Leon Battista Alberti’s “Delineation of the City of Rome”


123 pp.
6 x 9 in

ISBN: 086698383X

Around the end of the fifth decade of the fifteenth century Leon Battista Alberti surveyed and drew a plan of Rome.  He then wrote a brief Latin text, titled Descriptio urbis Romae, where he explains that after drawing a plan of Rome, he had concocted (’excogitatus’) an original method whereby every scholar, even of indifferent talent (’mediocri ingenio praeditus’), would be able to redraw an exact copy of his original map. Instead of Alberti’s drawing, the book contains a list of names of places and numbers.  These are the polar coordinates of 175 locations in the city.  Alberti explains how, using those numbers, and an instrument which today we would call a plotter, all readers are expected to draw their copies of the map.


Center for Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies


With Francesco Furlan. Leon Battista Alberti’s “Delineation of the City of Rome” (“Descriptio Vrbis Romæ”).  Edited by Mario Carpo and Francesco Furlan. Critical edition by Jean-Yves Boriaud and Francesco Furlan.  English translation by Peter Hicks. Tempe, AZ: Center for Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, 2007

Publication History: earlier versions in Carpo, “Descriptio urbis Romae. Ekphrasis geografica e cultura visuale all’alba della rivoluzione tipografica,” Albertiana 1 (1998): 111-132; Mario Carpo and Martine Furno, Leon Battista Alberti : “Descriptio Urbis Romae.” édition critique, traduction et commentaire (Geneva: Droz, 2000). See also Carpo, “The Early Modern Renaissance of Digital Images: Alberti, Ptolemy, and a Map of Rome,” in Ptolemy’s Geography in the Renaissance, (London: The Warburg Institute, 2011), 81-90