Leon Battista Alberti
1404-1472 AD Italy
Latin (Renaissance Era)
Ad Johannem Franciscum Illustrissimum
[To Johan Francois, the Most Illustrious Prince of Mantua]
Hos de pictura libros, princeps illustrissime, dono ad te deferri iussi
[Most distinguished prince, I ordered these books on the subject of painting to be passed down to you as gift,]
quod intelligebam te maximum in modum his ingenuis artibus delectari,
[since I used to know that you loved the clever arts like these to the greatest degree]
quibus quidem quantum ingenio et industria luminis et doctrinae attulerim ex libris ipsis, cum eos per otium legeris, intelliges.
[about which things you appreciate the amount of skill and hard work I brought to my field of study from these same books, since you read them in your times of leisure.]
Etenim cum ita pacatam et bene tua virtute constitutam civitatem habeas
[And really, since you have so peace a city, and one that has been well established by your qualities,]
ut otium tibi quod a republica vacans litterarum studiis tua pro consuetudine tribuas interdum non desit,
[my goal is that your leisure, which you, no longer at the commonwealth's disposal, bequeath to the study of literature, out of your own habit, might be available at times,]
futurum spero ut pro tua solita humanitate, qua non minus quam armorum gloria litterarumque peritia caeteros omnes principes longe exuperas,
[I hope it will turn out that you will by far surpass all the rest of our leaders, on account of your characteristic sense of humanity, and no less from his fame in battle and mastery in writing,]
libros nostros minime negligendos ducas.
[I shall take it that my books will least of all be treated with neglect.]
Nam esse eos eiusmodi intelliges
[You see, you understand that these are such a type]
ut quae in illis tractentur
[that whatever things are dealt with in them,]
cum arte ipsa auribus eruditis digna tum rei novitate facile delectare studiosos queant.
[and both the skill itself, worthy of learned ears, and also by the uniqueness of the subject, they can bring pleasure to studious people.]
Sed de libris hactenus.
[But enough about my books.]
Mores meos doctrinamque si qua est et omnem vitam tum maxime poteris cognoscere
[If there is any way you could understand my habits and training, and the entire life of my past most of all,]
cum dederis operam ut possim,
[when you were concerned about what I could do,]
prout mea fert voluntas, apud te esse.
[accordingly is my intention to bring my work to your house.]
Denique putabo tibi opus non displicuisse
[And finally I will think that this work of art will not have caused you displeasure]
ubi me tibi deditissimum voles annumerare inter familiares tuos et non in postremis commendatum habere.
[when you wish for me, who is most dependent upon you, to count among your own family members, and to not possess any excuses for approval in posterity.]
1. De pictura his brevissimis commentariis conscripturi,
[On the topic of painting, I will soon or later writing in full using the very shortest commentaries I can manage]
quo clarior sit nostra oratio,
[through which my dictation might appear clearer]
a mathematicis ea primum,
quae ad rem pertinere videbuntur, accipiemus.
[first shall I receive these things by the perspective of mathematics, and these things will rightly seem to the pertain to the subject.]
Quibus quidem cognitis, quoad ingenium suppeditabit,
[Indeed from these areas, sofar as my ability can provide the support]
picturam ab ipsis naturae principiis exponemus.
[I shall teach how painting is derived from the very rudiments of nature.]
Sed in omni nostra oratione spectari illud vehementer peto non me
[But I now earnestly ask that in the entirety of my discourse, I not be mistaken]
[as a mathematician]
sed veluti pictorem hisce de rebus loqui.
[but that I converse about these affairs in the role of a painter.]
Illi enim solo ingenio, omni seiuncta materia, species et formas rerum metiuntur.
[You see, those are the types of men qualified to measure the appearances and shapes of things with their unique expertise, when all material is abstracted from itself.]
Nos vero, quod sub aspectu rem positam esse volumus,
[And truly, for our part, because we wish for this matter to be settled under the auspice of sight,]
pinguiore idcirco, ut aiunt, Minerva scribendo utemur.
[therefore find need to write a more fertile Minerva, as the expression goes.]