About Digital Serlio


The Digital Serlio Project at Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library presents Avery’s unparalleled holdings of the published works of Sebastiano Serlio and On Domestic Architecture (Tutte l'opere d'architettura, Libro VI) his unpublished manuscript also held in Avery's collection. The Project is also an effort to facilitate active use of the collection in curricular and research activities, and to promote new scholarship; as such it brings together current research on Serlio’s works.

Sebastiano Serlio (1475 - c. 1554) was influential in canonizing the classical orders of architecture as the author of seven books on architecture, collectively known as Tutte l'opere d'architettura. Throughout its history, Avery has worked to acquire printed editions of Serlio’s works including most recently the first Spanish translation (Books III-IV, 1573) and the first English translation (Book VII, 1611), acquired by Avery in 2010. On Domestic Architecture wasn't published in Serlio's lifetime but survived in manuscript form including preparatory drawings and textual notes for his projected sixth book on architecture. Acquired by Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library in 1924, the manuscript is significant not only for its rarity, but the Libro VI is arguably the most impactful in his series as it defines the first typology of Western domestic architecture. Serlio's designs accommodate every strata of society from the poor to the emerging bourgeoisie to a palace for the King. His scheme for housing conceives a model for a new urban form -- the modern city -- based on an economic social construct. 

Noted architectural historian Myra Nan Rosenfeld, studying with Rudolf Wittkower, was first introduced to Avery’s Serlio manuscript in her masters-level coursework at Columbia University. Later, working with James S. Ackerman, the manuscript featured prominently in her dissertation at Harvard, The Hôtel de Cluny and the Sources of the French Renaissance Palace from 1350 to 1500. Rosenfeld continued to publish widely on Serlio and his work. Notably, in 1978, she published her research findings on Avery’s Serlio manuscript, Sebastiano Serlio on Domestic Architecture: different dwellings from the meanest hovel to the most ornate palace (Trustees of Columbia University, and the Architectural History Foundation, MIT, 1978). With introductions by Adolf K. Placzek and James S. Ackerman, Rosenfeld’s research places Serlio’s work in the context of his time, emphasizing the importance of his drawings and textual descriptions in the history of the architectural book, his impact on the development of an economically structured housing typology, and by extension on the urban form itself. Avery’s Serlio manuscript was reproduced in Rosenfeld’s seminal examination but, until now, the full corpus of Serlio editions and Avery’s Serlio manuscript have not been made available online in high-resolution, open and freely accessible to the research community.

Avery’s Serlio manuscript has continued to capture the interest and imaginations of generations of students in Columbia’s Department of Art History & Archaeology and the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP). But in 2010, Serlio’s work was the focus of Francesco Benelli’s graduate seminar, and Avery staff -- working with Professor Benelli throughout the semester -- witnessed the students’ engagement with these primary materials, inspiring Avery to create the Digital Serlio Project. Now, in the context of an evolving digital scholarship landscape, we have the opportunity to reinvigorate the scholarly tradition of leveraging contemporary methods – including visual and textual analysis using high resolution digital imaging – to re-examine Avery’s Serlio corpus and the questions it foments on domestic architecture of the 16th century and its impact on development of the modern city.

On the fortieth anniversary of publication of Rosenfeld’s book, we are pleased to release our first demonstration of renewed Serlio research based on the digitized Serlio corpus at Avery. Eleven invited scholars, each focusing on a new line of inquiry, are publishing their work here on the Digital Serlio Project website and presenting their findings at the Digital Serlio Symposium on October 19, 2018 at Columbia University.


From a technology perspective, the Digital Serlio Project was conceived as a single integrated point of discovery for Avery’s Serlio corpus and the project’s scholarly work products. In exploring potential development and presentation options, we quickly discovered that no one technical platform could meet the visual, textual, discovery and access needs of the materials. As a result, our team of librarians, technologists and scholars worked individually and collaboratively to produce the elements now collocated on the Digital Serlio Project website.

Our colleagues at the Getty Research Institute helped us in early days by hosting our Project in the Getty Scholars' Workspace™. The Workspace provided us with an online platform for experimentation particularly using its tool palette for translation and transcription, and preliminary development of the Serlio editions timeline.

Many colleagues across the Columbia University Libraries (CUL) were instrumental in the development and production of aspects of the Digital Serlio Project. The Original & Special Materials Cataloging staff worked with the Avery Classics team to catalog and produce item level metadata for both the printed editions and each leaf of the Serlio manuscript.

CUL’s Preservation & Digital Conversion Division worked with us to digitize each of our Serlio printed editions. These are now discoverable and freely available for research and teaching uses through the Columbia University Libraries online catalog, the Internet Archive, the Hathi Trust, and soon in the Getty Research Portal.

Avery’s Digital Imaging Studio produced the high resolution images of each drawing and textual leaf in our Serlio manuscript. Working with CUL’s Digital Library & Scholarly Technologies team we deployed our Digital Library Collections platform (DLC) to maximally present the manuscript online. The DLC feature set employs IIIFTM standard protocols for the display and use of high resolution digital images, which allows viewers to see the manuscript with incomparable clarity and to pan/zoom into the smallest details of each plate and textual element.

Carole Ann Fabian, Director (2009- 2018)
Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library
Director, Digital Serlio Project



The Digital Serlio Project is the result of a multi-year effort by a dedicated and talented project team and an international cohort of scholars and students, supported by institutional resource commitments as well as funding from the Samuel Freeman Charitable Trust and the Sidney J. Weinberg, Jr. Foundation.

We are grateful to all scholars, students and staff for their generous collaboration, inspired creativity, and ongoing commitment to the Digital Serlio Project.

Project Directors
Francesco Benelli, Alma Mater Studiorum, Università di Bologna
Carole Ann Fabian, Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University

Project team (principal): Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University
Teresa M. Harris, Lena A. Newman, Margaret Smithglass

Project team (technical): Columbia University Libraries
Ben Armintor, Roberta Blitz, Stephen Davis, Carole Ann Fabian, Violeta Ilik, Eric O’Hanlon, Margaret Smithglass

Metadata: Columbia University Libraries
Teresa Harris, Matthew Haugen, Lena Newman, Carol Pardo, Melanie Wacker

Digital Imaging: Columbia University Libraries
Janet Gertz, Emily Holmes, David Ortiz, Dwight Primiano

Technical advisory: Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles
Murtha Baca, Marissa Clifford, Nathaniel Deines, Emily Pugh, Joe Shubitowski

Scholarly Committee:
Francesco Benelli, Alma Mater Studiorum, Università di Bologna
Maria Beltramini, Università di Roma Torvergata
Sabine Frommel, École Pratique des Hautes Études,  Sorbonne, Paris
Teresa M. Harris, Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University
Sara Galletti, Duke University, Durham NC
Mauro Mussolin, New York University, Florence, Italy
Mark Rakatansky, GSAPP, Columbia University
Francesca Mattei, Politecnico of Milan

Research Assistants:
Chloe Demonet, École Pratique des Hautes Études, Sorbonne, Paris
Lorenzo Vigotti, PhD Candidate, Columbia University


The Digital Serlio Project is a collaborative effort of scholars and staff at the Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Department of Art History & Archaeology, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP), Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, and the Italian Academy (Columbia University); University of Bologna; and the Ecolé nationale des Chartes.

The Digital Serlio Project is directed by the Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library with digital photography and technical support by the Avery Digital Imaging Studio, the Columbia University Libraries’ Digital Library & Scholarly Technologies Division, and the Preservation & Digital Conversion Division.


LAST UPDATED: 19 October 2018