Two centuries after that day Parma remembers the Italian engraver, typographer and printer, known for the typefaces that bear his name, with the opening of the new Bodoni museum, the oldest printing museum in Italy, which will the doors tomorrow 30 November, on the ground floor of the Palatine Library, in the Monumental Complex of the Pilotta.
The Piedmontese typographer who, starting from the second half of the eighteenth century, transformed Parma into the world capital of printing, exempted during his lifetime from paying taxes as a “supreme artist” and awarded a life pension by Gioacchino Murat and another by Napoleon “in view of the progress he has made in the art of typography”, he would be happy to visit today the new space that recreates his world.
Showcase of the exhibition section The book factory, The punches | Photo: © John Hänninen
In reality, the Bodoni Museum was founded in 1963 on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the printer’s death, managed by a foundation specifically set up to raise awareness of the work, figure and collections of the famous printer, as well as to promote studies and research in the field of graphic and typographic art. The museum was located on the third floor of the Palatine Library, in a position of difficult access and poor visibility, until a new project that had been dreamed of for decades led to the movement of the new headquarters to the ground floor, in the rooms previously used as warehouses of the same Library.
The intervention – made possible thanks to an allocation of funds of around 760,000 euros by the Ministry of Culture – led to a rethinking of the entire exhibition itinerary through a joint project by the director of the Pilotta, Simone Verde, and the director of the Andrea De Pasquale Bodoni Museum Foundation.
The new Bodoni Museum | Photo: © John Hänninen
“The new museographic layout of the Bodoni – explains Verde – involved a total redesign of the previous spaces, with structural and plant engineering works and the creation of new exhibition furnishings. From today, the public and scholars visiting the new Bodoni Museum will be able to enjoy a doubly immersive experience, which on the one hand evokes the aspect of the ancient typography and on the other retraces the history and birth of the ducal printing house and the culture of a era in which Parma was among the true European capitals”. And in fact visiting the museum, with the wooden floor laid that takes up the model and design of the French parquet floors of the 19th century, wandering between the empire green walls, really seems to take a leap in time.
The visitor is invited to get lost in a rich selection of Bodoni editions (unique and extremely rare specimens, printed on parchment or silk) and to admire relics that belonged to the Bodoni workshop. New suspension lamps with an essential design light up a series of display cases which house the masterpieces of the history of publishing and graphics.
Along the way you come across the printing press, a faithful reconstruction of the one used by the Saluzzo printer, and the original Louis XV wardrobes, in which Bodoni kept the punch boxes, up to “La Fabbrica del Libro”. Four large showcases, part of the museum’s original furniture from the 1960s, retrace the various phases of the landlord’s work, from the design of the typeface and the creation of the punches to the finishing and composition for letterpress, chalcographic and woodcut printing.
The showcase of punches | Photo: © John Hänninen
Just look towards the large custom-made bookcase to see “Bodoni’s masterpieces”, the collection of Bodoni volumes, with particular regard to the palatine collection still with original bindings and where some of the rarest editions stand out, such as the You hate of Anacreon on parchment of Bavaria and the Police rooms printed on silk.
Finally, a multimedia and interactive table will allow you to browse the pages of Bodoni’s work in its entirety, such as the Typographic manual composed of one hundred round Latin characters, 50 italics and 28 Greek characters on which Bodoni worked throughout his life, or the monumental work of theOratio Dominicathe Our Father in 155 languages using 215 different characters including Latin, Greek and exotic, printed by Bodoni in less than a year.
The inauguration of the Bodoni Museum represents a further step in the Nuova Pilotta redevelopment program which places the Monumental Complex in a fruitful dialogue with its community.
Starting tomorrow, Wednesday 30 November, the museum can be visited from Tuesday to Sunday from 10.30 to 18.30 (last admission at 17.45).