The Ten Books on Architecture, 2.10

Vitruvius  translated by Morris Hicky Morgan

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Highland and Lowland Fir

10The first spurs of the Apennines arise from the Tuscan sea between the Alps and the most distant borders of Tuscany. The mountain range itself bends round and, almost touching the shores of the Adriatic in the middle of the curve, completes its circuit by extending to the strait on the other shore. Hence, this side of the curve, sloping towards the districts of Tuscany and Campania, lies basking in the sun, being constantly exposed to the full force of its rays all day. But the further side, sloping towards the Upper Sea and having a northern exposure, is constantly shrouded in shadowy darkness. Hence the trees which grow on that side, being nourished by the moisture, not only themselves attain to a very large size, but their fibre too, filled full of moisture, is swollen and distended with abundance of liquid. When they lose their vitality after being felled and hewn, the fibre retains its stiffness, and the trees as they dry become hollow and frail on account of their porosity, and hence cannot last when used in buildings.

2But trees which grow in places facing the course of the sun are not of porous fibre but are solid, being drained by the dryness; for the sun absorbs moisture and draws it out of trees as well as out of the earth. The trees in sunny neighbourhoods, therefore, being solidified by the compact texture of their fibre, and not being porous from moisture, are very useful, so far as durability goes, when they are hewn into timber. Hence the lowland firs, being conveyed from sunny places, are better than those highland firs, which are brought here from shady places.

3To the best of my mature consideration, I have now treated the materials which are necessary in the construction of buildings, the proportionate amount of the elements which are seen to be contained in their natural composition, and the points of excellence and defects of each kind, so that they may be not unknown to those who are engaged in building. Thus those who can follow the directions contained in this treatise will be better informed in advance, and able to select, among the different kinds, those which will be of use in their works. Therefore, since the preliminaries have been explained, the buildings themselves will be treated in the remaining books; and first, as due order requires, I shall in the next book write of the temples of the immortal gods and their symmetrical proportions.

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