen an actual lion) and that the geometric underlay of the head and the chest is Villard’s method of trying to capture the important essentials of lions, proved in part by his text which Bugslag calls a titulus. The drawing of lion training on fol. 24r from a literary source: “It is unthinkable that Villard would have actually witnessed such a fantastic and patently ridiculous episode of lion training.” These claims should be compared with those of Perkinson, 2004.9.

Bugslag claims that Villard was not an architect and proposes (p. 374) that “… it is tempting to see in Villard a member of a growing class, an educated lay person, probably of middle-class or minor noble status, who sought an occupation in the mechanical arts. If I had to hazard a guess at his occupation myself, I might suggest that of custos operis, a clerk of the works …”

Dates the drawings ca. 1225 to 1235.

Reproduces fols. (called pages) 5r, 18v, 23v, 24r, 24v, and 26v, after the Hahnloser facsimile  (F.IV).


KURMANN, PETER and ALAIN VILLES. Reims, la cathédrale Notre-Dame, Paris: Éditions du patrimonie, 2000.

One page (18) is devoted to Villard’s drawings of Reims, explaining their innacuracies as being due to the fact that he visited the workshop before the upper parts of the building were complete.

Reproduces fols. 30v and 31v after Lassus.


BINDING, GÜNTHER. Medieval Building Techniques, Stroud: Tempus Publishing Ltd., 2001.

Note: 2001 is the copyright date of the orginal German edition. This English translation, by Alex Cameron, dates in 2004.

A book of some 900 redrawings (and an occasional photograph) of manuscript illumination, relief, and stained glass depictions of medieval building techniques and tools up to ca. 1500.

Item 469 (p. 152) contains six redrawings from the Villard portfolio, called a “Sample book” and dated ca. 1225-1235: measuring the height of a tower (fol. 20v), screw hoist, level, stablizing structure, and underwater saw (fol. 23r), hydraulic saw (fol. 22v). Reference is made to a cord (fol. 32r) but nothing is shown.



COLDSTREAM, NICOLAMedieval Architecture, Oxford History of Art, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 80-81.

One mention only of Villard, in which the author characterizes the portfolio in the following terms: “The earliest survivor [of architectural drawings], the portfolio of drawings on parchment sheets assembled by Villard de Honnecourt around 1230, has been shown not to be a lodgebook, but the idiosyncratic jottings of a man who could draw designs for metalwork, copy out moulding profiles, geometric constructions, and designs of machinery, but who was incapable of accurately recording an architectural detail even when it was in front of his eyes.”

No illustrations.


ZENNER, MARIE-THÉRÈSE. “Imaging a Building: Latin Euclid and Practical Geometry,” Word, Image, Number: Communication in the Middle Ages, eds. John J. Contreni and Santa Casciani (Florence, 2002), pp. 219-246.

Argues that Euclidian geometry was more widely known in 13th-century Europe than has been thought to be the case, and that there is not the sharp distinction that usually is made between Euclidian or university geometry and what Lon R. Shelby called (1972.6) constructive geometry (cf.2004.3) . The Villard portfolio is brought in (pp. 231-236) as one of the proofs that Euclidian geometry was used by craftsmen and surveyors. The author cites two drawings on fol. 20r by so-called Master II that concern measuring distance and height based on Euclid.

The author next analyzes the drawing of two flamingos on fol. 18v as being based on Euclid’s propositions 1.1 and 1.22. The author makes (p. 234) the unique proposal that the inscription on fol. 18r refers specifically to the drawing of the flamingos, not to all the materials in the two bifolios that constitute the quire. The last drawings discussed are the first two on fol. 20r that concern how to locate the center of a column.

Reproduces fols. 20r, 20v, and a detail of fol. 18v (as modified by Roland Bechmann) after the Lassus edition lithographs.


ZENNER, MARIE-THÉRÈSE. “Villard de Honnecourt and Euclidian Geometry,” Nexus Network Journal, vol. 4 no. 4 (Autumn 2002), pp. 65-78; also:

This is one of several studies (2002.2; 2003.2) by the author in which essentially the same points are made: (a) that Euclidian geometry was known and used in 13th century Europe; (b) that there was not at that time so sharp a division between academic (university) geometry and practical or constructional geometry as has been commonly believed (see also 2004.3); and (c) that certain drawings in the Villard portfolio prove that Euclidian propositions were known.


ZENNER, MARIE-THÉRÈSE. “Structural Stability and the Mathematics of Motion in Medieval Architecture,” Nexus, Architecture and Mathematics, ed. Kim Williams and José Rodrigues, Fucecchino [Florence], 2002, pp. 63-79.

In the context of a discussion of the geometric planning of the church of St. Étienne at Nevers, the Villard portfolio is brought in. The author claims (p. 69), based on discussions/correspondence with Renaud Beffeyte (see 2004.7), that the sheep on fol. 18v represents the ‘passport’ of the stonemason and provides the basis for drawing a five-pointed star. On p. 71 the author reports that the profile horse head on the same folio is the ‘passport’ of the carpenter “and serves as a mnemonic device for the uses of a 60° triangle, one-sixth part of a hexagon.”

Reproduces details from fols. 18v and 21r.


GRAMACCINI, NORBERTO. “Was bedeutet das Schwein neben dem Löwen in Villard de Honnecourts Zeichnung?,” Re-Visionen. Zur Aktualität der Kunstgeschichte, Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, pp.33-48.

Not yet read.


SCHÜTZ, , BERNARD. Great Cathedrals, New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, 2002.

Terms (p. 17) the Villard Portfolio as one of the two most important sources for “the building activities” and writes that Villard “was well traveled, and knew Reims especially well. His book is an instructive annotated collection of sample drawings from which we learn that the architect was responsible for all the tasks that arose on the site.” Terms the Portfolio a “site log” of the architect Villard de Honnecourt and dates the drawings 1220/1240.



ROSS, LESLIE. “The Medieval Architect: Villard de Honnecourt?,” Artists of the Middle Ages, Artists of an Era, Westport and London: Greenwood Press, 2003, pp. 61-79.

Ross carefully reviews the state of knowledge about Villard, noting that we know little about him, only what can be gleaned from the portfolio, called a “sketchbook.” The author deals with several different Villard “issues:” “Villard the Genius, (pp. 73-74), the tradition of comparing Villard with Vitruvius and Leonardo da Vinci; “Villard the Metalworker” (pp. 74-75); and “Villard the Mysterious” (pp. 75-76). This is one of the best succinct overviews of the “state of the question” in print.

Depending on the English translations by Bowie (F.V) the author twice misquotes what Villard said: that the Laon tower was “the finest he had seen:” and implying that Villard drew a window at Reims because he had been invited to go to Hungary.” What he or his scribe wrote is: “I had been sent into the land of Hungary when I drew it because I liked it best.”

Reproduces fol. 9v (misidentified as fol. 10) from a photographic negative.


ZENNER, MARIE-THÉRÈSE. “Villard de Honnecourt et la géometrie euclidienne,” Pour la Science, Dossier no.37, Les sciences au Moyen Âge (October 2002-January 2003), pp. 108-109.

This is a French version of 2002.3 lacking the extensive footnoting therein.

Zenner concludes (p. 109): “Ainsi, le manuscrit de Villard doit être reconnu comme un monument clé dans l’histoire de la transmission des connaissances mathématiques en Occident, que ce soit pour l’architecture ou pour la mécanique.”


REVEYRON, NICOLAS. “Marques lapidaries” The State of the Question,” Gesta, vol. 42 (2003), pp. 161-170.

Illustrates (p.164 fig. 3), redrawn, some of Villard’s marques lapidaries (masons marks) found on fol. 32r and identifies them as “location marks” within the broader category of “construction marks.” Reveryon believes (p. 163) that Villard’s marks were intended to identify stones destined for particular architectural elements, in Villard’s case mainly window tracery.


SAUERLÄNDER, WILLIBALD. Antiqui et Moderni at Reims,” Gesta, vol. 42 (2003), pp. 19-37.

The thesis of this study is that the “classical” stone statues at Reims from the years 1220-1240 owe their style to metalwork from the area of Trier in Upper Lotharingia, a style surplanted by the “modern” style of Paris, as seen in the famous smiling angels on the west facade portals. Villard is brought in (p. 32) with the statement “This figure [= Villard’s clean-shaven standing apostle (?) on fol. 28r] was certainly not drawn after a statue at Reims, but it shows that the degeneration of the vocabulary of the Antiqui into meaninglessness must have been widespread in Champagne and Flanders around 1230.”

In footnote 48 the author states that the notion that “certain figures in Villard’s drawings were drawn after real [stone] sculptures is difficult to accept. The notion of a northern artist around 1230 drawing statues from life is highly improbable per se.” This does not seem to take into account Villard’s drawings of antique nudes on fol. 22r.

Reproduces part of fol. 28r after a negative in the Bibliothèque nationale de Paris attributed to the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte, Munich.


KURMANN, PETER. “Hugo d’Oignies and Villard de Honnecourt,” Autour de Hugo d’Oignies, eds. Robert Didier and Jacques Toussaint, Namur: Société archéologique de Namur, 2003, pp. 83-88.

Kurmann anaylzes the stylistic differences between the metalwork objects of Hugo d’Oignies (not illustrated) and certain dtawings of Villard de Honnecourt and concludes that while both worked in the style antiquisant of the period ca. 1180-1230, Villard was better than Hugo at giving his figures a monumental, three-dimensional volume through his use of drapery folds de cuvette” (washbowl, hairpin). His explanation of this is that Villard worked from monumental works of architecture and stone or wood sculpture whereas Hugo used small metalwork models. This leads the author to reject Barnes’s proposal (1981.2, 2005.2) that Villard may have been trained as a metalworker although Kurmann admits (p. 88) that Villard “s’apparente à la technique de la gravure en orfèvrerie.”

Kurmann then tackles the problem of Villard’s profession and agrees (p. 87) that he was not an architect/builder and that he probably was illiterate (cf. Schlink, 1999.3), hence not a member of the clergy nor the creative force behind any great project. Kurmann’s proposal (p. 88) is that “Le grand nombre de figures humaines que contient son recueil permet de supposer que Villard a été le chef d’un atelier de sculpture ou d’un atelier de peintres verriers d’une grande cathédrale.”

Reproduces fols. 4v, 8r, 16v, and 29r after black and white negatives in the Bibliothèque nationale de France.



STOKSTAD, MARILYNMedieval Art, 2nd ed., Boulder: Westview Press, 2004.

Has a half-page box devoted to Villard on p. 283 in which the author acknowledges this author by name as one of the scholars who questions the view that Villard was an architect. Stokstad notes that the collection of drawings is usually called a “sketchbook” but is in fact a portfolio.

Illustrates fol. 19r in a photographic reproduction. The caption says that it represents a “pair of draped female figures,” but there is only one female figure illustrated on the folio. There appear to be two draped female figures on fol. 1v.

The drawing is dated 1230-1240 whereas Villard’s travels are dated in the 1220s.


SHORTELL, ELLEN M. “Turris Basilicae Innixe: The Western Tower of the Collegiate Church of Saint-Quentin,” Perspectives for an Architecture of Solitude, Essays on Cistercians, Art and Architecture in Honour of Peter Fergusson, Turnhout: Cîteaux: Commentarii Cisterciensis, Medieval Church Studies 11/ Studia et Documenta 13, 2004, pp. 343-352.

Anaylzes (pp. 348-350) the likelihood of the pavement of the Chapel of St. Michael in the western tower of Saint-Quentin being associated with Villard (a claim first made in 1864.1).and concludes that the pavement dates at least twenty years before Villard could have been at Saint-Quentin if, indeed, he ever was there. The pavement design was fairly common and widespread, one example being in Hungary that Villard drew. Gives (p.348 n. 19) bibliography of comparable pavements.


HISCOCK, NIGEL. “Architectural Geometry and the Portfolio of Villard de Honnecourt,”  Villard’s Legacy: Studies in Medieval Technology, Science and Art in Memory of Jean Gimpel, ed. Marie-Thérèse Zenner, AVISTA Studies in the History of Science, Technology and Art, vol. 2 (Aldershot, 2004), pp. 3-21.

Proposes that Villard used the square, pentagon, and equilateral triangle in his drawings, these ultimately going back to Plato’s Timaeus, in addition to square schematism. The author offers (pp. 10-13) an explanation of the enigmatic drawing on fol. 21r (the drawing designated “h” in Hahnloser’s (F.IV) scheme) of an inverted equilateral arch. The article next has a discussion of the Vesica piscis, the geometric shape formed within the overlap of two equal circles through eachother’s centers.

Hiscock notes (p. 21) that while patron may have understood geometry as symbolic (an equilateral triangle as symbol of the Trinty) and mason understood geometry as a way of working, “…rigid distinctions that continue to be made between practical, theoretical, and allegorical geometry are likely to be more modern than medieval.”

Reproduces fols. 6v, 7r and details of 14v, 17r, and 21r after the Lassus edition lithographs.


CLARK, WILLIAM W. “Reims Cathedral in the Portfolio of Villard de Honnecourt,”  Villard’s Legacy: Studies in Medieval Technology, Science and Art in Memory of Jean Gimpel, ed. Marie-Thérèse Zenner, AVISTA Studies in the History of Science, Technology and Art, vol. 2 (Aldershot, 2004), pp. 23-51.

One of the most thorough analyses anywhere of Villard’s drawings (fols. 30v, 31r, 31v, 32r, 32v) of Reims, treating in exhaustive detail the pier and molding profiles on fol. 32r, showing how they correspond in some cases to other Villard drawings and to architectural components of the actual building.

The author does not believe that Villard was an architect, but he proposes (p. 44) that he was “…an accurate and observant recorder of the visual experience [of visiting Reims].” Clark explains the discrepancies of Villard’s drawings from the building itself not as blunders (cf. 2002.1) but of his consciously altering details and proportions, especially, to fit his own taste and in doing so with the main vessel elevation on fol. 31v anticipated the proportions of Amiens.

Reproduces fol. 31v and a number of details of Villard’s drawings after the Lassus edition lithographs.


ALEXANDER, JENNIFER S. “Villard de Honnecourt and Masons’ Marks,”  Villard’s Legacy: Studies in Medieval Technology, Science and Art in Memory of Jean Gimpel, ed. Marie-Thérèse Zenner, AVISTA Studies in the History of Science, Technology and Art, vol. 2 (Aldershot, 2004), pp. 53-69.

Identifies three uses of masons’ marks in the Middle Ages: banker marks (identifiers for individual masons being paid by the piecework basis), quarry marks (identifers of the source or site destination of a stone), and assembly marks (job-specific identifiers as to where a given stone is to be placed in construction). The marks found in Villard’s Reims drawings (fols. 30v, 31v, 32r) appear to be this third type. Assembly marks can be of two types: lines from one stone to the next or the same design (star, head in profile) on two stones at the points where they must meet.

The author admits (p. 66) that Villard’s role in this process, if any, “remains elusive” and it may be that “Villard was not familiar with this material [which was new at Reims] and was receiving instruction in it.”

Reproduces details of fols. 9v, 10v, 20v, and 32r after the Lassus edition lithographs.


SNYDER, JANET. “Costumes in the Portfolio of Villard de Honnecourt,”  Villard’s Legacy: Studies in Medieval Technology, Science and Art in Memory of Jean Gimpel, ed. Marie-Thérèse Zenner, AVISTA Studies in the History of Science, Technology and Art, vol. 2 (Aldershot, 2004), pp. 71-92.

Analyzes a number of the costumes of figures in the portfolio and concludes, based on comparison with contemporary representations of clothing in manuscripts, sculpture, and seals that Villard observed different styles of clothing and understood how these styles were worn by different classes of society: peasants (fol. 14v), clergy (fol. 12v), soldiers (fol. 23v), and nobility (fol. 14r). He could also draw generic ancient philosophers’ garments (fol. 1v).

Snyder concludes (p. 92), “The thirteenth-century dilletante Villard de Honnecourt provides the modern scholar with significant information about thirteenth-century society through a language or system of dress.”

Reproduces fols. 1v, 3v, 4v, 12r, 12v, 14r, and 23v after the Lassus edition lithographs.


BEFFEYTE, RENAUD. “The Oral Tradition and Villard de Honnecourt,”  Villard’s Legacy: Studies in Medieval Technology, Science and Art in Memory of Jean Gimpel, ed. Marie-Thérèse Zenner, AVISTA Studies in the History of Science, Technology and Art, vol. 2 (Aldershot, 2004), pp. 93-120.

A curious essay in the form of a dialogue between a modern master mason and an apprentice in which the portfolio is interpreted as revealing secrets of medieval design and construction because Villard was a master in the Compagnons du Devoir. Various drawings are explained as significant to the Compagnons, for example, the tabernacle on fol. 18v is called the door of the Temple of Solomon on which the four locks symbolize the four elements; the soldier on fol. 2v represents (p. 99) not a military knight but a knight of labor.

Several of the technical drawings on fols. 20r are analyzed and this is one of the few publications to acknowledge (p. 105) that these drawings were not by Villard but were later additions to the portfolio.

Beffeyte is a master artisan/carpenter who has built several large reproductions of Villard’s trebuchet (fol. 30r; see 2000.1) and he proposes that drawing of two flamingoes on fol. 18v provides a key to the design of the trebuchet.

In the Editor’s Note (p. 93) it is claimed that “For the first time in eight centuries a master artisan, a Compagnon du Devoir trained in the same oral tradition as Villard, opens the door to interpreting these remarkable drawings [of Villard].”

Reproduces fol. 30r and details of fols. 9r, 18v, 19r, 20r, 21r after the Lassus edition lithographs.


BECHMANN, ROLAND. “The Saracen’s Sepulcher: An Interpretation of Folio 6r in the Portfolio of Villard de Honnecourt,”  Villard’s Legacy: Studies in Medieval Technology, Science and Art in Memory of Jean Gimpel, ed. Marie-Thérèse Zenner, AVISTA Studies in the History of Science, Technology and Art, vol. 2 (Aldershot, 2004), pp. 121-134.

Argues that while there is no external supporting evidence, it may be that the drawing on fol. 6r called in the accompanying inscription li sepouture dun sarrazin (the Sepulchre of a Saracen) is not a rendering of an ancient architectural monument but contains many elements found in the literature of the Compagnons du Devoir and the Freemasons and may represent the initiation ceremony of Villard into a secret society, forerunner of the Compagnons. The word sarrazin refers to Hiram, architect of the Temple of Solomon, and the two columns represent that temple. Bechmann acknowledges that much of his information came from discussions with Renaud Beffeyte (2004.7)

It is claimed that the drawing fits into a long square (actually a rectangle with the long sides twice the length of the short sides) and that a pentagram overlay defines a number of the dimensions of the drawing. The inscription statement li sepouture dun sarrazin q(ue) io vi une fois is taken in the literal sense of “that I saw only once,” that is, at Villard’s initation into the society, not in the more casual sense of “that I once saw.”

Bechmann’s conclusion (p. 134) is: “Thus, on folio 6r of Villard’s Portfolio, we have another credible point of evidence that already in the thirteenth century there was a workers’ association practicing the traditions and rituals that we find today amid the Compagnons du Devoir.” See 2005.1.

Reproduces fol. 6r (with overlays) and details of fols.18v and 19r after the Lassus edition lithographs.


PERKINSON, STEPHEN. “Portraits and counterfeits, Villard de Honnecourt and thirteenth-century theories of representation,” Excavating the Medieval Image, Manuscripts, Artists, Audiences: Essays in Honor of Sandra Hindman, eds. David S. Areford and Nina A. Rowe, Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2004, pp. 13-35.

Citing many medieval texts, the author explains that in the Gothic period portraiture indicated a representation based on geometry, therefore capturing the essence of the subject in an ordered “complete and perfect” manner in contrast to contrefaire which indicated imitation (mimesis) of external appearance. Perkinson proposes that Villard understood these distinctions and wanted those who would use his portfolio to know that he understood the difference.

When Villard termed his representation of the horologe (fol. 6v) a portrait, he gave a description of how the parts were arranged.  When he tells us that the lion was contrefait al vif (fols. 24r and 24v) he wants us to know that he had at sometime seen a real lion. Perkinson makes the point (p. 25 n. 54) that “It is important to make a distinction between Villard’s ‘having once been in the presence of a lion’ and his ‘having drawn the lion while in its presence.'”

Dealing with the “stick figures” found on fols. 18r, 18v, and 19r) the author states that the traditional explanations that they were shapes to facilitate drawing figures (Viollet-le-Duc, 1854.1, vol.8, pp. 265-267), that they were aids to transferring designs from small to large scale (Frankl, 1945.1), that they were mnemonic devices to help masons remember geometric formulas they needed in their work (Bechmann, 1991.3) are each unpersuasive.

Terms the portfolio a portfolio and dates Villard’s activities between 1220 and 1240.

Reproduces fols. 1v, 18r, 18v, 19r, 19v, 24r, and 24v (not identified by folio number) from photographic negatives in the Bibliothèque nationale de France.


HISCOCK, NIGEL. “The Two Cistercian Plans of Villard de Honnecourt,”  Perspectives for an Architecture of Solitude, Essays on Cistercians, Art and Architecture in Honour of Peter Fergusson, ed. Terryl N. Kinder, Cîteaux: Brepols, 2004, pp. 157-172.

Hiscock attempts to put Villard’s two Cistercians church plans (sketch plan of a church designed ad quadratum, fol. 14v; plan of the chevet of Vaucelles, fol. 17r) in the context of plan developments in Cistercian architecture ca. 1200. He notes that the Order demonstrated a dicotomy in plan preferences: chevets with ambulatories and radiating chapels (Pontigny, ca. 1185; Longpont, ca. 1200; Royaumont, begun 1229; and Vaucelles, 1216-1235) and plans designed on a square schematism (Fontainjeans, finished in the 1230s). The author argues that both types were in vogue and that while the second may reflect the Cistercian tradition of architectural purity, it was not archaic.

There is considerable discussion of number and music symbolism and Hiscock points out that while Villard may not have understood the intricacies of such symbolism, his “church of squares” may have been a reaction to the complexity and ostentationess of Vaucelles.

Reproduces fols. 14v and 17r after black and white negatives in the Bibliothèque nationale de France.


CHEVEDDEN, PAUL E. “Black Camels and Blazing Bolts: The Bolt-Projecting Trebuchet in the Mamluk Army,”  Mamluk Studies Review, vol. 8 no. 1 (2004). pp. 227-277.

This study does not discuss the Villard trebuchet in the text, but pp. 259-260 fn. 68 questions Bechmann’s reconstruction of the trebuchet in 1987.9 and 1991.4: “Roland Bechmann has reconstructed the trestle-framed, counterweight trebuchet (trebucet) of Villard de Honnecourt as a bolt-projecting machine. If this interpretation stands, the presumption that the bolt-projecting trebuchet was diffused from a common source will be undermined, and the likelihood that it was invented independently and nearly simultaneously in the Latin West and in the eastern realms of Islam will emerge as a distinct possibility. ……. Bechmann has reverted back to the idea proposed originally by Lassus and Darcel (F.I) and has reconstructed Villard’s trebuchet as a Rube Goldberg device for launching arrows. His design rivals any of Rube Goldberg’s machines and is just as preposterous. A mammoth scaffolding towers above the trestle frame of the machine upon which rests a single arrow that is discharged by the impact of the throwing arm as it pivots skyward following release. Bechmann’s machine is made out of whole cloth. He invents key design elements (e.g., the scaffolding) and radically reinterprets other components. The catch-and-trigger device of the machine, for example, which consists of a stanchion (estancon), or upright post, to hold a detaining bolt is refashioned as a break lever to restrain the rotation of a drum. Bechmann uses textual and pictorial evidence as a mirror to reflect his own a priori assumptions.”

Chevedden believes that the best reconstruction of Villard’s trebuchet is found in Willis (F.II).


The following article does not mention Villard de Honnecourt or his trebuchet plan but offers an excellent overview of how trebuchets work, with clear illustrations: Chevedden, Paul E., Les Eigenbrod, Vernand Foley, Werner Soedel. “The Trebuchet,” Scientific American, July 1995, pp. 66-71.



BECHMANN, ROLAND. “Villard de Honnecourt and the Medieval Craft,” Dictionary of Gnosis and Western Esotericism, ed. W. J Hanegraff, Leiden: Brill, 2005, pp. 1159-1162.

A good overview of the portfolio content and history and of Villard’s interests, but it is admitted (p. 1159) that “The social position, the functions, and the life of Villard are unknown.” The author does note (p. 1160) that Villard “may have worked on the collegiate church of Saint Quentin.” The most interesting point raised is a theme found elsewhere in Bechmann’s writings (2001.3), namely, whether Villard may have belonged to a prohibited, therefore secret, workers’ association from which the Compagnons du Devoir ultimately evolved. The author then offers certain drawings in the portfolio, especially the “Tomb of a Saracen” on fol. 6r, as evidence of this possibility. See 2004.8.

No illustrations.


BARNES, CARL F. JR.  “A Note on Villard de Honnecourt and Metal,” De re metallica, The Uses of Metal in the Middle Ages, ed. Robert O. Bork, AVISTA Studies in the History of Medieval Technology, Science and Art, vol. 4 (Aldershot, 2005), pp. 245-254.

Argues that there is no indication in the portfolio that Villard was interested in or knew anything about the use of metal in construction and repeats the idea that he may have been trained as a metalworker but that he was not, in any case, an architect.

Reproduces fols. 8r, 17v, 31v, and 32r after negatives in the Bibliothèque nationale de France.


SHORTELL, ELLEN M. “Beyond Villard: Architectural Drawings at Saint-Quentin and Gothic Design,” AVISTA Forum Journal, vol. 15/1 (Fall 2005), pp. 18-29.

The best analysis to date of the architectural drawings, two bas reliefs and three linear tracings, in the choir of in Saint-Quentin. The author attributes the “Villard rose” in the northeast transept chapel to the 13th century but she (p. 18) disassociates the relief and the design of Saint-Quentin from Villard: “This thesis can no longer be taken seriously”

Shortell notes that two of the linear tracings (arch design and spiral, arch design with radial lines at Saint-Quentin incorporate the same geometry as found in certain of Hand II’s additions to the Villard portfolio (fol. 20v), but that the latter are too late in date (mid-13th century) to have been done by the same individual who did the Saint-Quentin engravings.


GIVENS, JEAN A. Observation and Image-Making in Gothic Art, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

Offers (pp. 56-81) the best analysis to date of Villard’s drawings of a lion that he claimed to have been drawn al vif. Givens summarizes earlier views, e.g., Camille, 1996.3; Perrig, 1991.7 and shows that we still do not know whether Villard saw a real lion but, if so or if not, he was nonetheless conditioned by fixed images of “liondom.”

The author also analyses Villard’s drawings of Reims (fols. 10v, 30v, 31r, 31v, 32r, 32v), helpfully citing sources of the contradictory claims that they were or were not drawn from the actual building. Givens makes (p. 69) the important point that “The descriptiveness of his [= Villard] images implicates both visual knowledge and visual facility, and both amply demonstrate Villard’s ability to analyze what he sees, or perhaps knows, as evident in his plans and architectural diagrams.”

Reproduces fols. 24v, 20v, 30v, and 32r after negatives in the Bibliothèque nationale de France.


MAYNARD, PATRICK. Drawing Distinctions, the Varieties of Graphic Expression, Ithica: Cornell University Press, 2005.

In various places, but especially pp. 15-18, anaylses Villard’s drawing of a waterpowered saw on fol. 22v. The author concludes that it must be classified as a “sketch” and not as a “drawing” as the term is understood in post-Renaissance analyses. Villard presents the essential component parts of the saw, but more as a list than as a coherent assemblage.

On p. 237 n. 29 the author states that “No implication is made here that Villard was a professional architect….”

Reproduces a detail of the saw after Lassus.


FARNWORTH, MICHAEL. Inventive Steps in Trebuchet Evolution,

In one of the best overviews anywhere of the history and operation of the trebuchet, Farnworth explains the various types. Villard’s trebuchet (fol. 30r) is a “moving box counterweight beam sling on a trestle frame” and the author estimates that the weight of the filled box would have been between 39,000 kg (85,900 lbs.) and 50,000 kg (110,231 lbs.). Villard’s trebuchet could have thrown a 400 kg (881 lbs.) stone approximately 128 m. (419 ft.).

Farnworth does not deal with the question whether Villard’s trebucher fired arrows rather than hurled stones.

Reproduces in color fol. 30r.



ZENNER, MARIE-THÉRÈSE. “Architectural Layout: Design, Structure, and Construction in Northern Europe,” A Companion to Medieval Art: Romanesque and Gothic in Northern Europe, ed. Conrad Rudolph, Oxford: Blackwell, 2006, pp. 531-556.

Lists the portfolio of Villard as one of the five primary sources as the “background for research on medieval architecture.” The other four are Vitruvius, the Corpus argimensorum Romanorum, the plan of St. Gall, and Latin Euclid. In her discussion (p. 534) of the Villard portfolio, Zenner dates the portfolio ca. 1220/1235 and characterizes it as “the earliest known graphic record of concepts and mechanicsat least for post-Roman Europe.”

Zenner is one of the few authors to recognize that the “technical folios” (20r, 20v, 21r) are later additions to the portfolio and, she believes, “appear to derive from Latin Euclid.” An example discussed briefly by the author as being representive of Euclid’s proposition 1.1 are the two flamingoes on fol. 18v.

Reproduces fol. 18v and details of fols. 20r (how to detemine the center of a column) and 20v (surveying) after Lassus (F.1).


CLARK, WILLIAM W. “Jean d’Orbais: Window and Wall at Reims,” Architektur und Monumentalskulptur des 12.-14. Jahrhunderts, Production und Rezeption, Festschrift für Peter Kurmann zum 65. Geburtstag / Architecture et sculpture monumentale du 12e au 14e siècle, Production et réception, Mélanges offerts à Peter Kurmann à l’occasion de son soixante-cinquième anniversaire,eds. Stephan Gasser, Christian Freigang, Bruno Boerner, Bern and elsewhere: Peter Lang Publishing Group, 2006, pp. 87-96.

Following an analysis of Jean d’Orbais’ novel and far-reaching concept for the Reims Cathedral chevet as a periphery of vertical support elements linked by arches at their tops and with infilling of decorated wall at the bottom and traceried windows above, Clark discusses briefly (p. 95) Villard’s interest in the construction of these elements and proposes that Villard may have been “more curious about the technical aspects of the architectural elements than he was about the cathedral itself,” especially in the way the tracery infilling of the windows was assembled.


TAKÁCS, IMRE. “The French Connection: On the Courtenay Family and Villard de Honnecourt Apropos of a 13th-Century Incised Slab from Pilis Abbey,” Künstlerische Wechsel Wirkungen in Mitteleuropa, ed. Jirí Fast and Markus Hörsch, Ostfildern, 2006, pp. 11-21.

An in-depth history and analysis of the many relationships between the Courtenay family and Hungary, especially relationships with kings Béla III (1172-1196) and Andreas II (1205-1235) whose wife Gertrude of Andechs-Meran was buried in the crossing of the Cistercian abbey church at Pilis after she was murdered in 1213. The author proposes (pp. 16-17) that the tomb slab of a knight in the transept of Pilis was that of Robert de Courtenay, Latin emperor of Constantinople (1221-1228).

Takács then (p. 18) poses this question: “Is it possible that Villard … may have been traveling in the entourage of Emperor Robert on his way east in the winter of 1220? Could we not suppose in fact that Villard was a multi-talented individual in the Courtenay court and capable of carrying out “engineering” tasks, giving theoretical advice and making practical decisions?” And finally, is it not possible that the quality of the drawing on the Pilis inscribed slab is so similar to Villard’s personal style, because he may actually have taken part in the work’s creation, if only in so much as making the sketches?” Further, is it not possible that in Villard’s manuscript there is some evidence of a possible stay in Constantinople between 1221 and 1228, which would expand the present theories about the master’s knowledge of geometry and engineering, as well as his attitude toward antique prototypes?”

Takács’s claim (p. 18) of being the first author to raise the question of Villard having been in Constantinople may be true, technically, but at least one other author (Verdier, 1983.4) proposed a quarter of a century ago that Villard traveled to the Near East.

Illustrates the Pilis tomb reconstruction and fragments but no Villard drawings.




SIMANEK, DANIEL E. “Reinventing the Square Wheel,” Make: Technology on your time, vol. 9 (2007), pp. 70-74.

In this article explaining why creating a perpetual motion device is impossible, the author discusses various attempts including Villard’s wheel on fol. 5r, concluding (pp. 71-72) that they cannot work for at least two reasons: theoretical (“they are based on incorrect assumptions about physics, or they apply physics incorectly”); and experimental (“if you build and test them, they don’t work”).

Simanek dates Villard’s drawing specifically to the year 1245 and calls him an architect and attributes to Villard something he did not claim, that his device would be useful for sawing wood and raising weights.

Includes Villard’s drawing of the perpetual motion device, after Lassus (F.1), and two reconstruction models of Villard’s device made by the author.


BARNES, CARL F. JR. “An Essay on Villard de Honnecourt and Cambrai Cathedral,”AVISTA Forum Journal, vol. 17 (Fall 2007), pp. 21-26.

Argues that Villard made drawings for two distinct “clients,” himself and a professional client. The personal drawings were such things as insects, antique statuary, lion training. The drawings for the professional client were the very detailed (although not always accurate) architectural drawings, especially those of Reims Cathedral (fols. 10 and 30v-32v), lavish choir stall poppet (fol. 29r), and Crucifixion Group (fol. 8r).

Barnes proposes that a number of clues, taken together, suggest that the professional client was the bishop or chapter of Cambrai Cathedral, for whom Villard served as a lay agent, making drawings that the chapter might use during the construction of their new cathedral.

Reproduces fols. 8r, 24r, 29r, 30v, 31v and details of fols. 10v, 14v, and 32r from black and white negatives in the Bibliothèque nationale de France.


HAMON, ÉTIENNE. “Une source insoupçonné de l’architecture flamboyant parisienne,”Bulletin Monumental, vol. 165 (2007), pp. 281-288.

Proposes (p 281) that the Villard portfolio “resta encore en usage longtemps après sa confection” and (p. 286) that “les circonstances historiques plaident en faveur de la présence du manuscrit à Paris dès le XVe siècle.” While admitting that this is an hypothesis that cannot be proven, the author offers the basis of his proposal. First, that until now the name found on fol. 33v stating that the book then contained 41 leaves has been misread as “J. Mancel” when it should be read as “J[ean] Gancel” or “J[ean] Gaucel, known to have been juré et voyer at the Parisien abbey of Saint-Magloire in 1421 and that the portfolio was there, not at Saint-Germain-des-Prés, in the 15th century. Second, that from 1435 to 1438 Gancel/Gaucel was architect of the west porch of the parish church of Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois where several of the motifs on the moldings of the arches were based on drawings in the Villard portfolio.

According to Hamon, at the apex of the arches on the lateral north portal is found a crouching figure based on Villard’s fol. 1r demon or devil and along the moldings of the arches are curly foliate crockets based on a detail of the upper choir stall poppet on fol. 27v.

Reproduces fols. 1r, 27v, and 33v from black and white negatives in the Bibliothèque nationale de France.



BARNES, CARL F. JR. “The 1858 Lassus Facsimile: the Start of It All,”AVISTA Forum Journal, vol. 18 (Fall 2008), pp. 53-55.

This is an abstract of a paper given at AVISTA sessions at the XLIIIrd International Congress of Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo, MI, in May 2008. The author traces the history of the Lassus facsimile edition of the Villard portfolio, noting that although the publication did not appear until 1858, after Lassus had died, he had the idea to prepare a facsimile as early as 1849. Also discussed is Lassus’ agenda and there is an anaylsis of the lithographic reproductions of the portfolio leaves by Gustave Jules Leroy and how they differ from the originals.

Barnes makes (p. 55) the point that “… no one serious about Villard the artist and his style and technique of drawing can pretend that the Lassus illustrations are acceptable sources on which to base serious conclusions.”

Reproduces fol. 29r from a black and white negative in the Bibliothèque national de France, compared to Leroy’s redrawing of the same leaf.


MORRIS, KATHERINE. “Villard Bound and Unbound(ed): The 1935 Hahnloser Facsimile and the Bauhüttenbuch Style,”AVISTA Forum Journal, vol. 18 (Fall 2008), pp. 55-56.

This is an abstract of a paper given at AVISTA sessions at the XLIIIrd International Congress of Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo, MI, in May 2008. Morris discusses Hahnloser’s thesis that the Villard Portfolio was a bound Bauhüttenbuch and his lengthy analysis of Villard’s “stroke.” Hahnloser believes that Villard’s drawings were all based on artictic models (sculpture, painting, or other preexisting work) and that, for example, Villard’s drawings of figures without facial details were based on sculpture, facial details being omitted because he had difficulty translating three-dimentional works.

No illustrations.


WU, NANCY. “The Portfolio of Villard de Honnecourt by Carl F. Barnes, Jr.,”AVISTA Forum Journal, vol. 18 (Fall 2008), pp. 55-56.

This is an abstract of a paper given at AVISTA sessions at the XLIIIrd International Congress of Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo, MI, in May 2008. Wu describes the contents of the Barnes facsimile and summarizes some of his views about Villard and his drawings, for example, that the assemblage should be called a “portfolio,” that Villard was not an architect or master builder, that he may have served as a lay agent of the chapter or bishop of Cambrai (see Barnes 2007.2). Wu characterizes Barnes’s commentaries as “generally inclusive, thorough, analytical and judicious.”

Reproduces fols. 30v, 31r, and 31v from black and white negatives in the Bibliothèque nationale de France.


WIRTH, JEAN. “Apologie pour Villard de Honnecourt,” Natura, scienze et società medievali, Studi in onore di Agostino Paravicini Bagliani, ed. Claudio Leonardi and Francesco Santi, Florence: Sismel-Edizioni del Galluzzo, 2008, pp. 395-405.

A penetrating study arguing that the trend in Villard studies in the past several decades has been to diminish the importance of the Villard portfolio (called an Album) and, therefore, Villard himself. Wirth writes, charmingly (p. 386), that Villard has been “trop maltraité” and appears as a poor victim of his Wheel of Fortune (fol. 21v). The author cites Barnes (e.g., 1989.4) and Schlink (1999.3) as two of the main offenders: Barnes because he denies that Villard was an architect/mason/builder and Schlink because he proposed that Villard was illiterate.

Most of the essay is devoted to analyzing, and refuting, Schlink’s interpretation of the sequence of the several hands who added inscriptions to certain of the drawings and recipes in the portfolio. Wirth concludes (p. 402) that it is expecting a lot that an “obscure [Picard] illiterate” would be known in and invited to faraway Hungary.

His analysis of Barnes’s view that Villard was not an architect/builder is less detailed but equally clearly argued, the main point being that for all Barnes’s proffered reasons for believing Villard was not an architect/builder, Barnes does not prove that Villard was not such. Wirth argues (p. 403), concerning the drawing of the rose window of Lausanne (fol. 16r), “Comme dans d’autres cas, Villard modifie les monuments qu’il dessine pour les mettre au goût du jour ou à son goût et l’abandon de la quadrature y est probablement intentionnel,” dismissing Barnes’s claim that Villard did not understand the design principle of rotation-of-squares.

No illustrations.


BROOKS, GEORGE. “Villard de Honnecourt: Gothic Carpenter,”AVISTA Forum Journal, vol. 18 (Fall 2008), pp. 8-23.

In this tightly-argued article, one of the more detailed studies of aspects of the Villard portfolio in recent years, Brooks presents a history of the varied interpretations of the purpose of the portfolio and of Villard’s profession, joining the chorus who argues that Villard was not an mason/architect: (p. 14) “… it has long been impossible to think of Villard as an architect.”

He next (Table 1, p. 12) analyzes the contents of each quire, called chapters, indicating the main subject matter of each quire and the secondary subject matter of each quire, and concludes (p. 14) “… the contents of the manuscript left by Villard de Honnecourt are the heavily pillaged notes of a master carpenter of the Gothic era.” Brooks then offers five arguments to justify this claim: (1) Lost Chapter on engiens de carpentrie; (2) Villard’s Limitation as Architectural Draftsman / Additions of “Master II;” (3) Precision of Surving Carpentry Renderings (notched lap-joints); (4) Villard’s Currency with Carpentry Techniques; (5) Advanced Mechanical Engineering. The emphasis of each of these is reflected in its title, but the thrust of all five collectively is (p. 17) “to imagine that Villard was a mason who drew masonry inaccurately but was especially precise when rendering carpentry is illolgical.”

Using comparative illustrations, the author demonstrates that Villard was au courant with contemporary timber construction and showed such details as the wooden pegs used to strengthen timber construction joints.

Brooks rejects Barnes’s proposal (2007.2) that Villard was a lay agent or representative of the chapter or bishop of Cambrai, assigning him a more technical, professional role.

Reproduces fols. 2v, 5r,6v, 20r, 22v, 23r, 32v and details of fols. 3v, 30v, and 32r from black and white negatives in the Bibliothèque nationale de France.


WALTON, STEVEN A. “Villard’s Perpetuum Mobile,”AVISTA Forum Journal, vol. 18 (Fall 2008), pp. 24-30.

The author begins with a brief history of the concept of perpetual motion, both as a philosophical and as a physical concept, concluding (p. 24) that the distinction between the two was not so great in the middle ages as it is now, the notion then being that the concept was tied “…all together in one large cosmo-bio-psycho-mechanical system.”

Walton then anaylzes in detail Villard’s drawing of his hammerwheel and the text accompanying it. Walton believes that the text has been mistranslated and misunderstood. It is his view that the letteru in the inscription should be translated as “or” (ou) and not “and” (et), so that the device did not employ hammers containing mercury. Rather, he argues (pp. 25-26) that Villard “was saying that the general idea he had drawn on fol. 5r could be accomplished in a number of ways, that is, by hammers or by mercury.” Whether Villard believed his wheel could work (Barnes, F.XII) or whether he doubted so (Bechmann, 1991.4), it is important to let go our modern belief in the impossibility of perpetual motion and understand the context in which Villard made his drawing.

The depiction of seven hammers reflects not merely an uneven number but is a reference to the seven planets and (p. 28) “… the medieval mind contemplated machinery in the context of the universe …” sometimes depicting the universe being turned by angels using a crank (London, British Library, Yates Thompson MS 31, fol. 45).

Walton concludes with a discussion a scaled version of the hammerwheel he built with George Brooks that proves that the hammerwheel could not achieve perpetual motion, essentially because the hammers place the center of gravity of the wheel below its axle (Fig. 7, p. 29). Villard’s “drawing was a mechanical representation of a philosophical idea, drawn with the eye of a technologist … one who appreciated the mechanical world of the thirteenth century.”

Illustrates fol. 5r, redrawn after a photograph by the Bibliothèque nationale de France.


SCHLINK, WILHELM. “Villard de Honnecourt, dessinateur de la cathédrale de Reims,” Nouveaux regards sur la cathédrale de Reims, Actes du colloque international des 1er et 2 octobre 2004, eds. Bruno Decrock et Patrick Demouy, Langres: Éditions Dominique Guéniot, 2008, pp. 81-89.

Discusses Villard’s drawings of Reims on fols. 30v, 31r, 31v, 32r, 32v (unfortunately designated as planches 60, 61, 62, 63, 64). Schlink describes the coded markings on certain of the drawings, matching the figures on the templates on fol. 32r with those found in drawings of the interior and exterior of a radiating chapel (fols. 30v, 31r) and the interior and exterior of a main vessel bay (fol. 31v).

[Note: Barnes, F.XII, pp. 207-208) explains that these markings are post-Villard additions to the drawings and thus prove nothing about Villard’s awareness of or understanding of the marks found on stones in the cathedral itself.]

Schlink’s thesis is two-fold: that Villard was not a trained architect/builder; and that his renderings are inconsistently inaccurate, that is, his drawings of the lower parts of the building are reasonably accurate whereas his renderings of the upper parts, especially the buttresses (fol. 32v), are of a “façon absolument non professionnelle, sinon irrationnelle.” The author concludes that this inconsistency is because Villard drew from actual construction but had to guess at what the unfinished upper parts of the building would be like and, not being an architect, guessed wrongly.

Schlink ends (p. 84) by posing two interesting questions. Did Villard visit Reims at least twice? And did someone other than Villard make the preliminary drawing of the buttresses on fol. 32v?

Reproduces fols. 30v, 31r, 31v, 32r, and 32v from an unidentified source.



BARNES, CARL F. JR. “Apparitional Aesthetics: Viollet-le-Duc and Villard de Honnecourt,” The Four Modes of Seeing, Approaches to Medieval Imagery in Honor of Madeline Harrison Caviness, eds. Evelyn Staudinger Lane, Elizabeth Carson Pastan, and Ellen M. Shortell, Farnham: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2009, pp. 465-480.

An essay showing how Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc, in two imaginary conversations with Villard de Honnecourt, hijacked Villard’s persona to promote his own views about the supremecy of Gothic architecture as the French national style of architecture.

Barnes also discusses the history of early writings about Villard, including the Lassus facsimile edition of 1858 (F.I).

Reproduces a detail of fol. 15r from a black and white negative in the Bibliothèque nationale de France.


BARNES, CARL F. JR. See The Twelve Printed Facsimiles, F.XII.


SAYERS, WILLIAM. “Villard de Honnecourt on the Counterweight Trebuchet,” AVISTA Forum Journal, vol. 19/1 (2009), pp. 46-48.

Analyses the text or caption accompanying Villard’s drawing of the plan of a counterweight trebuchet on fol. 30r, explaining the modern translation of each of Villard’s terms and how the trebuchet worked. Sayers challenges Bechmann’s claim that fleke indicates an arrow (modern French flèche) projectile which, Sayers notes (p. 47) “could not be cast with safety or accuracy.” The author believes that fleke refers to the tip of the rotating beam (la verge) and admits that Villard’s “brief description does not advance our knowledge of the counterweight trebuchet.”

Sayers concludes (p. 47) that Villard was not an artilleryman, but also “not an ignoramus — who believed that trebuchets could also fire arrows.”

No illustraions.


HISCOCK, NIGEL. “Patronal Programming in Medieval Abbeys and Cathedrals: The Question of Symbolism,” AVISTA Forum Journal, vol. 19/1 (2009), pp. 5-20.

Within the larger context of the subject of symbolic planning, Hiscock continues (see: 2004.10) to speculate on Villard’s relationship to the Cathedral of Cambrai, the abbey church at Vaucelles, and his sketchplan of a Cistercian “church of squares” on fol. 14v. The author notes (p. 9) that it is “thought unlikely that he [=Villard] was an architect” but that four of his chevet plans could have been useful in transmitting ideas to actual patrons or builders. Villard’s Cistercian plan is a sketchplan, conveying not details but an overall schematic layout.

This plan is an elaboration of the so-called Bernardine plan of a century earlier, as seen at Fontenay and in churches more contemporary with Villard, for example, Waverley and Byland in England. The return to the square schematism may have been a rejection of the lavish chevets with ambulatories and radiating chapels such as Royaumont, Longpont, and Vaucelles and Villard’s plan may reflect a philosophical battle within the Cistercian Order.

Reproduces fols. 14v and 17r after images in F.VII.


BROOKS, GEORGE. “Livre or Let Die: The Preservation of ‘Ecclesiastical Engineering’ in the Portfolio of Villard de Honnecourt,” AVISTA Forum Journal, vol. 19/1 (2009), pp. 62-64.

This is an abstract of a paper delivered at the XLIVth International Congress on Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo, Michigan in May 2009. Brooks returns to his thesis (2008.5) that Villard was trained as a carpenter, but in a broader context he was an ingeniator or engineer, not (p. 62) “a mere roofer.” The author concludes (p. 63) that “Villard de Honnecourt appears to be a mechanically minded builder and artist who spent his career collecting the devices and techniques to service the engineering needs of gothic churches along with a vast repertoire of artistic images with which to decorate them.”

Brooks concludes that Villard may have been a cleric but that he passed along his livre to his successor ingeniators for their edification.

Reproduces fols. 22v and 23r and details of fols. 9r, 22v, and 23r from black and white negatives in the Bibliothèque nationale de France.


BORK, ROBERT. “Connecting the Dots: Towards Geometrical Connoisseurship,”AVISTA Forum Journal, vol. 19/1 (2009), pp. 90-92.

This is an abstract of a paper delivered at the XLIVth International Congress on Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo, Michigan in May 2009. Within the broader thesis that (p. 90) “Octagon-based geometries were ubitiquous in Gothic design…” the author examines Villard’s drawings (fols. 9v and 10r) of a tower of Laon Cathedral. He proposes that the plan may have been an imprecise copying of a drawing Villard saw in the Laon chantier, but that the elevation drawing, while it looks freehand, is “framed by [=controlled by] double squares. Moreover, the hand projecting from the lower square and the lower oxen projecting from the upper square each are located on the axis of the respective squares.

It seems that a number of “critical levels [of the tower] appear to have been determined by the stacking of two equally sized star octagons.” Bork suggests that Villard’s elevation drawing was not based on a drawn design he had seen but (p. 90) “his own observations of the tower with some reliable account of its proportions from a workshop insider…”

Reproduces an elevation drawing of the Laon tower by Georg Dehio and Villard’s elevation drawing (fol. 10r) with geometric overlays by the author.


MICHAEL, M. A. “This is not a Drawing,” Art Newspaper, December 2009, p. 43.

A one-page article with only a brief mention of Villard, claiming that Villard’s variety of interests, as seen in his drawings, rivals that of Leonardo da Vinci and that Villard was a “true precursor of Vasari—an artist/practitioner who was interested in collecting information for professional purposes and out of sheer curiosity.”

The author states that Villard “knew a lot about architecture … [but] it is unlikely that Villard was ever in the position to create buildings himself.”


HOLCOMB, MELANIEPen and Parchment, Drawing in the Middle Ages, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2009.

The catalogue of an exhibition of medieval European drawings held at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, 2 June-23 August 2009. Holcomb was editor of the book and wrote a long (pp. 3-34) introduction chapter. She and thirteen others contributed to the individual entries and are identified by initials at the end of each entry, cross-referenced to their full names on p. xii.

The Villard portfolio was not shown in the exhibition, but Holcomb refers to it several places in her introduction. She raises the question of whether Villard was a metalsmith or trained as one (see Barnes 1981). Without taking a stand on the question, she writes (p. 28) “The portfolio reveals Villard to have been a visual thinker, an artist who took drawing seriously as a means to describe and engage with the world he saw.” Discussing Villard’s drawing style, the author includes Barnes’s analysis of the stages of the drawings (Barnes 1981.1) and concludes “…the drawings of Villard de Honnecourt indicate that draftsmen and metalworkers shared a graphic approach to figural representation that relied upon heavy contours and striated drapery defined by long hairpin loops.” She dates the Villard drawings ca. 1220-ca. 1240.

Reproduces fols. 17r and 24v after black and white negatives in the Bibliothèque nationale de France.


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