BIBLIO — Intro

Villard de Honnecourt: A Critical Bibliography

Carl F. Barnes, Jr.

Villard de Honnecourt: Plan and Elevation of one of the Towers of the West Facade of the former Cathedral of Notre-Dame at Laon (Aisne), France. Drawing (silverpoint and ink on parchment), made between ca. 1220 and ca. 1240 (Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, MS Fr 19093, Fols. 9v and 10r; photo: Bibliothèque nationale)

This copyright material is made available on the Internet to scholars and students who may find it of use. The author requests that normal scholarly credit and citation be given when any of this material is used.

Note to this Revised Electronic Edition
The first edition of this book, Villard de Honnecourt: The Artist and His Drawings, A Critical Bibliography, published in 1982 by G. K. Hall in its A Reference Publication in Art History series has long been out of print. This revised edition is intended to make available to scholars once more, this time by means of the Internet, the Villard bibliography concerning the artist and his drawings.

I have decided to use the Internet because it would not be economically feasible to publish this material in traditional book format, and because the Internet is a new technology. Had the Internet existed in the 1220s or 1230s, Villard would have loved it! Moreover, Internet publishing allows additions, revisions, and corrections to be made in a way impossible with traditional publishing.

This revised electronic edition permits not merely bringing the Villard bibliography up-to-date and, I hope, keeping it up-to-date. It also permits the inclusion of items overlooked in the first publication and corrections to the earlier text.

Now that my detailed study of the Villard portfolio, The Portfolio of Villard de Honnecourt, A New Critical Edition and Color Facsimile (Barnes, F.XII) has appeared, the essay material in my 1982 book (Barnes, 1982.1) on Villard’s life has been supplanted. For this reason, that material has now been removed from this website. What remains here is the bibliographic note and the bibliographic entries.

In my facsimile edition the bibliography was closed in 2007. However, publication was delayed until 2009, the copyright date found in the publication. Astute users who do not know of the delay in publication might assume that I missed some major Villard studies published in the period 2007-2009. I may, indeed, have done so, but I direct your attention here to some of the more important recent studies included in this online bibliography: Barnes, 2007.2, Barnes 2009.1, Brooks, 2008.5, Walton 2008.6, Wirth 2008.4.

Bibliographical Note
The portfolio of drawings by Villard de Honnecourt now in Paris (Bibliothèque nationale, MS Fr 19093) is a unique survival of thirteenth-century Europe. This uniqueness has had two unfortunate consequences. It has made the drawings and their artist famous beyond all justification. And it has engendered endless speculation as to their purpose and his career.

Villard provides very little information about himself or his activities. Most of what medievalists teach and write about Villard is not based on the dual contents of his portfolio, his drawings and the inscriptions added to certain of these, but on what interpreters have had to say. Always suspect, this practice is utterly unacceptable in the case of Villard because so many commentators have been manifestly incorrect in their interpretations. Even worse, many of these interpretations have become accepted as fact and perpetuated as such.

If a bibliography can be said to have a thesis, that of this critical Villard bibliography is to identify the sources of the many errors concerning Villard and his drawings and to demonstrate how, and by whom, these errors have been repeated down through the years. Yet, lest this effort deteriorate into a merely negative critique, I have also attempted to show the origin of those theories on Villard that are today both current and valid.

The bibliography on any subject is much like a shotgun blast: dispersion increases as it moves in time away from its source. In the sixty-five years since publication of the Hahnloser facsimile edition (F.V) of the Villard portfolio in 1935, Villard has become a standard fixture in the general literature on medieval art. To locate and cite every published reference to Villard and his drawings is impossible. I have attempted to include those references devoted specifically to one or another problem presented by the portfolio, as well as those more general items that, while frequently concerned with Villard but indirectly, nonetheless make significant observations.

Conversely, anyone seriously interested in Villard should be familiar with all writings concerning him and his drawings, since these writings are the sources of our current state of understanding (or misunderstanding) of Villard and his portfolio. I believe I have included virtually every bibliographic reference to Villard published before 1900, as well as the great majority of those published since.

All entries are listed in chronological order of appearance by year. For the entries up to 1981, authors are listed alphabetically by last name under each year. In the cross-references, entries are specified by author-year-item, for example, Branner, 1958.1. For the entries added to this revised edition, entries are by year and author but the authors’ names are not necessarily in alphabetical order in each year’s listing. This is because additions are being made as found, and changing the reference numbers for each year would make maintaining a useful subject index impossible.

The twelve printed facsimile editions of the portfolio are listed and analyzed separately and are referred to simply by the last name of the author and the sequential number of the facsimile (e.g., Omont, F.III). Entries from multi-volume dictionaries and encyclopaedias are all contained under the year of publication of the first volume of the series. Unless otherwise indicated by an asterisk (*), I have examined all sources on which the entries are based. In every case I have gone to the first edition of any given work if at all possible. When this has not been possible, I have clearly indicated by double asterisks (**) which edition was employed, although the entry itself appears under the year of publication of the first edition of the work in question.

In all bibliographic citations of articles, inclusive pagination is given. In bibliographic citations of books, inclusive pagination is given if there is a specific section or chapter devoted to Villard (e.g., Lance, 1872.1 or Gimpel, 1976.2). However, in many books Villard is discussed in a number of places with no “main entry” (e.g., Cerf, 1861.1; Focillon, 1938.1). In these instances it has not been possible to give inclusive pagination in the bibliographic citation. In all annotations specific page numbers of the edition employed are provided with principal points summarized or quotations included: Lefrançois Pillion (1949.3) “Stresses the unique significance of the portfolio, suggesting (p. 62) that it has lost twenty to twenty-five leaves and noting (p. 65) that its pêle-mêle character and cluttered drawings are attributable to the high cost of parchment.” In addition, the Villard drawings employed in each entry are listed, together with their source if this can be determined. Where no source is listed, the illustration was made from the black-and-white Bibliothèque nationale negative.

A note of caution is in order concerning references on which I relied. I have assumed that the official indexes to various journals are accurate and, if they contain no listing for Villard, that the journal in question has no material on him. However, in actual practice this is not always so, the Bulletin monumental being a notable case of incomplete indexing. Of course, published indexes always appear after (sometimes long after) the materials on which they are based. More recent issues of many journals have not yet been indexed. In these cases I went to the journals themselves. A list of indexes consulted follows this note.

After some vacillation, I decided to include all obtainable reviews of the various facsimile editions of the Villard portfolio. Certain of these are perfunctory and more announcements than critical analyses. Others, however, contain major essays on Villard and his drawings in addition to posing significant questions yet to be answered. It proved impossible to secure a number of late 1930s German newspaper reviews of the first edition of the Hahnloser facsimile. The second edition of Hahnloser lists most of these.

Since the publication of the first edition of this bibliography, hundreds of websites have been established that contain material about Villard. For the most part, these are repetitive, unscholarly, and sometimes simply bizarre, for example, claiming that the portfolio was an instruction manual for elementary school students. I have included only those electronic items that I consider serious or useful. This is a personal judgment, of course, and cannot not be taken as definitive.

In preparing this or any study of Villard de Honnecourt, a minimum of four editorial decisions have to be made. The first is what name to employ for Villard himself. The second is what to call his assemblage of leaves. The third is what to term the writing that appears on certain of these leaves. And the fourth is how to designate the leaves themselves.

Villard gives his name twice in his portfolio, spelled two different ways: “Wilars dehonecort” (fol. 1v) and “Vilars de honcort” (fol. 15r). Later additions to the portfolio give his last name as “De Honnecor” (fol. 3r, fifteenth century) and as “De Honnecourts” (fol. 23v, fifteenth century or later). A thirteenth-century addition to the portfolio (fol. 15r) gives his name in Latin as “Ulardus d[e] Hunecort.” Various writers since 1858 have employed “Vilars,” “Vilart,” “Villars,” “Villart,” “Villardt,” “Villard,” and “Wilars.” Omont (F.III) proposed that the correct name is “Vilars,” the modern equivalent of the medieval French being “Huillard.” My personal inclination, based on a comment by my colleague Meredith P. Lillich, is that if a man answered to “Wilars dehonecort ” he should not be called “Villard de [or of] Honnecourt.” But I have, with some misgiving, followed the most common practice and have used simply “Villard” or “Villard de Honnecourt.” However, all citations indicate the name used by the author of the study cited.

Villard in three places (fols. 1v, 9v, and 14v) terms his portfolio a “book” (livre) but nowhere gives it a title (see Barnes, 1987.3). Different authors have employed a great variety of designations, including “book,” “encyclopaedia,” “lodge book,” “model book,” “notebook,” “sketchbook,” “shop manual,” “textbook,” and “treatise,” to cite but the most commonly employed terms. In the recently-published Dictionary of Art, the portfolio is given at least six different designations: “notebook,” “pattern book,” “portfolio,” “sketchbook,” “textbook,” and livre de portraiture, a designated I’ve never encountered before.

The designation employed by any given author is his or her personal choice, as is the way Villard’s name is spelled; but this choice has an effect on the reader. These designations are neither neutral nor synonymous. The title employed usually indicates the purpose the author assigns to the portfolio. For Hahnloser the portfolio was a “lodge book” (Bauhüttenbuch). For Frankl, on the basis of Hahnloser’s interpretation, it was a textbook” (Lehrbuch).

The French most commonly refer to the portfolio as an album (“carnet de notes de voyage”) or as an album de croquis, which translates into English as “sketchbook.” More recently, an important French publication has used the term carnet, suggesting a less formal arrangement than album (see F.VIII). The designation most frequently employed by American and British writers is “sketchbook” (or “sketch book”), and appears to be interchangeable with the designation “notebook.” A number of writers refer to the portfolio as a “model book,” meaning that it provided or was intended to provide iconographic and/or stylistic models. Yet others employ “notebook,” “sketchbook,” and “model book” as synonyms.

In the first edition, I used the literal and non-inferential designation “manuscript.” However, the designation “manuscript” is inaccurate. While the production was hand-drawn and hand-written and thus a manuscript in a literal sense, it was not a formal book production such as a Book of Hours or an Evangelary. Detailed codicological examination of the cover and its contents (see Barnes and Shelby, 1988.1) proves that it is more accurate to term the assemblage of Villard’s drawings a “portfolio”—in the dual sense given in the American Heritage Dictionary: 1. a portable case for holding material, such as loose papers, photographs, or drawings; 2. the materials collected in such a case, especially when representative of a person’s work—than it is to term it a “manuscript.” The entries in this update reflect this realization.

What one terms the writing Villard (and others) added to certain of the drawings in the portfolio is likewise a decision based on one’s interpretation of the purpose of the portfolio and its drawings. Among the designations used by various authors are “addenda,” “captions,” “comments,” “descriptions,” “instructions,” “legends,” “notes,” and “text.” These are no more interchangeable than the various titles employed, since each has a specific connotation if not a precise definition. Villard’s writings in the portfolio are all addenda in the sense that they were added after the drawings were made. They also are variously comments, explanations, or instructions, depending on what they say.

When Villard notes (fol. 6r) “Of such manner was the sepulchre of a Saracen I saw one time,” he is simply identifying the subject of the drawing. When he says the same thing of a horologe (fol. 6v), he adds a written description of its various parts. When he draws a trebuchet (fol. 30r), his text is different. He gives specific dimensions—the only drawing in the portfolio for which he provides measurements—and he says, “If you wish to make the strong engine called a trebuchet, pay attention [to these instructions].” Thus Villard’s addenda had, as did his drawings, various purposes. Since the purpose of this bibliography is not primarily to explain either Villard’s drawings or his written addenda to them, I have employed the word “inscriptions” for his written comments in the literal sense of something “written in,” without attempting to suggest specific reasons for his having done so.

The final “judgment call” one has to make is what to call the surfaces containing the drawings and inscriptions. Villard himself refers to them as “leaves,” as one would expect of a medieval writer, although in one place he employs “leaf” in the modern sense to indicate not a single piece of parchment but “pages” in the sense of the front and back of a single leaf (see Barnes, 1987.1). Since the greater number of commentators on Villard knew the portfolio only through one or more of its facsimile editions, not having seen the original, they generally refer to “plates” as numbered in whatever edition(s) they consulted.

This is confusing since the different facsimile editions employ different numbering schemes, using both Arabic and Roman numerals and apply different numerical designations to the same original leaf. Some authors omitted one or more leaves or, in the case of Bowie (F.V), rearranged the sequence of the leaves. Certain of the earlier commentators correctly designated the leaves as “folios.” This is the system I have adopted. It is the standard means of designating leaves in medieval manuscripts and was the medieval method of doing so. There are now thirty-three leaves in the Villard portfolio, hence sixty-six different surfaces. Each leaf is given one number (1, 2, 3, etc.). The right or front (Latin: recto) surface of each folio is indicated by “fol.” plus a number plus the letter “r” (e.g., fol. 14r). The rear face of the same leaf is designated by the same number plus the addition of the letter v (Latin verso = back, rear) (e.g., fol. 14v).

Adopting this scheme for designating the different leaves of the portfolio has the advantage of historical precedent. It has the disadvantage of introducing yet another scheme of numbering for the leaves. However, the individualistic designations employed by various authors have resulted in chaotic cross-references. One cannot know from a given study if the author is employing “plate” to indicate his or her illustration, one of the facsimile plates, or a specific drawing by Villard. Moreover, the term “plate” has a misleading contemporary connotation that suggests to most people a full-page illustration. I use the term “figure” to indicate a given drawing by Villard on a specific folio. It is to be hoped that future commentators on the Villard portfolio will abjure all personal numbering schemes and employ the historic medieval scheme which is both simple and explicit.

In “Writings about Villard and His Drawings, 1666-Present” I have given the site name only of churches commonly associated with Villard, for example, “Reims,” not “Cathedral of Notre-Dame at Reims.” For full identification of the churches in question, see the “Appendix: Churches Attributed to Villard.”

Many colleagues, some now deceased, have called my attention to references I might otherwise have overlooked. I am especially grateful to the following for having provided materials otherwise inaccessible to me: László Gerevich (Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest), Gloria Gilmore-House (International Center of Medieval Art, The Cloisters), Jean Gimpel (Gimpel Fils, London), Peter Kurmann (Free University, Berlin), Walter C. Leedy (Cleveland State University), Stephen Murray (Columbia University), Lon R. Shelby (Southern Illinois University, Carbondale), Thomas Thieme (Chalmers School of Architecture, Göteborg), Harry B. Titus (Wake Forest University), and Jan van der Meulen (Cleveland State University). Professor Thieme rendered a special service by surveying Scandinavian literature on medieval art for references to Villard. Laszlo J. Hetenyi of Oakland University translated Hungarian items for me, and I was assisted with translations from German by Susan Piotrowaki of the University of Oklahoma and by Robert E. Simmons of Oakland University.

Since the appearance of the first edition a number of colleagues called to my attention items overlooked in 1982. I am grateful to them, most especially Dr. Robert W. Scheller of the Kunsthistorisch Instituut of the University of Amsterdam and George Szabo, former Curator of the Robert Lehman Collection at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. These additions are incorporated here under their appropriate years.

In the first edition I stated (p. 105) that the Villard portfolio had only been exhibited twice at the Bibliothèque nationale, and had never been loaned for exhibition elsewhere. Dr. François Avril, former Conservateur des Manuscrits Occidentaux at the Bibliothèque nationale, generously sent me a letter (18 June 1983) listing exhibitions of which I was unaware: Paris, Bibliothèque nationale: “Exposition du Moyen Age,” 1926, no. 23; London, Burlington House: “Exhibition of French Art,” 1932, no. 40e; Paris, Bibliothèque nationale: “Les manuscrits à peintures des Bibliothèques nationales et municipales ayant figuré à la ‘French Art Exhibition’ de Londres,” 1932, no. 11; Paris, Sainte-Chapelle: “Saint-Louis,” 1960, no. 142; Paris, Musée du Louvre: “Cathédrales,” 1962, no. 171. More recently, the portfolio was exhibited in Strasbourg (see Barnes, 1989.1).

Monsieur Avril also explained the circumstances in which Henry Adams saw the Villard portfolio ca. 1900. Beginning in 1878, the portfolio “a été exposé de façon permanante dans la Galerie Mazarine de la Bibliothèque nationale” along with other fine manuscripts (see 1878.1). I am very grateful to Monsieur Avril for having supplied this information.

My colleague, the late François Bucher, called to my attention a curious “pseudocopy” of the Villard portfolio made in the mid-nineteenth century by the architect William Burges, the first person to write in English on the Villard portfolio (see Burges, 1858.1). This object is now in the Library of the Royal Institute of Architects in London and consists of drawings on thirty-six sheets of vellum, drawings characterized by Professor Bucher in a letter of 16 September 1988 as “histrionic, full of mere convention divorced from patient observation of facts.”

The great majority of bibliographic items concerning Villard had to be secured through interlibrary loan from various institutions. Without the expertise and efforts of Ms. Linda Guyotte and Ms. Mary Wright of the Kresge Library at Oakland University, who tracked down and secured for me so many items for the first edition, this bibliography could not have been prepared. Since 1981 it has been easier to obtain interlibrary loan items directly by e-mail, but without the staff at Kresge Library, this revised edition could not have been completed.

The first edition of this bibliography was edited by Herbert L. Kessler of The Johns Hopkins University, to whom I remain most grateful. This revision was edited by me. Errors and omissions are thus my responsibility, not Professor Kessler’s.

I hope this updated edition of my Villard bibliography will prove useful to scholars. And I request, as I did in 1982.1, that anyone who uses it and knows of titles missed or other errors please contact me at


Carl F. Barnes, Jr.

Rochester Hills, Michigan

27 July 2009





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