Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Hagiography: Ambroise Bachot

I've paid little attention to the accomplishments of Ambroise Bachot. He often emerges as a kind of foil to Ramelli. In contrast to Ramelli's brilliance, Bachot is viewed as a plagiarist and a thief. As noted by Verin--and in turn Buisseret--this view of Bachot is overstated. As I've demonstrated elsewhere, Ramelli probably had a dark side. Similarly, Bachot's role as the villain may be overstated. Some details:

Ambroise Bachot was born into a family of artisans. His father was Louis Bachot, a master painter and (from the 1540s) resident of the Rue de Seine, faubourg St. Germain. His property was next to that of Jean Cousin, le pere. Louis had three sons. Jean was a master bookbinder and Laurent was a master painter. Laurent and Jean seem to have lived in the house of their father for their entire lives. The address is also listed in both of Ambroise's books. Errard's widow was still living there in 1616.

There are few details about the life of Bachot:

- 1571. Bachot is working with Ramelli.
- 1573. Both Bachot and Ramelli are at la Rochelle.
- 1577. Bachot was likely in Turin. He created a plate depicting a design for a mill "seen in Turin" in 1577.
- 1571-1587. Bachot seems to have spent 16 years with Ramelli as an engraver and he eventually became both a captain and engineer.
- 1579-1587. Bachot engraved the plates of Timon and publishes them himself under the name "Captain A. Bachot." The full title of the work loosely translates as "The Tiller of Captain Ambroise Bachot which will lead the reader among the mathematical challenges on reductions of geometrical figures, and instruments to measure all distances, and to represent all bodies in perspective; with one section that's extremely useful on fortifications, machines of war and other particularities invented by the author". The book is dedicated to the Duke of Epernon.
- 1588. Bachot married Helene Berard and they had a son named Jerome in 1588. Jerome went on to have a successful career as both an engineer and commissioner of fortifications in Brittany, where he continued the work of Charles Errard, father of his wife Anne.
- 1590. During the siege of Paris, Bachot sides with Henri IV (in contrast with Ramelli). He followed Henri to Melun.
- 1593. Bachot was working in the parish of St. Ambroise. He eventually becomes the engineer of fortifications for Melun.
- 1597. Bachot created a plan of fortification for the city which is still housed in the museum of Melun. Gnudi notes that one of the plates contained in Le Gouvernail show a mechanical design that would not function. She claims that this plate demonstrates Bachot's relative lack of expertise with mechanical devices.
- 1598. Bachot was still in Melun and publishes Le Gouvernail. There is substantial repetition between Le Timon and Le Gouvernail.
- 1600. He returned to Paris as "ingenieur du roi, demeurant rue de Seine a Saint-Germain-des-Pres". And there his story ends.
- 1625. Buisseret notes that Bachot carried the title "Ingenieur pour le roi en Picardie".

Verin notes that Gnudi's criticism of Bachot is only partially justifiable. She notes that he adopted a completely different approach from that of Ramelli and that he also focussed on issues of method. He discussed how one could actually create the drawings in terms of perspective, etc.

An interesting detail of Bachot's life is the success of his son, Jerome. It seems that Jerome married into the Errard clan and also became a prominent engineer.

NOTE: Additional details may be contained in an odd book: Boussel, Patrice. 1969. Guide de l'Ile de France mystérieuse. Tchou. It apparently contains a chapter called "Henri IV et l'ingenieur Bachot". The mystery couldn't be the Bachot/Ramelli connection since Gnudi hadn't yet published her bit of sleuthing. It must be something else... perhaps ILL will help me out once again.


Buisseret, David. 2002. Ingenieurs et fortifications. Paris : CTHS.
Gnudi, M. T. 1974. Agostino Ramelli and Ambroise Bachot. Technology and Culture, 15(4), 614-625.
Vérin, Hélène. 2006. Le Timon du capitaine Ambroise Bachot: Présentation. Architectura [online]. Retrieved on April 17 2007 from http://www.cesr.univ-tours.fr/architectura/Traite/Notice/ENSBA_Masson159.asp.


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