The Four Books of Architecture


Published in 1570, The Four Books of Architecture was an architectural treatise by Italian architect Andrea Palladio covering a broad range of topics influenced by the Greeks and Romans. It is often regarded as one of the most important, influential, and most studied architectural publications.

Apart from a brief preface, the treatise comprises four volumes called “books” and each contains succinct explanations and guidance on architectural design complemented by more than 200 plates of engravings illustrating the concepts and structures described.

    1. Book I. Building materials, techniques, five classical orders of columns, and staircases
    2. Plate 10
    3. Plate 19
    4. Plate 24
    5. Plate 33
    1. Book II. Private Italian, Greek, and Latin townhouses and country villas
    2. Plate 1
    3. Plate 18
    4. Plate 21
    5. Plate 52
    1. Book III. City planning (streets, stone street paving, bridges, piazzas, basilicas)
    2. Plate 1
    3. Plate 2
    4. Plates 9 and 10
    5. Plate 19
    1. Book IV. Ancient temples
    2. Plate 8
    3. Plate 8
    4. Plate 8
    5. Plate 8
Painted portrait of Andrea Palladio

Andrea Palladio (1508–1580)

Born Andrea di Pietro della Gondola, Palladio was the son of a miller and started his career as an apprentice stonecutter at the age of 13 and moved to Vicenza afterward. His career and name changed when he reached 30 and met the humanist and poet Gian Giorgio Trissino who hired him to design and build his villa. His architectural career officially began two years later and he made several trips to Rome to study its architecture. These trips led to him writing the first scholarly guide book to its monuments and churches (Le Antichità di Roma). Palladio had four sons and a daughter. He died in 1580 and was buried in the church of Santa Corona in Vicenza.

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  1. 1508 Born
  2. 1521–1527 Stonecutter apprenticeship
  3. 1534 Married
  4. 1540 Received title of architect
  5. 1541 First trip to Rome
  6. 1545 Second, trip to Rome
  7. 1546–1547 Third trip to Rome
  8. 1554 Published guide to Roman monuments and churches
  9. 1570 Published The Four Books of Architecture
  10. 1580 Died

Publication history

Palladio first published his treatise in 1570 as four volumes, or “books.” Subsequent editions were often released as one publication containing all books but occasionally only featured some or parts of a single book such as those that focus on the five orders of columns. Palladio’s work has been translated into English, French, Dutch, German, Spanish, and Chinese and released regularly up until 1800, at which point, few full editions were released until late into the 20th century. A few key editions stand out as milestones in its publication history.

  1. 1570 I qvattro libri dell’architettvra First edition, Italian View scans
  2. 1625 Libro primero de la architectura First Spanish translation of first book
  3. 1645 Traicté des cinq ordres d’architecture First French translation of the orders of columns View scans
  4. 1646 Verhandeling vande vijf orderen der bouw-konst First Dutch translation of the orders of columns View scans
  5. 1663 The First Book of Architecture First English edition of the first book View scans
  6. 1698 Die Baumeisterin Pallas, oder, Der in Teutschland erstandene Palladius First German translation of the first and second books View scans
  7. 1715 The Architecture of A. Palladio, in Four Books First edition with Leoni’s engravings View scans
  8. 1738 The Four Books of Architecture Most accurate English translation to date View scans
  9. 1965 The Four Books of Architecture First modern edition Borrow book
  10. 1997 The Four Books on Architecture Newest translation in 250 years Purchase book
  11. 2017 The Four Books of Architecture First Chinese edition Purchase book
  12. 2023 The Four Books of Architecture First digital edition Home page

Sources: Internet Archive, Architectura, Center for Palladian Studies in America

Digital edition

This site is a digital edition based on the third English edition by Isaac Ware from 1738—the first, most faithful English translation from the original Italian and accurate reproduction engravings. It was designed and built over the course of six weeks during November 2022 to January 2023.

Scans for the 200+ original illustrations were carefully restored from its scans and positioned alongside its respective text for ease of use. The restored illustrations have been released under the CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) public domain license and can be used freely without any restrictions.

Scan of 1738 book
Screenshot of chapter from digital edition

The design of the site and posters are copyright Nicholas Rougeux.

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Every effort has been made to create an accurate digital edition but errors can still slip through. Corrections are welcomed and they will be reviewed.

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