Biblioteca Bodoni Launched on Bicentennial Anniversary of Giambattista Bodoni’s Death

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News | Yves Peters | December 11, 2013

As the year slowly draws to a close I’d be remiss not to mention Biblioteca Bodoni, a project launched last September to commemorate the bicentennial anniversary of Giambattista Bodoni’s death (1740–1813). The website is designed to encourage awareness for the legacy of the legendary Italian printer (born in Piedmont but producing most of his work in Parma), and by extension to disseminate knowledge of the history of the book in the hand-press period. Originally an admirer of the faces by Pierre Simon Fournier, Bodoni started cutting his own types characterised by a vertical stress, a strong contrast between thick and thins, and delicate hairlines, eventually achieving an unprecedented level of technical refinement. I find it quite surprising that the launch of such a prestigious project didn’t make more waves; then again I must admit for myself I seem less aware of happenings in the Latin (Spanish-speaking) world simply because of the language barrier.

The Biblioteca Bodoni website originated in Bodoni y España – the research project Bodoni and Spain: The Reading Public, the Book, Typographical Innovation and International Book-Collecting during the Enlightenment (FFI2011-23223), which was carried out in the Salamanca University and came under the aegis of Plan I+D+I of the Department of State for Research, Development and Innovation of the Spanish Ministry for Economics and Competitiveness. Its director is Pedro M. Cátedra from the Universidad de Salamanca and the Bodoni y España project. The website consists of four main sections, two of which are freely accessible. The Digital Library allows users to virtually browse and consult Bodoni’s editions, along with the relevant typo-bibliographical and historical information. Although the website is supposed to be trilingual in Spanish / Italian / English this ancillary information unfortunately is not available in English (yet?) in the translated version of the website. The other free section is a Blog with news and information about Bodoni, also only in Spanish for the moment.


Manuale Bodoni © Ralf Herrmann

The two other sections offer documents for small fees. Monographs houses a series of electronic books dealing with two ranges of topics – on the one hand the history and the body of work of the great printer Bodoni in all its aspects, and the history of the book and of reading on the other hand. Finally the Correspondence section collects letters from Bodoni himself and from many of his correspondents. This correspondence sheds additional light his life and his work as a printer and publisher. To make it truly useful for academics the entire website is searchable by keyword, author and date.

The website is tastefully set in Bauer Bodoni, one of the most delicate and refined digitisations of the Bodoni types. The supporting sans serif is Adobe’s free Open Sans, a rather unfortunate choice. Though it is a perfectly fine face in itself, Martin Majoor would agree that a (neo-)grotesque would have been a much more logical companion face than the humanist sans.

I really hope more of the website will be translated to English so us non-Spanish speakers can also enjoy the typographical and historical information found on Biblioteca Bodoni. Until then we have the reproductions in the Digital Library section to tide us over.

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