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La Perspective Curieuse Du Reverend P. Niceron Minime Divisée En Quatre Livres. Avec L'Optique Et La Catoptrique du R.P. Mersenne du mesme Ordre, mise en lumiere aprés la mort de l'Autheur. OEuvre Tres-Utile Aux Peintres, Architectes, Sculpteurs, Graveurs, & à tous autres qui se meslent du Dessein.

Jean François Niceron

RA Collection: Book

Record number



Variant Title

Optique Et La Catoptrique


A Paris,: Chez Iean Du Puis, ruë Sainct Iacques, à la Couronne d'or., M. DC. LXIII. Avec Privilege Du Roy. (MDCLXXIX)

Physical Description

[12], 191, [1], [12], 134 p., add. engr. t.-pl., port., add. engr. t.-pl., 50 pl. (1 dble. and fold.): illus.; 361 mm. (Quarto).

General Note

Plate 44 is double and folding.


[Half-title, add. engr. t.-pl., t.-p.] - Table Des Propositions Contenues Aux Quatre Livres De La Perspective Curieuse - Permission Des Superieurs; Approbation Des Theologiens De L'Ordre; Extraict Du Privilege Du Roy - [Port.] - Preface. Au Lecteur - [Text of 'La Perspective Curieuse'] - Advertissement - [Add. engr. t.-pl., t.-p.] - Advertissement De L'Imprimeur Au Lecteur - Table Des Propositions Contenues Aux Deux Livres Suivans - [Text of 'L'Optique Et La Catoptrique'] - [Plates].

Responsibility Note

Most plates do not carry a draughtsman's signature, but six are signed as drawn by I.F. Niceron (23, 27, 29, 44, 49, 50). Three are signed as engraved by I. Blanchin (3, 18, 43). The added engraved title-plate, used twice, is signed as engraved by Daret. The plates do not carry a publisher's imprint; but the added engraved title-plate carries at its second appearance the imprint of the widow of F. Langlois, 1652, and on its first appearance that of A. Dezallier, 1679.


National Gallery (Washington), Mark J. Millard Architectural, I (1993), no. 124 (1663 edition), p.367-9; M. Kemp, The science of art (1990), p. 129-131, 210-11; J. Baltrusaitis, Anamorphic art (1977).

Summary Note

This issue of Niceron's book carries the date 1679 and the imprint of Anthoine Dezallier on its added engraved title-plate. But the publisher reprints the 1663 title page carrying the imprint of Jean Du Puis. Both the present and the 1663 publication include a reprint of the 1651 printing of Mersenne's 'L'Optique Et La Catoptrique': it retains its own title page and imprint ('A Paris, Chez la veufue F. Langlois ... M.DC.LI.') and its own pagination. Niceron's book was originally published separately in 1638 (and in a Latin edition, Thaumaturgus opticus, in 1646, reprinted in 1663). It was first published with Fr. Mersenne's Optique in 1652; reprinted in 1663 and 1673. Both Fr Niceron and Fr Mersenne were in contact with contemporary thinkers such as Desargues, Descartes and Gassendi; and their works were known to painters such as Le Sueur, Poussin and Vouet. In his book Niceron illustrates some of Descartes' theories by showing the camera oscura as an analogy for the eye (pl. 2), but generally applies to the problem of representing geometric bodies in space the constructional techniques of Desargues (e.g. pl. 13); the second part of his work includes a representation of Cigoli's perspective machine (pl. 37), but is mainly devoted to the projection of anamorphic images. (The best-known example of such an image is probably that of the skull in the foreground of Holbein's 'Ambassadors' in the National Gallery, London.) Niceron demonstrates the use of a perspectivally distorted grid (e.g. pl. 25), and projection onto non-plane surfaces (e.g. pl. 28). Plate 33 shows how he made his famous large-scale anamorphic projection of St John writing the Revelation, on a wall of the convent of Sta. Trinità de' Monti, Rome.


Acquired between 1769 and 1802. Recorded in RAA Library, Catalogue, 1802.

Binding Note

18th-century calf; rebacked in 20th century, red morocco spine-label lettered 'La Perspective Curieuse - Niceron', spine lettered '1663'.


Perspective - Anamorphic perspective - Optics - History
Manuals - Instructional materials - France - 17th century
Pictorial works - France - 17th century