The museum was inaugurated, after about seven years of development, on 17 November 1963, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the death of G. B. Bodoni (1740-1813). In fact the idea of creating a national center of studies on graphic art in Parma dedicated to the Saluzzo printer circulated as early as 1940, during the celebrations organized to commemorate the second centenary of Bodoni’s birth, which began in May. The idea did not have time to develop due to Italy’s entry into the war (10 June 1940). Furthermore, in 1944 the Palatine Library, guardian of Bodoni’s treasures, was almost destroyed by bombings. The technical and bibliographic material enclosed in boxes was miraculously saved.
After the reconstruction and the civil, political, social and economic life of the city returned to normal following the end of the war, in 1957, the project of a Bodonian museum was resumed. A Promoting Committee was immediately set up, with the task of completing the initiative. The legal deed for the establishment of the Bodoni Museum was signed in 1960, while the renovation work had already begun on the premises of the top floor of the Palatine Library intended to house the new institution. The general furnishing of the museum and the bronze copy of Bodoni’s bust (from the original by Giambattista Comolli) were the work of the sculptor Carlo Corvi (1904-1978). Having obtained the legal recognition and approval of the Statute (D.P.R. July 18, 1962), on November 17, 1963 the new museum was finally opened to the public.
After twenty years of great vitality and prosperity in which it has been the promoter of studies, researches, competitions, exhibitions and cultural events of international resonance, the Museum experienced difficult periods due to several years of closure following the earthquake of 1983 and scarce funding. The relaunch phase began in 1999, with the new Statute approved by the Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities and a renewed Board of Directors.
A further important change came with the new statutory changes formalized in 2013 which led, among other things, to the creation of the figure of the Scientific Director. In 2004, at the invitation of the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz, the Bodoni Museum became a member of the AEPM, Association of European Printing Museum. In 2005 it participated in the birth of the Italian Association of Print and Paper Museums (AIMSC), joining also its Governing Council. Since 2012, the Museum has been part the Museum System of the Province of Parma (Provincial Council Resolution No. 268 of 10/05/2012).
The last important change was introduced with the new statutory modifications formalized in 2013, which led, amongst others, to the creation of the position of a Scientific Director.
1) Cataloging of typographic-melting material of the Bodoni Workshop (punchcutters, matrix molds, font fusion tools, etc.) kept at the Museum. The cataloging followed the norms dictated by the ICCD (Central Institute for Catalog and Documentation (Istituto Centrale per il Catalogo e la Documentazione)) and used the form PTS (Technical Scientific Heritage (Patrimonio Tecnico Scientifico)) developed by the same Institute. The SiGEC (General Information System of Cataloging (Sistema Informativo Generale del Catalogo)) state software and national system of acquisitions and integrated management of knowledge on the Italian cultural heritage of which the ICCD is the institutional manager, was used. At the same time, a digital photo documentation was conducted.
2) Digitization of Bodonian editions on display in the Museum, epistolary and other archival documents.
3) Cataloging of the Bodonian editions owned by the Palatine Library (Sebina Index software).
4) Reorganization of the Archive of Giambattista Bodoni and his wife Margherita Dall’Aglio.
5) Reorganization of the Archives of Piero Trevisani and Raffaello Bertieri.
6) Extensive reconnaissance, with cataloging, of the Bodonian announcements of the Royal Stamperia and of individual sheets.
7) Bodoni Library: portal and digital library with free access (images, editions, correspondence), born from the collaboration between the Palatine Library, the Bodoni Museum and the University of Salamanca (Spain). The Palatine and the Museum also collaborate with the scientific council of the “Bodoni Library” and provide the necessary documentation necessary for the development of the project. Presented in Bologna (University Library Hall) on 11/14/2013, the portal is active at http://bibliotecabodoni.net
Modern library: thanks to the Mibact 2011 funding (Circ. No. 138, Financial interventions for the operation and activities of non-state libraries) in 2012 the cataloging of the Trevisani Fund started, then continued the following year thanks to the same financing (activities to be concluded).
The Bodoni library digital editions: on-line platform on which the descriptions of Bodoni editions will be collected, with particular reference to those not included in the historic Compendiosa bibliography of bodonian editions, edited by H. C. Brooks (Florence, 1927). The work is intended to be configured as an update and implementation of the “Brooks” to be carried out with the collaboration of Italian and foreign libraries and institutions called upon to contribute new data or correct those that will be entered.
G. B. BODONI
The Beginnings: Piemonte 1740-1757
Bodoni was a typographer in the broadest sense of the term. He was a printer, draftsman, type-designer, compositor, and publisher with exemplary results. Born February 26, 1740 in Saluzzo (Cuneo) to a family of printers, he completed his studies of “humanities” in his hometown. His first professional experience was in his father’s, Francesco Agostino, workshop and later he continued his training in Turin.
The roman Period: 1758-1766
Eager to improve his craft in Rome, he left Saluzzo on 15 February 1768. In Rome he was employed at the Printing House of the Congregation of Propaganda Fide, first as a composer of “exotic” works and then in the delicate task of rearranging the series of punchcutters for oriental fonts that Sisto V had the famous Garamond and Le Bè engraved. This period is decisive for Bodoni’s orientation as a typographer and for his interest in oriental alphabets, languages of which he learns the basics by attending the Collegio della Sapienza.
He left Rome in 1766 with the intention of going to London, but because of his health he is forced to stay in Saluzzo.
Parma and the Ducal Stamperia: 1768-1790
In February 1768 he was called by the Duke Ferdinando di Borbone to Parma, to establish and direct the governmental Stamperia Reale, of which he remained in charge for the rest of his life. Bodoni is responsible for the construction of the presses and other tools: in a few months the Stamperia (and his private apartment), located in the Palazzo della Pilotta, was ready for the official launch.
The collaboration with the architect Petitot and the engraver Benigno Bossi began immediately for the printing of celebrative editions of the splendor of the Duchy such as the Ara Amicitiae in memory of the visit of Emperor Joseph II and the Description of the festivities .. for the Duke’s wedding Ferdinand with Maria Amalia of Austria (photo), the most splendid Italian book of celebrations adorned with 70 between tables out of text, initial letters, heads and finals; both works are from 1769.
The publications of the first years of activity are made using fonts from France, but already starting from 1771 Bodoni begins the design and production of his own typefaces (of this same year is the first typographical essay, Fregi and Majuscole engraved and merged by Giambattista Bodoni Director of the Royal Printing House), assisted by collaborators, including his brother Giuseppe, called in Parma to oversee the foundry.
An extremely fruitful collaboration was made between Bodoni and the orientalist Gian Bernardo De Rossi for various polyglot publications, culminating in the Epithalamia exoticis linguis reddita (photo) (1775), a great encomiastic folio for the wedding of the Prince of Piedmont. This folio exhibits texts in twenty-six eastern languages. It is adorned with one hundred and thirty-nine allegorical and ornamental branches and constitutes one of the first samples of ‘exotic’ glyphs. Bodoni’s passion for drawing and engraving non-european glyphs will continue throughout his life. It is specially visible in the Pater Noster (Oratio Dominica) (photo) of 1806, printed in 155 different languages.
Numerous editions followed, bringing the Parma presses to the attention of writers, bibliophiles and travelers of the Grand Tour who stop in the city to admire Correggio’s paintings and to visit the bodonian typography. On the occasion of the visits of sovereigns, Bodoni printed in their honor typographic tributes such as the Essai de caractère Russes (photo) of 1782 for the zarevic Paul, son of Catherine the Great, and Upomnema Parmense in adventu Gustavi III for the king of Sweden ( 1784). Other works that brought Bodoni fame in these first decades were The pastoral loves of Dafni and Cloe by Longo Sofista translated by Annibal Caro (1786), the Aminta of Tasso (1789), several Greek classics, the Aristodemus (1786) and the Verses ( 1787) del Monti, the Poesie campestri of Pindemonte.
The study of the form of the alphabetic letters became the exclusive subject matter of the “manuals”. These were the samples of glyphs that Bodoni was gradually setting up and perfecting since 1771. The first Typographical Manual with one hundred Latin round fonts, fifty italics and twenty-eight Greek and the Serie di majuscole e caratteri cancellereschi, highpoints, at the limit of abstraction, of his font types. The severe, neoclassical imprint of the letters, characterized by the clear contrast between the thickness of the temples and the subtlety of the fillets and graces; the bare, epigraphic composition of title pages and dedications; the airy relationship between text and images, between line and line, between light and dark make the Bodonian page a prodigy of harmony and legibility.
Private Stamperia: the 1990s
In 1791 Bodoni obtained permission from the Duke to open a private printing house. From here all the masterpieces of his production were later released. The Stamperia Reale remained engaged in minor printings of ordinary governmental necessity. The private workshop of Bodoni employed no more than twelve workers, including designers and printers, while the Stamperia Reale had about twenty. On this same year he married Margherita Dall’Aglio (photo), who will be close to him both in his private life, assisting him with his innumerable health problems, and at work, helping him with the copious correspondence and continuing the activity of typography after his death.
1791 is particularly productive. The Castle of Otranto by Walpole is printed, the Odes of Parini on behalf of the London bookseller Edwards, and the splendid editions sponsored by Nicolas de Azara begin this year: Orazio’s sumptuous folios (Q. Horatii Flacci Opera, 1791) (photo), of Virgil (P. Virgilii Maronis Opera, 1793) and of the Latin elegiacs (Catulli, Tibulli, Propertii Opera, 1794). Their association began years earlier with the printing of the Works of Antonio Raffaello Mengs (1780), followed by editions of Anacreon in various formats (1784-85-91) dedicated to the Spanish minister.
The editions for de Azara (E), as well as the sumptuous ones by Tasso La Gerusalemme Liberata, (1794), Dante (1795), Petrarca (1797), Callimaco (1792), Britannia by Lord Hampden (1792), the De Imitatione Christi (1793), the Poems by Gray and others of those last years of the Ancien Régime, reached absolute purity and typographical nudity, pursued by the elimination of every frieze and figure.The elimination of decorative incisions does not exclude however the presence of illustrations: an example of this is the volume of the Paintings by Antonio Allegri … in the Monistero di San Paolo (1800), with the magnificent sanguine panels engraved by Francesco Rosaspina, which made the Correggio masterpiece known for the first time.
Bodoni and the french government: 1796-1812
With the arrival of the French in 1796-97 and the annexation of the Duchy in 1802 directly to France, Bodoni did not lack prestigious patrons and commissions from the new Napoleonic aristocracy. It was the occasion to undertake publications of great typographical commitment such as the Hymn to Ceres by Homer with a dedication to Francesco Melzi d’Eril (1805); The Bardo of the Black Forest of Monti dedicated to Napoleon (1806) and, in the same year, the Description of the Foro Bonaparte designed by Antolini and the Orazio Dominica (photo) dedicated to the viceroy Eugenio Beauharnais; the Greek Iliad (photo) (1808) in three very large volumes with a dedication to Napoleon, an unattainable typographic monument; the Pictorial typographical heirloom offered to the very August parents of the King of Rome (photo) which takes up 40 Pictorial Jokes by Giovanni Gherardo de Rossi, printing them in forty different glyphs within equal space, a true typographical tour de force. To these unsurpassed typographical monuments were added the last labors, the French classics for the education of the son of the king of Naples Gioacchino Murat (Fénelon in 1812, Racine in 1813, and La Fontaine and Boileau brought to completion by Margherita Dall’Aglioin 1814).
Death took him in Parma on November 30, 1813. The announcement of his death was given to the city by the sound of the largest bell of the Duomo, whose funeral chimes were reserved for princes, high dignitaries and the most illustrious personages. The body was buried in the same cathedral after the funeral on December 2, attended by the heads of the government, the municipality and all the scientific and literary bodies.
Margherita Dall’Aglio completed various projects, including the printing in 1818 of the definitive Tipographical Manual (photo), in two volumes, with a dedication to the new sovereign Maria Luigia. The Manual, fruit of over forty years of work, is composed of 265 pages of Roman characters, 125 of capital letters, 181 of Greek and oriental characters, 1036 friezes, 31 contours with movable pieces and 20 pages of signs, numbers and musical examples.
By his intercession of de Azara Bodoni was appointed in 1782 as typographer of the chamber of Charles III of Spain; in 1793 Charles IV added an annual pension of six thousand royals to the title. In 1803 the Elders of Parma gave him honorary citizenship and a medal was coined in his honor. In 1806 he won the gold medal of the first prize at the Paris Exhibition, where he had sent fourteen of his editions. In 1807 he was exempted from paying taxes as a “great artist”. In 1808 he received a life pension from Murat and in 1810 another from Napoleon “in consideration of the progress he had made in the art of printing”. In 1812 it was decorated with the Imperial order of Réunion.
Area of interest
The modern library of the Bodonian Museum integrates the heritage of the Palatine Library in the specific sector of the press.
Located in the Study Room, adjacent to the exhibition gallery, it contains volumes on the art and history of typography, on advertising, valuable works of Italian publishing (the entire collection of Franco Maria Ricci editions, collections of works by Hans Mardersteig, Franco Riva and Alberto Tallone), graphic design and editorial design, essays and monographs on Bodoni, etc.
In 1972 the library was enriched by the Trevisani Fund (gift of the widow of Prof. Piero Trevisani, one of the founders of the museum), consisting of about 2,000 volumes and brochures concerning above all the history of printing and typography.
All the services listed below are carried out through the loan, distribution services and the Consultation Room of the Palatine Library, according to the schedules and procedures established by it.
- Local loan: 2 works simultaneously, for a period of one month, possibly renewable.
- National and international loan.
- Reproductions, for personal use, study purposes and for editorial purposes of only bibliographic documents owned by the library, in compliance with the current legislation on copyright.
- Bibliographic and catalog information.
- Consultation of works excluded from the loan.
- Search for information on the Internet.
The online library
Since January 2005, the library of the Bodoniano Museum has become part of the Parma Library Center and has obtained the qualification in the Index from the ICCU (The National Centre for the Union Catalogue). At the same time, computer filing of the volumes began, all of which are searchable online.