Giambattista Bodoni

Giambattista Bodoni

by Valerie Lester


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A lively, lavishly illustrated biography of the great printer Bodoni, vividly describing his work, life, and times while justifying his reputation as the "prince of typographers". Includes 16-page full-color insert.

This is the first English-language biography of the relentlessly ambitious and incomparably talented printer Giambattista Bodoni (1740-1813). Born to a printing family in the small foothill town of Saluzzo, he left his comfortable life to travel to Rome in 1758 where he served as an apprentice of Cardinal Spinelli at the Propaganda Fide press. There, under the sponsorship of Ruggieri, his close friend, mentor, and protector, he learned all aspects of the printing craft. Even then, his real talent, indeed his genius, lay in type design and punchcutting, especially of the exotic foreign alphabets needed by the papal office to spread the faith. .

His life changed when in 1768 at age 28 he was invited by the young Duke of Parma to abandon Rome for that very French city to establish and direct the ducal press. He remained in Parma, overseeing a vast variety of printing, some of it pedestrian, but much of it glorious. And all of it making use of the typefaces he personally designed and engraved. .

This fine book goes beyond Bodoni's capacity as a printer; it examines the life and times in which he lived, the turbulent and always fragile political climate, the fascinating cast of characters that enlivened the ducal court, the impressive list of visitors making the pilgrimage to Parma, and the unique position Parma occupied, politically Italian but very much French in terms of taste and culture. Even the food gets its due (and in savory detail). The illustrations—of the city, of the press, of the types and matrices—are compelling enough, but most striking are the pages from the books he designed. And especially, pages from his typographic masterpiece, theÊManuale Tipografico, painstakingly prepared by his wife Ghitta, posthumously published in two volumes, and displaying the myriad typefaces in multiple sizes that Bodoni had designed and engraved over a long and prolific career. .

Intriguing, scholarly, visually arresting, and designed and printed to Bodoni's standards, this title belongs on the shelf of any self-respecting bibliophile. It not only makes for compelling reading, it will be considered the biography of record of a great printer for years to come.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781567925289
Publisher: Godine, David R. Publishers, Inc.
Publication date: 09/08/2015
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 380,294
Product dimensions: 8.80(w) x 11.80(h) x (d)

About the Author

Valerie Browne Lester is an independent scholar, writer, and translator living in Boston. She is the author of Phiz: The Man Who Drew Dickens (2004), a biography of Hablot Knight Browne, Dickens's principal illustrator who was also her great-great-grandfather. She translated Alain Fournier's Le Grand Meaulnes (The Magnificent Meaulnes, 2009), and has written poetry, plays, and articles.

Table of Contents

Prologue 13

1 Saluzzo, 1740-1758 19

2 Rome, 1758-1766 33

3 The Invitation 54

4 Parma, 1768 59

5 The Duchess and Du Tillot 77

6 Bodoni at Work 88

7 Jose Nicolas de Azara 97

8 Margherita Dall'Aglio 113

9 The Private Press and the Amoretti and Didot Débacles 121

10 Gout and a Grape Seed 135

11 Two Thefts and a Fire 140

12 1798: The Triumphal Return and Life on the Farm 144

13 A Letter from Jean-George Handwerck 149

14 The Death of a Duke, the Presentation of a Medal, and the Death of a Diplomat 152

15 Napoleon 161

16 1806-1813 169

17 Il Bajon 180

18 La Vedova 185

Epilogue 202

Acknowledgements 205

Appendices 210

I Gutting a Punch Stan Nelson

II Striking and Fitting a Matrix Stan Nelson

III Printing on a Hand Press Fred Barbara Voltmer

IV The Trieste Leaf James Mosley

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