Dürer lost in translation? German ‘Klartext’ and English translation of one page of Dürer’s handwritten manuscript for his 2nd edition of the Painters Manual.


The image below shows a word-by-word and line-by-line ‘translation’ of Dürer’s handwriting in clear text. In this text Dürer describes the use of his illustration of the ‘grid system’ as a drawing aid. Please find a discussion about this illustration here. Below the image is the English translation by Walter L. Strauss (The Painter’s Manual, 1977, pge 435). I matched the line sequence of the English translation with the one of Dürer’s manuscript to allow for an easier comparison of the two texts. Please click on the image to enlarge and read the German Klartext.

Translation of Dürer's handwriting into German 'Klartext' by Gilbert Riedelbauch

Translation of Dürer

(Ektachrome Signatur: 4 L.impr.c.n.mess. 119, http://www.bsb-muenchen.de)
Please find more details about this page in my earlier blog here.

Walter L. Strauss’ translation:

1. There is yet another method of copying an object and of
2. rendering it larger or smaller according to one’s wish, and
3. it is more practical than using a glass pane because it is
4. less restricted. In this method one uses a frame with a grid
5. of strong black thread. The spaces or quadrangles should
6. be about two fingers wide. For scanning,
7. one must prepare a pointer whose height should
8. be adjustable to be at eye level, which is
9. marked ‘o’. Then place the object to
10. be drawn a good distance away. Move it or bend
11. it as you like, and view it from
12. level ‘o’ to ascertain that it is in
13. the proper position, so as to please you. Then
14. place the grid or frame between the object and the pointer.
15. If you prefer to use fewer spaces of the grid,
16. move it closer to the object. Check how many spaces of the
17. grid will be utilized to accommodate the width and height
18. of the object and then draw a grid, large or small,
19. on which you wish to draw. Now begin to scan the object with your eye -point
20. o- placed above the pointer, and where it points on the grid in the frame, mark it
21. off on the grid on your sheet of paper. It will be good, and it will be
22. correct. But if you prefer to drill a small hole into your scanner,
23. it will serve the same purpose equally well. I have drawn
24. this method below.
notice on the margin (+ on a sheet of paper or a panel)

My thoughts about this text:
As I pointed out earlier here this text appeared in the second edition of Dürer’s painters manual together with a preliminary sketch for the woodcut ‘A draughtsman drawing a reclining woman’. This second and extended edition had 22 additional illustrations. It was commissioned in 1538 by his wife Agnes and printed by his friend Hieronymus Formschneyder ten years after Dürer’s death.
Several ‘inconsistencies’ appear when comparing Dürer’s manuscript with the final printed version. Firstly he makes references to the ‘eye-point’ marked ‘o’ in lines 9 and 12. He shows this point in his sketch, however in the printed version the text still shows the ‘o’ but the final printed illustration does not.
Secondly the ‘gender change’ in the illustration itself. Dürer drew a male model in front of the artist while the printed version shows a female model. This printed version has given rise to much discussion. Please see earlier blog about this print.

sketch by Albrecht Durer for the woodcut print draughts man drawing a reclining woman

Sketch 1525?

Duerer's 'Draughtsman drawing a reclining woman' as published 1538

Print 1538

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