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James Ackerman has called Palladio "the most imitated architect of all time." What made him attractive was partly his sense of beauty in building, of course. But at least as important was his ability to give clear and ordered exposition to the principles by which that beauty could be achieved, and the certainty he provided his readers that those principles derived from the best classical authorities. If the essence of the Humanist project was revivification of the Greco-Roman classical traditions for practical use in European thought and action, then perhaps Palladio represents Humanism's triumph. He treated materials (wood, stone, sand, foundations, and walls). He explained the architectural orders, which can be thought of as essential markers of form analogous to those writers used when they adopted classical literary genres. Palaces, villas, bridges, civic buildings, temples, and Christian churches: Palladio codified and illustrated them all in clear, straightforward, practical language, using his own as well as classical works as exemplary. Nowadays, this is an elementary principle in management of self-promotion. It proved as successful for him as it has remained. Palladio's published works provided essential illustrations: they included a plan and elevation for each building, some axial cross-sections, and individual details, particularly the different orders; figures to indicate different proportions; and a scale providing absolute dimensions. Earlier architectural books, even if organized in more or less similar fashion, seldom combined such clarity of textual exposition with so high a level of visual clarity.
Andrea Palladio, 1508-1580. I quattro libri dell’ architettura, ne’ quali dopň un breue trattato de’ cinque ordini & di quelli auertimenti, che fone pui necessar˙ nell fabricare; si tratta delle, case private, delle vie, de i ponti, delle piazze, de i xisli et de tempy. Venetia, Appresso Dominico de’ Franceschi, 1570. FAL 728.84 P177.3.