Durer’s Menschlicher Proportion

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Today’s showcase focuses on Albrecht Durer’s Hierinn sind begriffen vier Bucher von menschlicher Proportion, published in Nuremberg in 1528, a mere 70 or so years after Gutenburg’s invention of movable type in the city. It was published in the year of Durer’s death by his widow, as a memorium to the artist. It features the ‘AD’ woodcut monogram of Albrecht Durer on the title page. followed by 136 full-length woodcuts of human figures in proportion. 4 folding woodcut diagrams and numerous smaller woodcut diagrams in the text depict hands, arms and heads in closer detail. The book is printed in Gothic type, often in double columns.

Dürer held that the essence of true form was the primary mathematical figure (e.g., straight line, circle, curve, conic section) constructed arithmetically or geometrically, and made beautiful by the application of a canon of proportion. However, he was also convinced that beauty of form was a relative and not an absolute quality; thus the purpose of his system of anthropometry was to provide the artist with the means to delineate, on the basis of sheer measurement, all possible types of human figures. The first two books of Dürer’s work deal with the proper proportions of fat, medium and thin adult figures, as well as those of infants. The third book discusses the changing of proportions according to mathematical rules, applying these rules to both figures and faces. The fourth book treats of the movement of bodies in space, and is of the greatest mathematical interest, as it presents, for the first time, many new, intricate and difficult considerations of descriptive spatial geometry.

It is the oldest, and possibly rarest book, held by us.

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