From the Design Desk: A Visit to the Tipoteca Italiana Fondazione
There is a place in northern Italy where typography reigns supreme: Tipoteca Italiana fondazione. I was lucky to make a pilgrimage to the Tipoteca this summer and wanted to share some of the type marvels with you.
Located in the Veneto Region (Treviso Province) of Italy, the museum is housed in a deconsecrated church and connected via a graceful, sweeping ramp to a contemporary building that contains the printing presses, fonts, library and workshop. As you might expect -this being Italy, all is well and suitably designed. Just last week we wrote about high quality in Italian design and products.
Tipoteca Italiania is dedicated to the preservation of traditional wood and metal type (fonts) and the machinery with which to print them.
Founded by Silvio Antiga, who himself owns and operates a printery in Cornuda, where the Tipoteca is located, the foundation houses thousands of fonts, in both wood and metal, a museum of typographic ephemera and a library of typographic treasures, including original Giambattista Bodoni type specimen books (Manuale Tipgrafico).
My host and guide was Sandro Berra (below) whose acquaintance I had made when he visited the Codex International Book Fair in Berkeley in 2009. At the time, Sandro was showing a portfolio of prints made by a Japanese artist who printed a colorful array of small posters with Tipoteca’s large wood type.
Inside the understated glass entry that bridges the old and new architecture, one is struck by the bas relief wall of wood type and Sandro’s welcoming “buon giorno”.
Further inside an assembly of presses is on display in space not unlike the nave of a modern church, only this one is for worshippers of wood and metal and ink. The wall behind the ancient presses contain drawer after drawer of fonts organized and ready for use.
The medallions that identify the presses’ origins are works of metallic art in their own right.
Aside from the antiquities of Bodoni and Manutius, the library is the repository of printed proofs from the collection’s archives.
Folios of familiar and heretofore unknown (to me) fonts dazzled the eyes of this visitor as Sandro flipped through them. Some styles were identifiable as Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Moderne or Victorian, but others defied classification or categorization but delighted me nonetheless.
Perhaps the most unexpected find was a music manuscript for “Il motore del 2000”, with printing plate and annotated print by the composer, Lucio Dalla.
While it would be easy to say visiting Tipoteca Italiana is like stepping back in time, in fact it isn’t. It’s true, the Tipoteca collects relics of the not too far distant world of ink-on-paper, however, it is also a living, working institution with classes, workshops, exhibitions and lectures.
To those weaned on computer fonts, some of those same fonts are born again for them in metal and wood impressing their messages onto paper with ink rather than photons and toner. In a sense, the old becomes new again.
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