Book on Geometry, Practice, and Patterns


This landscape-shaped printed work is the first treatise on tailoring published in Spain. It paved the way for other such works in the late 16th century and early 17th century. The author was Juan de Alcega, born in Guipuzcoa, in the Basque region of northern Spain, and a tailor by trade. In his dedication, to a theologian called Tejada, he describes "this, my small work, something brand new, never seen so far in our Spain." The usefulness of the work was confirmed by Hernan Gutierrez, tailor to the princess of Portugal, and Juan Lopez de Burgette, tailor to the duke of Alba, who, on August 21, 1579, after examining the work and the knowledge of the author, concluded that "this book is quite good, useful and beneficial for the entire republic" and recommended that the author be given a license so that it could be printed and sold at a fair price. The license was granted by the king on September 13, 1579, and the book was printed in Madrid in 1580. Alcega’s work is structured in three parts, through which he intends to pass on his knowledge, even though, as he informs the reader in the preface, several times he was on the verge of quitting, either "because I greatly considered the costs and several patterns that were necessary" or because "there were so many contradictions and disputes I faced in the Royal Advice on the printing of this book." The first part explains the origin of the "ellwand that we use in these Kingdoms of Castile," which is divided in "twelfth, and eighth, and sixth, and fourth, and third, and half of an ell." It then mentions how the measurements of cloth were to be reduced from "two ellwands of width" to any other size. Using fractions, Alcega devotes 22 chapters to this subject, so that anyone can correctly order the cloth, silk, or other fabric necessary to make men’s or women's clothing without either wasting or running short of fabric. In the second part, Alcega presents 135 traças (patterns) used to make clothing for men, women, clergy, commanders of military orders, suits for jousts and reed games, and even flags of war. The quality of the designs is noteworthy and contrasts with the neglect seen in the writing of the accompanying explanatory texts. In the third part, Alcega specifies the amount of fabric necessary to produce each item of clothing, using tables that combine three possible lengths of the items and 14 possible widths of the fabrics that might be used.

Date Created

Subject Date

Publication Information

Guillermo Drouy, Madrid


Title in Original Language

Libro de geometria, practica y traça


Type of Item

Physical Description

2 unnumbered pages, 102 numbered pages, 8 unnumbered pages. Interspersed woodcut of figures and cuts in the text

Last updated: October 3, 2014