The Ten Books on Architecture, 2.3.4

Vitruvius  Parallel editions

‹‹‹ Vitr. 2.3.3 | Table of Contents | Vitr. 2.4.1 ›››

Gwilt translation

4Each sort has half bricks made to suit it; so that when a wall is executed, the course on one of the faces of the wall shews sides of whole bricks, the other face of half bricks; and being worked to the line on each face, the bricks on each bed bond alternately over the course below. Besides the pleasant varied appearance which this method gives, it affords additional strength, by the middle of a brick, on a rising course, falling over the vertical joints of the course thereunder. The bricks of Calentum in Spain, Marseilles in France, and Pitane in Asia, are, when wrought and dried, specifically lighter than water, and hence swim thereon. This must arise from the porosity of the earth whereof they are made; the air contained in the pores, to which the water cannot penetrate, giving them a buoyant property. Earth of this sort being, therefore, of such a light and thin quality, and impervious to water, be a lump thereof of whatever size, it swims naturally like pumice-stone. Bricks of this sort are of great use for building purposes; for they are neither heavy nor liable to be injured by the rain.

Morgan translation

4With these bricks there are also half-bricks. When these are used in a wall, a course of bricks is laid on one face and a course of half-bricks on the other, and they are bedded to the line on each face. The walls are bonded by alternate courses of the two different kinds, and as the bricks are always laid so as to break joints, this lends strength and a not unattractive appearance to both sides of such walls.

In the states of Maxilua and Callet, in Further Spain, as well as in Pitane in Asia Minor, there are bricks which, when finished and dried, will float on being thrown into water. The reason why they can float seems to be that the clay of which they are made is like pumice-stone. So it is light, and also it does not, after being hardened by exposure to the air, take up or absorb liquid. So these bricks, being of this light and porous quality, and admitting no moisture into their texture, must by the laws of nature float in water, like pumice, no matter what their weight may be. They have therefore great advantages; for they are not heavy to use in building and, once made, they are not spoiled by bad weather.