The text, dedicated to Pope Leo X, was meant as introduction of a representation of the ancient Rome and its main monuments. Starting from a reflection about the condition of ancient vestiges, that had been destroyed over the centuries, the author traces a history of architecture and recognises the Roman epoch as its peak. Then follows a more technical part, in which a theory of topographic and architectonical representation is illustrated and three kinds of representation are described: plan, front and cross-section.
The document comes from the collaboration between Baldassarre Castiglione, writer of the text, and Raphael, to which the intellectual elaboration was attributed (but this opinion is not unanimous). The text discloses important themes, such as the conservation of cultural heritage, and reveals a deep knowledge of ancient monuments and of their value.