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Putting Art in its Place: the “Modern System of the Arts” in Bibliographies and Bibliothecae

Mettre l’art à sa place : le « système moderne des arts » dans les bibliographies et les Bibliothecae
Cecilia Hurley
p. 87-110


The desire to gather, organize and classify knowledge has long manifested itself. In a library the books are arranged on the shelves in order to facilitate their retrieval. Similarly, in the large catalogues of books and bibliographies compiled over the centuries (“libraries without walls”), references are organised alphabetically or thematically (or using a combination of both). This article attempts to identify and examine the position of the arts within the major bibliographical systems, bibliographies and bibliothecae that have been published since the mid-sixteenth century. It therefore asks which arts were included, and questions how far we can identify a “modern system of the arts”. It also identifies the disciplines with which the arts were most frequently identified and connected (mechanical arts, sciences, literature and poetry). Careful reading and analysis of the bibliographies also raises related questions concerning the readership of artistic literature.

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Testo integrale

1In the preface to his Bibliotheca realis universalis (Lipen, 1685), the German pedagogue and bibliographer, specialist in theology and philosophy, Martin Lipen offered an elegant and succinct survey of the various meanings of the term bibliotheca when it appeared in book titles. It could, he explained, refer to a bookshop or a book auction (the Bibliotheca Cordesiana), to an institution (public or private) in which books were kept and read, to a printed collection of shorter works (Voellius’s Bibliotheca juris canonici) or to a collection of excerpts (for example Photius’ Bibliotheca or Myriobiblion). Having excluded these possibilities, Lipen informed his reader that he had employed the word bibliotheca to designate a catalogue of books whose entries would consist of the author’s name, the book’s title, its place and date of publication and its format. In other words, he proposed a bibliography. Furthermore, he stated, this was a bibliotheca realis as opposed to a bibliotheca nominalis because the references were here organized alphabetically by subject and not by author’s name. Lipen was not innovative either in his use of the term bibliotheca or in his decision to organize references thematically, since more than one century earlier, the Swiss theologian and natural historian Conrad Gesner had published a Bibliotheca universalis which he had then completed with the Pandectae, in which the references were arranged by subject (Gesner, 1545 and 1548; Balsamo, 1984; Serrai, Sabba, 2005). Lipen does however, by means of his brief survey of the various meanings of bibliotheca, encourage us to ponder the status of bibliography.

2The idea of an encyclopaedic, exhaustive library, assembling all humanity’s literary and intellectual endeavours has haunted human imagination since the time of the great Ptolemaic institution in Alexandria (Vandendorpe, 1999; Tous les savoirs…, 1996; Baratin, Jacob, 1996). In the absence of an actual collection of books, other solutions are conceivable, in the form of “Libraries without walls” (Chartier, 1993; Werle, 2007). These virtual libraries, vast catalogues or lists of all the books ever published, offered the illusion of the “infinite universe of all the texts ever written” (Chartier, 1993). As such they are reminiscent of the utopian vision proposed by Borges and his imagined “Library [which] contained all books” (Borges, [1941] 2000). The bibliotheca in its role as a non-place in which references to books could be assembled, thus offering access to all the knowledge of the world in a circumscribed and even (relatively) portable fashion, could be universal or select (Zedelmaier, 1992), national or international, restricted to one subject or one field of learning: bibliographies of bibliographies and bibliothecae reveal the rich variety of these compilations (Labbe, 1664; Petzholdt, 1866; Taylor, 1955; Besterman, 1980). Our understanding of the semantic richness of the word bibliotheca has been broadened as a result of the attention recently paid by scholars to Renaissance and early modern concepts of space and its perception, and more particularly to the visualization of architectural space as a metaphor for a variety of intellectual activities and endeavours (Findlen, 2001; Galison, Thompson, 1999; Felfe, Wagner, 2010).

Art history and books

3Art historians differ little from their colleagues in other subjects in the humanities, the social sciences or literature: books represent an essential tool on which we rely in order to ply our trade. This comment should by no means be taken as an attempt to minimize our reliance on other sources, such as the works of art themselves, nor to debate the relative merits of visual and textual sources, essential as that debate may be for our discipline (Schlosser, 1924; Schlosser, [1924] 1984; Tietze, 1913; Wood, 2013; Elkins, 2000). Increasingly, over the past decades, books, and more particularly art books, have not been merely an instrument for our research, but have often become the object of our research. Forty years ago, a pioneering exhibition at the Bodleian Library presented a series of printed books offering engravings after Italian paintings with a thought-provoking introductory essay (Art and its Images…, 1975). Some years later it was the difficulties associated with the production of books of this kind, more particularly the Recueil Crozat, that were highlighted (Haskell, 1987). The role that this and other printed illustrated books played in the emergence of art history as a discipline has also been examined (Vermeulen, 2010). In parallel, there have been innumerable studies of important writings, landmarks in art-historical thought, and also re-editions and translations of major texts with lengthy, scholarly introductions and copious scientific apparatuses. This research has no doubt led to increased awareness of the importance of the book, of the vagaries of its production and dissemination.

4When seeking information on these and all the other publications in our field and in related fields one can visit a specialized bookshop, leaf through publishers’ catalogues, peruse the shelves in the library, consult the catalogues and meta-catalogues (both printed and computerized) or turn to a bibliography or database (again both printed and computerized). Many of these instruments were already familiar to our forebears – with the obvious exception of the computerized versions – as was also the lament that we hear all too often, concerning the fact that it is too difficult to master all of the information available (Blair, 2010; Waquet, 2015; Chatelain, 2009). Bibliographies – including the bibliothecae – were one of the answers to this fear of too much information. By assembling, recording, and organizing information, bibliographers attempted to ensure against loss and to offer an accurate, comprehensive, and also comprehensible record of the intellectual productions available (Bruni, Pettegree, 2016; Goulemot, 1996). However, these often massive and imposing collections of material should not be considered as a natural phenomenon but as an artificial construction; they are shaped by a series of choices concerning the range of material to be included, the chronological limits to be established, and the organizational structure to be imposed (Petrucci, [1995] 1997). To these deliberate gestures should also be added some fortuitous elements, especially the accessibility (or otherwise) of texts at different times in history. We may often be lulled into the impression that bibliography is a perfect science, marred by no flaw, but this is far from being the case. It is a reflection not only of the textual production known or readily available to a bibliographer, but also of the intellectual world and scholarly circles within which that compiler moved and in whose tradition he had been working.

Putting art in its place

5A study of these bibliographical systems – and of the place that the arts occupied within them – should thus permit another glimpse into the history of our discipline. Given the limits of an essay, this survey can be little more than a preliminary sketch of the way in which the visual arts have been taken into account in a number of selected bibliographical systems, and the questions that this raises. Seeing how art was “put in its place” implies seeing not only how the arts were organized and articulated, but also how they were inserted into a wider framework – that of human knowledge (Tous les savoirs…, 1996; Kelley, Popkin, 1991; Santinello, 1979; Werle, 2007). The bibliothecae – manifestations of “libraries without walls” – will be at the heart of this study, which will also draw upon the evidence that can be gleaned from other documents, such as classification systems – the skeletons, so to speak, of bibliographies – or trade and book-fair catalogues, library and sale catalogues, and specialized art bibliographies. These documents offer vital comparative material concerning how the “system of the arts” functioned in a wider context. Emphasis will be laid not just on the “headings” – the various classes, divisions, and sub-divisions that are to be found in the bibliographies – but also on their contents – the books that are listed under each heading. This should permit an understanding of the contours of art as delineated by the early bibliographers and classifiers.

6Before beginning this rapid survey, we should ask what exactly we mean by art. In a seminal essay published almost seventy years ago, the concept of the “modern system of the arts” was analysed, and its historical development – from antiquity to the late eighteenth century – studied by drawing on a vast array of authors and texts, and with considerable emphasis on the eighteenth century and its theoretical contribution (Kristeller, 1951-1952). Research since has largely confirmed and expanded Kristeller’s findings (Shiner, 2001; Mattick, 2003; Bourdieu, 1979 and 1992; Farago, 1991). Few have really revised or opposed his fundamental thesis and proofs (Porter, 2009). Kristeller identified five main arts: painting, sculpture, architecture, music and poetry, and felt that certain other art forms could from time to time be added, namely, “gardening, engraving and the decorative arts, the dance and the theatre, sometimes the opera, and finally eloquence and prose literature.” He opened his study by stating that the eighteenth century was widely recognized as a particularly important period in terms of art criticism and aesthetics; his hypothesis was that a “system of the arts”, representing an area or domain of human activities distinct from others, also first took shape fully during this same period. In order to prove his theory, he proposed a survey of the history of the “systematic grouping of the arts” from Plato and Aristotle to Kant. He therefore examined ancient attitudes to the arts, the exclusion of the visual arts from the seven liberal arts (and hence from the trivium and the quadrivium during the Middle Ages), the recognition of seven mechanical arts during the twelfth century, the changes made to the trivium and the quadrivium by the Renaissance studia humanitatis (although not to the extent of incorporating the visual arts), the increasing tendency to link the visual arts with the mathematical sciences and with literature throughout the Renaissance, the emancipation of the sciences and thus their separation from the arts during the seventeenth century, and then the full flowering of a system of the arts during the eighteenth century.

7Throughout the present survey of the arts and the bibliothecae, the five main arts as identified by Kristeller will be referred to. It will however become increasingly evident that within the field of bibliography this is far from representing a “system”. In fact, the five arts are rarely grouped together within the same class in a bibliography or bibliotheca – which still proved to be the case even as late as the beginning of the twentieth century. It will also become clear that the main stages identified by Kristeller in the development of a system of the arts are not quite as easily discerned and distinguished when we take into account texts from other domains, more particularly the bibliographical classifications and the bibliothecae. The visual or fine arts found themselves in varied company over the decades and centuries: sometimes with the mechanical arts, sometimes with one of the liberal arts – arithmetic or poetry; at times they were even omitted entirely. The reasons are multiple, and we here attempt to sketch out some of the principal causes and factors.

8Over recent decades, art bibliography has been the subject of a number of studies: a bibliography of the genre (Besterman, 1971), a discussion of art bibliographies and the cataloguing of the graphic arts (Cochetti, 1997), a study of early art bibliographies (Steinitz, 1972) and a lengthy and detailed historical survey tracing their development from the late fifteenth to the early nineteenth centuries offering an interesting and valuable contextualization (Sorensen, 1986). This last work will be frequently drawn upon here, as will the results offered in the monumental survey of bibliography published recently, a veritable summa which covers the entire field (Serrai, 1988-2001). One striking fact emerges from these surveys and studies, namely that art and art history were relative latecomers into the bibliographical arena. The arts do not figure to any meaningful extent in a bibliographical classification or catalogue before the mid-sixteenth century. If the earliest independent bibliography in art is generally identified as being the one added by Raphaël Trichet du Fresne to his Italian edition of Leonardo da Vinci’s Trattato in 1651, it is nonetheless true that this was merely a list of thirty-five titles included in a book (Vinci, 1651; Sorensen, 1986; Steinitz, 1972). More than one century later, in 1788, Angelo Comolli published his bibliography including architecture and the subordinate arts (Comolli, 1788-1794; Sorensen, 1986). Ten years earlier, a very lengthy art bibliography had appeared as the twelfth section of Christian Friedrich Prange’s introduction to the arts (Prange, 1778). The first autonomous art bibliography covering all of the visual arts was published in 1821; it was in effect the catalogue of a private library, owned by Leopoldo Cicognara (Cicognara, 1821; Sorensen, 1986). Later in the same century, the union catalogue co-ordinated by the South Kensington museum appeared (Universal Catalogue…, 1870; Supplementary…, 1877; Watson, 2001; Hurley, 2008a). Almost at the same time, Ernest Vinet was compiling his work (Vinet, 1873 and 1874; Hurley, 2008a). This stands in stark contrast to, for example, philosophical, theological, and medical bibliography that can all trace their roots back to the sixteenth century (Petzholdt, 1866; Jasenas, 1973; Fulton, 1951; Brodman, 1954).

Contested affinities: the arts between mathematics and poetry

9Despite this rather late coming-of-age, the arts were not entirely absent from the great bibliographical endeavours of the past. When Conrad Gesner published his Bibliotheca in 1545, a few titles on the arts featured among the twelve thousand references by more than five thousand ancient and modern authors patiently assembled and presented (according to the medieval tradition) in alphabetical order, by the author’s first name rather than surname (Gesner, 1545; Leu, 2016a). Three years later, no doubt in an attempt to render consultation of his work slightly less laborious, Gesner proposed a second volume of his bibliography; here the same material was organized thematically into twenty-one books (libri), which were in turn divided into sections (tituli) (Gesner, 1548; Leu, 2016b). Gesner’s work was in many ways remarkable and pioneering, and has earned him the sobriquet “Father of bibliography” (Bay, 1916); certainly bibliographies and classifications had existed before his time (Nebbiai, 1989; Besterman, 1935; Taylor, 1945; Serrai, Saba, 2005), but the scope of Gesner’s work and the innovations he introduced do set his efforts in the field apart from those of his predecessors.

10While Gesner’s classification was clearly inspired by the trivium and quadrivium, it went far beyond it, incorporating not only the university subjects of law, theology, medicine and philosophy but also the results of other intellectual debates and conquests over the preceding centuries (Le Goff, [1957] 2014). Earlier classifications, particularly those of the later Middle Ages, and essentially those developed for use by private individuals or in university contexts, had already integrated many of the “new” subjects into their classificatory frameworks (Nebbiai, 1989), although the arts, crafts and allied trades and techniques did not seem to find a place. In this context, and doubtless inspired by the ideas of Hugh of St. Victor, an early-twelfth-century scholastic theologian who had in his Didascalicon, a guide to the essential studies for all good Christians, included the seven liberal arts and alongside them the seven mechanical arts (hunting, commerce, agriculture, medicine, theatrics, wool-making, and architecture), Gesner devoted his thirteenth book to the non-verbal, mechanical, and useful arts (De diversis artibus illiteratis, mechanicis et aliis humanae vitae utilibus) (Panti, 2011). Architecture, painting, and sculpture all found a place here, represented by the most important texts of antiquity and of the author’s own time (Daly Davis, 1989; Gesner, [1548] 2007): Vitruvius (in several editions), Diego de Sagredo, Leon Battista Alberti, Sebastiano Serlio, Raffaelo Maffei, Albrecht Dürer, Procopius for architecture and Dürer, Alberti, Angelo Decembrio, Perspectiva (an anonymous treatise published in Frankfurt in 1546) and Heinrich Vogtherr for painting. Gesner also included references to the most relevant passages in some of the large reference works – Pliny, Tzetzes, Caelius Rhodiginus (Lodovico Ricchieri). As promised in the title, Gesner preferred works written in the classical languages, although he did take into account works written in vernacular languages that he felt to be significant contributions (Serlio and De Sagredo). But the readers who wished to find all the references to books related to art in the Bibliotheca needed to arm themselves with patience and considerable powers of detection, consulting various other sections of the classification such as optics (for books on perspective), history and antiquity (Philostratus, archaeology)... (Gesner, [1548] 2007). Gesner considered that both poetry and music, on the other hand, should each be afforded their own, individual book (four and eight).

11The struggle by humanists and artists alike to ensure greater recognition for the visual arts alongside the liberal arts, and to confer a more exalted status upon the practitioners of those arts is well documented (Kristeller, 1951-1952; Farago, 1991; Puttfarken, 2005; Hénin, 2003; Kemp, 1990; Field, 1997; Shiner, 2001). The attempts by scholars, authors and artists as varied as Alberti, Leonardo, Baldassare Castiglione, Giovanni Paolo Lomazzo and Giorgio Vasari to ennoble the visual arts generally centred on their affinities with two of the liberal arts, namely arithmetic (because of the importance of perspective) or poetry (relying on Horace’s ut pictura poesis). In this context, Gesner’s position would seem to mark a regression for the visual arts: they were not, as Italian Renaissance artists and humanists would have wished, allied with intellectual pursuits but relegated to the mechanical arts. But in fact the situation is rather more complicated than it would at first appear. For in the section on optics, Gesner informed the reader that he had decided not to include painting and sculpture alongside the science of perspective but rather with the non-literate arts. His reasoning is striking: this is not because the arts themselves are per se mechanical, but because their practitioners – the artists – are more likely to be uneducated than educated. This may reflect northern prejudices about art and its lowly status, known for example through Dürer’s infamous complaint (Barker, Webb, Woods, 1999). Gesner’s decision to insert this comment in the optics section, part of the geometry book, does however suggest that in his view if the visual arts were to seek advancement, they would win it because of their connection with the mathematical disciplines rather than poetry.

12The next bibliotheca to appear adopted the opposite view. For in 1593 the Italian Jesuit scholar Antonio Possevino published his Bibliotheca selecta, an attempt to select from the rapidly expanding field of human learning only what was deemed edifying and useful for good and moral Catholic readers in post-Tridentine Europe (Possevino, 1593; Balsamo, 2006; Zedelmaier, 1992). In this large treatise, one chapter was devoted to the arts of poetry and painting (including sculpture); it was then to appear separately the next year (Possevino, 1594). Possevino thus offered in his bibliographical treatise an endorsement of the theorists’ discussion of the affinities between painting and poetry, a lengthy exegesis on Horace’s famous dictum ut pictura poesis (Lee, [1940, 1967] 1991). Music and architecture on the other hand were incorporated by Possevino into the chapter on mathematics. As has been shown, the number of authors cited is limited (Dekoninck, 2009). Alongside Plato, Aristotle, Vitruvius, Pliny and Philostratus are to be found Pierre Grégoire, Julius Cesar Scaliger, Dürer, Pomponius Gauricus, Giovanni Battista Armenini, Bartolomeo Ammannati, Gregorio Comanini, Giovanni Andrea Gilio and Gabriele Paleotti. These authors – the ancients and the moderns alike – had all written texts which the Catholic Church could cite in support of its Counter-reformation artistic doctrine; the last five mentioned had actually been involved in redefining art and its role after the Council of Trent (Dekoninck, 2009; Bonfait, 1994; Prodi, 2012).

13Gesner sided with Leonardo; Possevino with Lomazzo. But the arts were not always to be afforded this privileged position on the fringes of the artes liberales. In the final decade of the sixteenth century the director of the Vatican library and press, Bishop Angelo Rocca, published his account of the recently constructed Vatican library. Rocca penned a lengthy and detailed description of the sumptuous iconographic program displayed on the walls of the library’s rooms, recently characterized as an excellent example of “text and image” (Frascarelli, 2012a and 2012b). He had participated in the preliminary planning of this cycle, which was intended to show the importance of the visual arts for the Catholic Church and the use to which they could be put. He had to this end collaborated closely with the cycle’s main architect, Silvio Antoniano, an advocate of the use that could be made of images in education (Antoniano, 1584; Patrizi, 2010). Nonetheless, the power of images, the dense web of literary and erudite references created on the walls of the library did not, apparently, instil any great respect for the arts and their practitioners into Rocca. In his strictly hierarchical organization of a library into ten classes, painting, sculpture and architecture feature in the eighth class – mechanical arts – in the company of warfare, agriculture, hunting, wildfowling and fishing. Admittedly, Vasari’s three arti del disegno are at last united in one class, but Rocca consigned them to the mechanical and not the liberal arts (Rocca, 1591), below music (in the third class, mathematics) or poetry (in the sixth and seventh classes, in company with the classical languages). Unlike Gesner, he neither apologized for this decision nor attempted to offer any affiliation between the visual arts and one of the liberal arts.

Early seventeenth-century reticences

14Bibliographical practice and theory had not necessarily always been very receptive and welcoming to humanist theories of the visual arts. The seventeenth century was not to bring much relief. Throughout this period, attempts to organize human knowledge were common, bibliographical catalogues and treatises multiplied, and some important innovations were to see the light of day; within the main classificatory systems the visual arts were, however, to remain largely marginal. This in turn raises the question of the arts’ relative position: is their marginal position in the classification systems merely motivated by bibliographers’ disdain for these “illiberal” arts, or does it reflect a reality, namely that texts on the arts were not particularly well-known or widely disseminated at this time?

15As has been shown by Kristeller, the visual arts remained closely tied to the sciences in Francis Bacon’s Advancement of learning, although the English polymath glossed over them rather quickly (Kristeller, 1951-1952; Bacon, 1605; [1605] 2000; 1620 and [1620] 2004). Christofle de Savigny omitted them entirely from his ornate trees of knowledge first published in 1587 (Savigny, 1587). Much the same can be said of Gabriel Naudé, librarian first to the cardinal Barberini and then to the cardinal Mazarin, both important patrons of the arts. He claimed in his Advis – a guide to the perfect library for a gentleman – that all arts and sciences should find a place in a library, backing his assertion by reference to Angelo Poliziano’s all-encompassing scheme of knowledge, the 1490 Panepistemon (Poliziano, 1491; Juřen, 1975). Poliziano had indeed included the visual arts within a section called mechanical arts (in turn part of philosophy). But Naudé made no mention of either the visual or the mechanical arts in his scheme, which was based on the model of the university faculties and divided knowledge between seven classes: theology, medicine, law, history, philosophy, mathematics, humanities (Naudé, 1627 and [1627] 2008). Frustratingly, Naudé suggested few titles to illustrate his distribution of books into the various classes. One document which does offer some possible clues is the sale catalogue of Jean de Cordes’s library, generally attributed to Naudé himself. Here there are very few texts on the arts, and far from being assembled in one group they are scattered across a number of classes; the treatises by Gauricus and Franciscus Junius are placed in the literature class, architectural treatises come under the heading of philosophy and mathematics, whereas Vasari’s Vite feature in the section on lives of famous men (Cordes, 1643). Only four years after Naudé’s Advis appeared, Francisco de Araoz published in Madrid a text on the ideal library for a gentleman. Fifteen classes are here proposed. Poetry occupies the fifth class, and in the following class, mathematics, are to be found books on music, perspective, painting and the mechanical arts (Araoz, 1631; Géal, 1999). Araoz offered no precise references to the books that should be included here, and proposed only vague indications of a certain number of authors (Araoz, [1631] 1997).

The circulation of knowledge: libraries and book fairs

16Certainly recent studies would seem to suggest that there were relatively few texts on the visual arts in private libraries during this period (Chatelain, 2003). They may have featured on the bookshelves from time to time, but their number was limited, and they could often be classed with texts on philosophy and mathematics, the lives of great men or – more rarely – literature, much as was the case in the Cordes library. The situation evolved gradually over the course of the century, and it is likely that a close examination of private library catalogues and sale catalogues would reveal increased ownership of these texts during the second half of the seventeenth and the early decades of the eighteenth century. A number of reasons for this can be adduced, and they have been studied over the past decades. As Kristeller pointed out in his study of the “system of the arts”, academies were being established (Pevsner, [1940] 2014; Boschloo, 1989; Goldstein, 1996). In parallel, aided by stability and economic growth, the art market was blossoming (Trentmann, 2012; Montias, 1996; De Marchi, Van Miegroet, 2006). New markets opened up, collecting and connoisseurship became more important (Pears, 1988; MacGregor, 2007; Michel, 2014; Kenny, 2004; Griener, 2010). It is surely telling, for instance, that the arts were excluded from the plans for and indeed from the first edition of the French Academy’s dictionary (published in 1694 after sixty years of planning), but this was quickly to be remedied by the publication of Thomas Corneille’s dictionary in the same year (Dictionnaire…, 1694; Corneille, 1694; Considine, 2014). André Félibien had already led the way when publishing his dictionary of art terms in France, and Filippo Baldinucci’s Vocabolario had also appeared (Félibien, 1676; Baldinucci, 1681; Germann, 1997).

17Despite this increased interest in the arts and a steady number of publications destined for both practitioners and more particularly laymen, bibliographers and theorists still seemed reluctant to accord much attention to the visual arts. When Claude Clément, a French Jesuit, wrote his treatise on libraries, he made no mention of the visual arts (Clément, 1635; Rovelstad, 2000). Once again this omission may surprise us since Clément was all too aware of the power of images: he actually developed a plan for a pictorial catalogue – a series of emblems to be placed around the library which would guide the reader around the shelves (Rovelstad, 1991). Likewise, thirty years later, Johann Heinrich Hottinger, the Zurich theologian and professor of Oriental languages who was also a passionate and talented bibliographer, published a treatise on bibliographical problems in which he emphasized the primordial role of the classification system in the organization and development of a library (Hottinger, 1664; Loop, 2013). But in this treatise, the arts of painting, sculpture and architecture were not included in the five classes of knowledge as defined by Hottinger (theology, philology, law, medicine, philosophy), or their subdivisions. Music, however, was included in the section devoted to mathematics in the philosophy class, and poetry in philology.

18Book historians and intellectual historians have long emphasized the importance of trade catalogues and more particularly the book-fair catalogues for estimating book production and for evaluating the distribution and circulation of texts and ideas (Taylor, 1945; Wittmann, 1991). In the Frankfurt book-fair catalogues for the late decades of the sixteenth and the early decades of the seventeenth century, the books are not listed alphabetically, but appear under a number of rubrics: generally, “Lutheran theology”, “Catholic theology”, “Reformed theology”, “Law”, “Medicine (and chemistry)”, “History, philosophy and the other humanities”, “Music”. This is also the case with the cumulative editions of these catalogues (Cless, 1602; Draud, 1611). When books on painting, sculpture, architecture and the various mechanical arts were on sale, they were included in the rather indiscriminate class “History, philosophy and other humanities”. In 1625, in the second of his cumulative editions of the Frankfurt book-fair catalogues, the bibliographer, pastor, and former proofreader, Georg Draud, offered a more detailed classification, maintaining the main classes and within them offering a myriad of sub-headings. In the philosophy class we thus find sections on painting and engraving, sculpture, perspective, emblems, optics, physiognomy, architecture and Delineatoria ars. Poetry and Music, on the other hand, each have their own class (Draud, 1625). There are, however, disappointingly few titles under each of the above-mentioned art headings, with for example only six titles for “painting”, including Dürer, Alberti and Jost Amman. Similar results are also obtained from a study of the later catalogues, extending well into the eighteenth century. However, before accusing Draud and his colleagues of deliberately minimizing the place of the arts, we must exercise caution. The conclusions that can be drawn from these catalogues can only ever be partial. The catalogues may have been an essential tool for seventeenth-century scholars and book-lovers, but their relevance for the market in art books at that same period must be questioned. In part this must be because, despite the importance of the fairs, Italian publishers and booksellers throughout the sixteenth and even into the early decades of the seventeenth centuries hesitated to bring too many vernacular books (Nuovo, 2003). The rise of the vernacular tradition and the gradual decline of the Latin text may have encouraged many publishers to modify their practices mid-seventeenth-century – although, as has been shown, the rise of the vernacular and the decline of Latin were by no means entirely simultaneous, and the two literary traditions co-existed for several decades; Latin texts still represented two thirds of the books on sale at Frankfurt in 1650 (Burke, 2004; Maclean, 2012). Furthermore, close examination of their inventories suggests that many sixteenth-century publishers tended to privilege law, philosophical, and ecclesiastical or religious texts when preparing their wares for the Frankfurt fair (Nuovo, 2003; Maclean, 2009 and 2012). The relevance of this type of market for the art book during both the Renaissance and the early decades of the early modern period must be called into question and other possible channels of distribution investigated. In this context, recent work carried out on agents and their role in selling art – and related merchandise – is interesting (Keblusek, 2004; Cools, Keblusek, Noldus, 2006; Keblusek, Noldus, 2011).

Art, mathematics, and philosophy

19On the occasions when the visual arts did feature in classificatory systems or bibliographies during the later decades of the seventeenth century, they were generally associated with mathematics and thereby integrated into the philosophy class. This would seem surprising given on the one hand Kristeller’s insistence on the emancipation of the natural sciences and the increasing separation between arts and sciences during the closing decades of the seventeenth century (Kristeller, 1951-1952), and on the other the importance which art history has accorded to the close links between painting and poetry, exemplified by the ut pictura poesis paradigm (Lee, [1940, 1967] 1991). The affiliation with mathematics and philosophy can, for example, be observed in the Leibnizian Idea leibnitiana bibliothecae publicae, probably elaborated circa 1693 (Leibniz, 1718). In his slightly earlier Entwurf for a library, in which he offered a list of appropriate titles for a princely intellectual library, the philosopher indicated three books on perspective, four on art, nine on architecture, and one general work, Félibien’s Principes. Music featured in the same class as the visual arts; poetry in literature. Leibniz also cited an impressive number of titles of books on numismatics and antiquity in the history class (Leibniz (1689), 1954).

20During the same years, Martin Lipen was working on a large-scale bibliography, published in four parts: law, medicine, philosophy, and theology. Lipen was determined to offer a bibliography arranged by subject rather than by author’s name, and he therefore exploited a system very similar to the one employed by Draud some fifty years earlier. Once he had established his lengthy list of subject headings, he set about organizing the thousands of bibliographical references that he had assembled. The visual arts are mainly to be found in the Bibliotheca philosophica (Lipen, 1682), encompassing more than forty thousand references, and covering languages, antiquity, history, philology, poetics, rhetoric, etc., or, as Lipen indicated, polymathia or pansophia. Polymathia, which had been theorized at the beginning of the seventeenth century (Wowern, 1603; Deitz, 1995), was understood as a “general science”, a branch of human knowledge that encompassed all the liberal arts (Grafton, 1985; Westerhoff, 2001). Lipen’s classification remained fairly rudimentary, since there was no attempt to regroup the various branches of the visual arts into one coherent whole, or to understand how these arts and their constituent parts function together as a system. It was, however, a remarkably erudite enterprise, and it is interesting – particularly in the light of the other libraries, bibliographies and systems examined above – to observe quite how many and how varied are the references to artistic literature that he included. Under the heading Pictura: pictorial ars, he listed sixty-six titles, in French, German, Latin, Italian and Dutch. Handbooks for artists, books of models, treatises on practical and theoretical elements of painting, historical texts, and biographies are all found here. Lipen began with collective works, or works whose author he had not been able to identify – the Conférences de l’Académie royale (1669), the Descriptions de divers ouvrages (1671), the Ars pictoria (1672) – before proposing a list of the others in alphabetical order, by author. Many of the names are familiar: Amman (six works), Armenini, Giovanni Baglione, Francesco Domenico Bisagno, Michelangelo Biondo, Vincenzo Borghini, Abraham Bosse (two works), Carlo Dati, Roland Fréart, Samuel Hoogstraten, Carel Van Mander, Carlo Ridolfi, Lomazzo, and Federico Zuccari. But much less well-known works such as Jules César Boulenger’s 1627 treatise, Joseph Boillot’s 1604 Neu Termis-Buch, Gabriel Krammer’s handbook published in Prague in 1602 are also to be found here. Under the heading “sculpture”, Lipen proposed ten titles, and for “engraving” only two. For “perspective” he identified thirty-eight works, whereas for “architecture” he found ninety-five and for “antiquities and archaeology” eighty-six. There are also books related to the arts in the sections entitled “Icones, imagines et effigies”, “Emblemata” and “Musaeum”. For works on anatomy the reader has to turn to the bibliography of books on medicine (Lipen, 1679), and for the cult of images and the use of images, to the theology bibliography – somewhat misleadingly entitled the Bibliotheca universalis (Lipen, 1685). Lipen’s work must count as the first significant bibliographical contribution to art history, while at the same time offering a highly eloquent illustration of the problem that we face when studying the place of the arts in the early modern bibliographies and classification systems; there exists a considerable difference between our comprehension of art bibliographies and that of the early modern bibliographers. This results in part from a different understanding of the system of the arts, but also – and more significantly – from very different opinions concerning the nature of the books to be included.

Early art bibliographies and the problems of readership

21These differences become more evident when we start examining the first art “bibliographies”, published as lists in art books. The earliest example of an independent list of this type occurs in Trichet du Fresne’s 1651 Italian edition of Leonardo da Vinci’s Trattato (Vinci, 1651); it was followed soon after by a similar list in Luigi Scaramuccia’s Finezze (Scaramuccia, 1674). Trichet du Fresne offered a list of thirty-five works; Scaramuccia forty. These bibliographies have been studied in considerable detail (Sorensen, 1986; Steinitz, 1972; Białostocki, 1988). In the context of an inquiry concerning the place of art in bibliographical systems they are important for three main reasons. First, the two lists betray a wish to ensure a wide linguistic range. Italian texts are in the majority, but there are also two texts in German (Amman and Valentin Boltz), one in French (Bosse), one in Dutch (Van Mander) and even one in English (Henry Peacham’s Complete Gentleman). This last work was by no means an art-historical text, containing only thirty-four pages on art, its practice, its theory and its history, but it was the only text in English at that time incorporating some, albeit rudimentary, details on art (Ogden, Ogden, 1947; Hurley, 2011a). Second, they reveal differing attitudes towards the organization of this type of list. Trichet preferred a thematic grouping. The practical and theoretical texts are at the head of the list, followed by biographies, and historical and topographical works come at the end. Scaramuccia opted for a straightforward chronological order. This formal difference has been attributed to the fact that the two works were aimed at different readerships (Sorensen, 1986). This in turn leads to the third point since it raises the question of whether we can identify an author’s readers, albeit implicit readers (Germer, 1997). Studies of the sociology of readers and work on reading practice have tended to hesitate between two main positions (Kalifa, 2005). Earlier work identified strong fault lines between what were sometimes identified as high and low reading cultures, savant and popular texts (Mandrou, 1964; Bakhtine, [1965] 1970). More recently this distinction has been called into question and the focus placed on the way in which texts were read and appropriated rather than by whom (Chartier, 1986 and [1995] 1997).

22The bibliographies do in fact raise questions concerning readership, the possible identification of multiple audiences, and also the appropriation of texts by various individuals and groups, more particularly laymen and practitioners. These questions are in turn important for our comprehension of the arts’ integration into larger, less specialized systems. Trichet’s bibliography stood apart, as an independent list, in the book; earlier texts had already offered guides to recommended reading, but these simple lists were found in the main body of the text (Armenini, 1586; Lomazzo, 1590; Białostocki, 1988). Armenini offered two series of texts, one of the Libri che son connessi con la Pittura, where he enumerated Vitruvius, Serlio, Alberti, and Daniele Barbaro. The other, longer list was of Libri necessarii al Pittore. Here are to be found works that could offer the artist inspiration (or inventio), a selection of classical authors, sacred texts, contemporary literary texts. Lomazzo followed the same path, proposing a section on Scrittori diversi di pittura, and citing – among others – Alberti, Gauricus, Andreas Vesalius, Vignola, Dürer, Sebald Beham, Vasari, Antonio Francesco Doni, Lodovico Dolce, Biondo, Paolo Pino, and Benedetto Varchi. Lomazzo’s second list, on Libri necessarii ai pittori is, by comparison, highly deceptive, amounting to no more than a list of disciplines with which the artist must familiarize himself: holy texts, mathematics, poetry, hieroglyphics, history, architecture, anatomy, and many other sciences and arts. Trichet’s bibliography is entitled an Indice de gli altri libri che trattano della pittura e del disegno, comme ancora di quelli dove sono descritte le vite de’ pittori e le opera loro. Scaramuccia’s main list of forty books is entitled Catalogo degl’autori c’hanno scritto di Pittura. But he did not stop there. In a second list, this time incorporated into the main body of the text, he presented the names of a number of important authors, mainly from antiquity, but also some sacred, historical and literary texts. This list is designated Quali i libri più necessarii per gl’elevati pittori (Białostocki, 1988). The same phenomenon can be observed in Orlandi’s Abecedario (Orlandi, 1704), where a number of lists of books are appended to the main dictionary. The first is of books on painting, drawing, and sculpture, the second of books on architecture. Thereupon follows a list entitled De libri servibili, necessarii ed utili ai pittori e scultori. Here, under a series of headings such as anatomy, costumes, capriccios, mythology, bible, ancient history are a number of important works. Orlandi then concluded this list by saying that some of the works in the first bibliography might also be important for artists, indicating fifteen of them, including Dürer, Charles-Alphonse Dufresnoy, Bosse and Armenini.

23These various examples – Armenini, Lomazzo, Scaramuccia, and Orlandi – do raise several interesting questions concerning readership and the use made of texts on art. When Orlandi offered two different lists is it because he envisaged two distinct readerships, one of laymen and one of practitioners? Is it because he wished to inform non-specialists of the artists’ approach to creation? One striking fact does become clear after a careful examination of the bibliographies and more especially the bibliographical theories and bibliothecae: the books which Armenini, Orlandi, Lomazzo and Scaramuccia identified as essential reading for artists are never included alongside books on the visual arts in the general classification systems. They do feature, but elsewhere – in the literature, history, science, or theology classes. We are left with the impression of two distinct bodies of texts – one aimed at laymen and the other at practitioners. The main classification systems do not seem to have sketched out the contours of an art world that could associate practical knowledge and historical or theoretical expertise and judgement. It was to be another century before these “auxiliary sciences” were at last to take their place alongside art books; the first steps were in any case taken in the specialized art bibliographies and not in the more general classifications or bibliographies.

24These bibliographies and their alternative lists also cast some light on a question that has interested art historians over recent decades, namely the artist as reader. Which books were artists reading, and how were they reading them? If we are forced to concede that the artist did not correspond entirely to the image of a doctus artifex, we can still question the use made by the artist of the various titles quoted by Armenini, Scaramuccia, Lomazzo, Orlandi and others. We can also analyse the evidence available in various archives and inventories (Białostocki, 1988; Ames-Lewis, 2000; Golahny, 2003; Damm, Thimann, Zittel, 2013). Of equal significance, clearly, is to understand the importance of texts in academic teaching, and the weight that the academies accorded or not to their collections and libraries (Pevsner, [1940] 2014; Boschloo, 1989; Goldstein, 1996). The evidence available from, for example, the Parisian Conferences can add some useful information (Lichtenstein, Michel, 2006-2015), although we should maybe not imagine that the entire artistic community shared the apparent lack of interest in or disdain for textual sources expressed by those who participated in the infamous discussion in 1653 in the Paris Academy (Cojannot-Le Blanc, 1997). Comparisons can also be drawn with the use and the possession of books by architects and – by extrapolation – by the academies of architecture, although Białostocki observed that architects tended to possess larger and better-stocked libraries (Giumanini, 1995; Schöller 1992; Medvedkova, 2009; Leniaud, Bouvier, 2002; Hurley, 2008b; 2011b and 2012).

The Parisian booksellers’ system: sciences and arts on an equal footing

25By the turn of the eighteenth century, the union between mathematics and the visual arts (and thus philosophy) in the main classificatory systems was becoming commonplace. When the Jesuit Jean Garnier, who was the librarian at the Collège de Clermont, published his proposal for a bibliographical scheme in 1678, he organized all human knowledge into four main classes – theology, philosophy, history and jurisprudence (Garnier, 1678). By dint of dividing and subdividing these classes he managed to create four hundred and sixty-one separate subdivisions. The second division in the philosophy class was mathematics; the fourteenth and fifteenth subdivisions of mathematics were for music and musical instruments, the eighteenth was for painting, the nineteenth for sculpture and the twenty-second to twenty-fifth for architecture. Poetry occupied the sixth division.

26The simplicity of this system allied with its admirable flexibility ensured that it was to remain in favour for many decades. It was to undergo two significant modifications at the beginning of the eighteenth century, at the hands of booksellers and essentially for the purposes of sale catalogues that they were producing. Prosper Marchand modified the order of the classes, placing law before philosophy, and also split philosophy into two sections, philosophy and humaniores literae, thus separating poetry from the other arts (Marchand, 1706; Berkvens-Stevelinck, 1978). Marchand placed the books on the arts at the very end of the mathematics section, which was in turn the last section in the philosophy class. Five years later, Gabriel Martin then renamed philosophy sciences et arts when preparing the Bibliotheca Bultelliana (Martin, 1711). The classification that Martin established came to be known as the système des libraires de Paris (Portes, 2011). It was described at length in the article “catalogue” in the Encyclopédie (Diderot, d’Alembert, 1751-1780). Martin’s system of knowledge was organized around five classes: theology, law, sciences and arts, literature and history. Within his third class there were four groups, namely philosophy, medicine, mathematics, and the arts. These last were in turn organized in seven divisions: the arts of memory; writing, printing, and hieroglyphics; painting, drawing, sculpture, and engraving; architecture; warfare; mechanical arts; gymnastics, equitation, and games. Music, however, was left in the mathematics class, and poetry was classed with literature. As had so often been the case in the past, this was a fragmented view of the literature on or relating to art. The lives of the artists were placed with other biographies at the end of history; the works of Ovid were to be found in poetry, Vincenzo Cartari in antiquities and Vesalius in medicine.

27The longevity of this system becomes quite clear when we consider that almost one hundred and sixty years later, in the fifth edition of his Manuel du libraire, Jacques-Charles Brunet was still largely faithful to it (Brunet, [1810] 1860-1865; Stoddard, 2007). Certainly he had not left the system exactly as he had inherited it, but had made some important modifications. In the very first edition of his Manuel (Brunet, 1810), he presented a new version of the class sciences et arts. He divided this into two main groups, sciences on the one hand and arts et métiers on the other. Within this second group, the fine arts occupied the second division, after mnemonics but before arts et métiers and sports. This was the system that Brunet followed until 1842 when he published the fourth edition. Here the groups have been abolished, and sciences et arts is composed of one continuous sequence of nine divisions (Brunet, [1810] 1842-1844). Philosophy and the natural sciences and mathematics occupy the first divisions, followed by the fine arts, the arts et métiers, and sport. The fine arts have here at last been liberated from their subordination to the arts et métiers, a very important step taken by Brunet. The fine arts as he defined them include drawing, painting, sculpture, engraving, architecture, and music. The next (and final) edition of his magnum opus once again proved his modernity, since he had rapidly assimilated the new art of photography into the category of the fine arts (Brunet, [1810] 1860-1865; Rouillé, 1982; Kemp, Amelunxen, [1839-1912] 1980).

28In one respect, nonetheless, Brunet proved to be resolutely opposed to change. As late as 1860, the reader who wished to find information on the biographies of artists had to turn to the biography section at the end of history (Brunet, [1810] 1860-1865). The same reader who wanted information on anatomical treatises used by artists needed to turn to the medical sciences section, and would find most of the books on iconology and emblems in the literature section. Brunet’s reaction was all the more surprising, given that important bibliographies published in Germany, France and England had already decided to integrate the “ancillary disciplines” into art bibliographies; the earliest steps in this direction had in fact been taken almost exactly one century before Brunet’s last edition of his Manuel.

The growth of art bibliography and the recognition of the ancillary disciplines

29Throughout the closing decades of the eighteenth and the opening decades of the nineteenth century important work had been done in art bibliography in Germany, Italy, and England. Probably the most important feature of all these bibliographies is their inclusion of the “ancillary disciplines”. In 1770, Christophe Théophile von Murr published his Bibliothèque (Murr, 1770). This two-volume work offers a wide-ranging survey of the arts of painting, sculpture and engraving – architecture is excluded, as are music and poetry – organized in twenty-five chapters. The wealth of references offered by Von Murr is impressive, as is his decision to include the works that, as we have seen, may have been included in reading lists for artists, but were not traditionally placed alongside the theoretical and practical treatises on the fine arts in the large bibliographical systems. Von Murr thus devotes a chapter to anatomy, and one to mythology, costume, and allegory. Eight years later, Christian Friedrich Prange published a two-volume theoretical, practical and historical treatise on art (Prange, 1778; Dilly, 2005). The twelfth chapter constituted a lengthy bibliography: seventy-seven pages containing over eight hundred references. The bibliography is organized into five sections – general works, works dealing with one art, historical descriptions and accounts, the history of the arts and “manuals for artists in ancillary disciplines”. Here the reader finds works on sacred and profane history, mythology, emblems, numismatics, perspective, and science. A few years later, in Rome, Angelo Comolli published his four-volume architectural bibliography (Comolli, 1788-1794; Sorensen, 1986). Here the first two volumes are devoted to general works on the fine arts, to the history and theory of the fine arts, and to artists’ lives. In the third volume Comolli includes works that are relevant to architectural practice, on law, literature, perspective, mathematics, history, philosophy, music, medicine, astrology, and mechanics. It is only, as he admits himself, in the fourth and final volume that he actually discusses architectural books.

30Many of these bibliographies were of course being produced and published during a period that was marked by significant contributions to art theory and history, most especially Johann Georg Sulzer’s epochal article (adapted from his Allgemeine Theorie) on the fine arts (Sulzer, 1772; Deloche, Décultot, 2005). What is interesting in these works is their great modernity – their insistence on opening up the field of the arts to include mention of the allied or ancillary disciplines – combined with methods that are decidedly conservative. Both Von Murr and Comolli (Prange managed to resist the temptation) produced bibliographies which remain rooted in the scholarly enterprises associated with historia literaria (Grunert, Vollhardt, 2007): they added copious notes, judgements, lengthy descriptions, discussions of the relative merits of a work, and – especially in the case of Von Murr – anecdotes on artists and on works of art. The boundaries between the bibliography and the art lover or connoisseur’s personal textual instrumentarium are here blurred, to such an extent that the work can become difficult to use as a bibliography (Griener, 2004).

31That the battle had not been won, despite the work carried out by, on the one side, the Parisian booksellers and, on the other, the authors such as Prange, Von Murr and Comolli, becomes clear when we turn to the weighty and important treatise on bibliography published in Vienna by Johann Nepomuk Cosmas Michael Denis in 1777 (Denis, 1777-1778); a second edition appeared twenty years later. Denis organised a library into seven classes – theology, jurisprudence, philosophy, medicine, mathematics, history, and philology. Poetry is in the last-named class, while the other arts are all to be found in the fifth class – mathematics. Here, architecture stands alone, in a division entitled “Baukunst”. Music however is placed at the end of the section on Acoustics, and painting and sculpture at the end of Optics. Almost two hundred and fifty years after Gesner, the visual arts are still subordinated to perspective and optics. Furthermore, Denis’s understanding of the arts offers a frustrating mix of conservatism and modernism. Much as had Prange and Von Murr, Denis included a wide range of texts in his list of books on the visual arts – treatises, manuals, dictionaries are all to be found here, as are museum catalogues and travel accounts. But, faithful to the sixteenth and seventeenth-century bibliothecae, he still consigned the lives of artists to the biography section in the history class, works on antiquities and antiquarianism to archaeology (in the philology class), mythology and fables to literature, and anatomy to anthropology. Interestingly, Denis made no mention of the relatively new science of aesthetics in his 1777 edition; it was not until 1795 that he indicated that art’s “soul” (Geist) is dealt with under the heading “Aesthetics”, to be found in “Literature – Criticism”, citing a wide range of texts including those by Alexander Baumgarten, Longinus, Henry Home, Charles Batteux, August Wilhelm Schlegel, Alexander Gerard, Jean-Pierre de Crousaz, Yves-Marie André, and Immanuel Kant (Denis, [1777-1778] 1795-1796).

The nineteenth-century bibliographical systems

32It was not until the early nineteenth century that the fragmentary bibliographical tradition at last gave way to a more all-embracing approach. In 1812, Johann Samuel Ersch published the first volumes of his bibliography of German books from the mid-eighteenth century until his time (Ersch, 1814; Sorensen, 1986; Hurley, 2008a). The seventh part of this vast undertaking was devoted to the fine arts. Ersch offered a system of arts that was far wider than that presented by any of his predecessors: drawing, painting, engraving, sculpture, engraved stones, architecture, gardens, poetry, rhetoric and literature, and music. Ersch also integrated into the body of artistic literature works that in earlier bibliographies had been assigned to other classes. Thus he included aesthetics, artistic biography, archaeology, perspective, travel accounts, and anatomy. In order to accommodate this wide range of subjects and genres, he applied a huge and highly intricate multi-branched classification system, multiplying the classes, the divisions, the sections, and the subsections, which he indicated by means of a complex annotation, employing numbers, parentheses, upper and lower case letters, single and double letters, and even Greek letters. The major drawback of this bibliography becomes clear at a glance. Ersch opted for an octavo format: the small pages render it impossible to do justice to such a complicated classification with so many branches. The reader rapidly loses his way in what seems more like a labyrinth than a logical organization of art books. It was an ambitious classification, and one that was not to win many admirers. The next important art bibliography – which was in effect the catalogue of a private library – was in some ways very different from Ersch’s. Leopoldo Cicognara opted for a much simpler system (Sorensen, 1986; Cicognara, 1821; Fehl, 1999; Steindl, 2014) whereby he organized almost five thousand bibliographical references into only forty-two classes. Cicognara also believed that the “ancillary” subjects should be integrated into his collection and thus his catalogue; on the other hand, the only works on music and literature found here are closely related to the visual arts.

33But what remained of the dream of exhaustiveness, of a “library without walls” that could encompass all literature on art and, better still, organize it rationally? In 1864, Henry Cole, director of the South Kensington Museum, suggested that a universal catalogue should be made of all books on art that had appeared in any language (Bonython, Burton, 2003; Hurley, 2008a; Watson, 2001). The team working on the project pored over both printed and manuscript catalogues of all the big private and public collections in the United Kingdom and in Europe; foreign scholars were questioned and a public consultation launched via the national press. Ninety-five thousand references were assembled and the editorial team published in 1870, in one long alphabetical sequence, a bibliotheca nominalis. The project was vastly ambitious and further volumes were planned – including one with the books organized by subject – but apart from one supplementary volume published seven years later, the other planned works unfortunately never came to pass.

34The classification scheme that could have been used to sort and organize all these references but was sadly wanting in the British project was nonetheless being elaborated in Paris at the same time. Ernest Vinet, an archaeologist who was engaged on building up the library at the École des Beaux-Arts, published not only the library’s catalogue, but also a scheme for a classification of the literature on the fine arts (Vinet, 1873 and 1874; Hurley, 2008a). Vinet’s premature death in 1878 effectively brought the project to an end after only two parts had been issued, the second of which did nevertheless contain a six-page plan of his classificatory structure. Most of the previous century’s conquests are integrated into this plan: the “ancillary” disciplines are present, and so too are the artists’ lives. The arts are defined as drawing, architecture, sculpture, painting, engraving, lithography, photography, and – more surprisingly, but a result of the International Exhibitions and of increasing industrialization – the industrial arts (furniture, ceramics, tapestry, gold and silverware). Poetry and music are thus excluded, gardening is however included.

35While Vinet was working on his art classification, a new universal classification scheme encompassing all human knowledge was being drawn up by a librarian working at Amherst College Library, Melvil Dewey. Dewey divided human knowledge into ten classes, among which is to be found one class for the “Useful arts” (class 600) and one for the “Fine arts” (700) (Dewey, 1876). The fine arts had at long last been awarded the long coveted prize of occupying a class of their own in a bibliographic system. Vasari’s arti del disegno are here accompanied by gardening, drawing, engraving, photography, music and amusements. Poetry finds a place in the next class, Literature (class 800). Many of the ancillary disciplines – such as anatomy, numismatics, iconography – feature in the fine arts class; others, albeit ostensibly closely related, such as emblems and symbolism, mythology and fable, are placed in other classes. Artistic biography is to be found with other biographies in the history class, the final class of the series.

36Putting art in its place proves to have been a lengthy and often contradictory process. The status of the arts in early bibliographies and classification systems was, as this rapid survey indicates, far from stable. Moreover, from the bibliographical (or the classificatory) point of view it is anything but easy to identify a “system of the arts”, or even a straightforward and linear emancipation of the arts, allowing them to exist as an autonomous field of study. Vasari’s three arti del disegno were not always grouped together in one class or cluster of knowledge – architecture was often separated from painting, sculpture, and the allied arts of drawing and engraving. As for poetry and music, they were rarely classed with the visual arts, even in the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century bibliographies; Ersch represents the one notable exception to this rule. It is equally difficult to identify one subject or class of knowledge with which the visual arts were always or even most usually associated. From time to time – and even for relatively lengthy periods – the arts were overlooked and omitted entirely. When they were included, they found themselves allied with various other disciplines, generally the mathematical sciences, more rarely poetry and the mechanical arts. Intellectual skirmishes of this type were sometimes won, but this was no guarantee that the conquests were permanent; the visual arts could be “ennobled” in one classificatory system, only to see themselves relegated to a less exalted position some years later. Most striking of all, perhaps, in this respect, is that well into the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries the visual arts were far more often associated with the mathematical subjects than with poetry; this in turn raises the question of to what extent the ut pictura poesis paradigm had been fully appreciated and assimilated outside the domain of art theory and artistic writings. None of this negates or contradicts directly the conclusions reached in earlier studies on the position of the arts, most notably those by Kristeller and Lee. What it does do, however, is to add an interesting complement to those studies. The system of the arts as defined and expressed by a determined, maybe sometimes apologetic, art literature is very different from the various systems of arts that feature in large-scale bibliographies, bibliographical classifications or bibliothecae. Furthermore, close analysis of the bibliothecae and of the titles that they include hint at the considerable gap that at times existed between two art worlds and two bodies of artistic literature, one consulted by scholars and connoisseurs, the other by the artists themselves. Many of the titles familiar to and used by the artists – if we are to believe authors such as Orlandi and Armenini – do not feature in the universal bibliographies under the heading “art”. If they are to be found, it is in many distinct classes, and much skill, luck and patience are required to locate them. The contours of art were less clearly defined and often shifting in the early bibliothecae – and it was not until the nineteenth century that, under the impact of Sulzer’s vision of art as a system, they began to be mapped out more clearly and more permanently.

Inizio pagina


– Ames-Lewis, 2000: Francis Ames-Lewis, The Intellectual Life of the Renaissance Artist, New Haven, 2000.

– Antoniano, 1584: Silvio Antoniano, Tre libri dell’educatione Christiana de i Figlivoli, Verona, 1584.

– Araoz, 1631: Francisco de Araoz, De bene disponenda bibliotheca... opusculum, etc., Madrid, 1631.

– Araoz, (1631) 1997: Francisco de Araoz, El ingenioso bibliólogo don Francisco de Araoz: De bene disponenda bibliotheca, Matriti 1613, José Solís de los Santos & Klaus Wagner (eds.), Seville, 1997.

– Armenini, 1586: Giovanni Battista Armenini, De’ veri precetti della pittura... libri tre, Ravenna, 1586.

– Art and its Images…, 1975: Art and its Images: an Exhibition of Printed Books Containing Engraved Illustrations After Italian Painting, Christopher Lloyd (ed.), exh. cat. (Oxford, Bodleian Library, 1975), Oxford, 1975.

– Bacon, 1605: Francis Bacon, The two Bookes of Francis Bacon: of the Proficience and Advancement of Learning, Divine and Humane, London, 1605.

– Bacon, 1620: Francis Bacon, Instauratio magna: Sive Novum organum, libri I, II, et Parasceve, ad historiam naturalem et experimentalem, London, 1620.

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– Bakhtine, (1965) 1970: Mikhail Mikhailovitch Bakhtine, L’Œuvre de François Rabelais et la culture populaire au Moyen Âge et sous la Renaissance (Moscow, 1965), Andrée Robel (trad. fra.), Paris, 1970.

– Baldinucci, 1681: Filippo Baldinucci, Vocabolario toscano dell’arte del disegno, nel quale si esplicano i propri termini e voci, non solo della pittura, scultura & architettura, ma ancora di altre arti a quelle subordinate, e che abbiano per fondamento il disegno, Florence, 1681.

– Balsamo, 1984: Luigi Balsamo, La bibliografia: storia di una tradizione, Florence, 1984.

– Balsamo, 2006: Luigi Balsamo, Antonio Possevino S.I. bibliografo della Controriforma e diffusione della sua opera in area anglicana, Florence, 2006.

– Baratin, Jacob, 1996: Marc Baratin, Christian Jacob (eds.), Le pouvoir des bibliothèques : la mémoire des livres en Occident, symposium acts (Paris, Bibliothèque de France, 1993), Paris, 1996.

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Per citare questo articolo

Riferimento cartaceo

Cecilia Hurley, « Putting Art in its Place: the “Modern System of the Arts” in Bibliographies and Bibliothecae », Perspective, 2 | 2016, 87-110.

Riferimento elettronico

Cecilia Hurley, « Putting Art in its Place: the “Modern System of the Arts” in Bibliographies and Bibliothecae », Perspective [Online], 2 | 2016, Messo online il 30 giugno 2017, consultato il 18 agosto 2017. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/perspective.6858

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Cecilia Hurley

Cecilia Hurley teaches museology and the history of museography at the École du Louvre and art history at the University of Neuchâtel. She is currently completing a book on masterpiece rooms in European museums during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and preparing a study on Maximilien de Meuron.

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