Legacy of Letters 2023—Archivio Tipografico in Torino (Part 2)

Interior of Archivio Tipografico with a sign from an old printshop on the wall. (Tipografia is Italian for printing). Photograph by Paul Shaw (2017).

This is a continuation of an interview with Gabriele Fumero of Archivio Tipografico, a letterpress studio in Torino. The first part can be found at Legacy of Letters 2023—Archivio Tipografico in Torino (Part 1).

Paul: How did you acquire the various items in your studio: the presses, type, tools, etc.?

Gabriele: Emanuele collected them all personally by visiting hundreds of print shops throughout northwestern Italy. Most of the time he was able to get them for free: the owners just wanted to get rid of them to free up some space in their shops. We have subsequently purchased other typefaces or tools, but the core of the collection comes from Emanuele’s “rescue trips”.

Type cabinets housing wood type at the Archivio Tipografico. Photograph by Paul Shaw (2017).

Large wood type and a proportion wheel (at right) on a shelf at the Archivio Tipografico. Photograph by Paul Shaw (2022).

Paul: What is/are your most precious or favorite typefaces or tools in the studio?

Gabriele: We have a few favorites: Inkunabula is one of them. It is one of the first typefaces to come out of the Nebiolo Art Studio in 1911. We’re also really fond of the many nameless wood typefaces that bear the signs of use of many years and many owners. Other tools that we love are the objects that are so well made they really simplify our daily jobs, tools such as our two turtle-tables from the end of the 19th century, our typometer with stopper, and our table proof press. (We’re trying to buy more typometers like this metal one made by Westcott, but we can’t find them anywhere.)

Paul: Do you have an estimate of how much type you have?

Gabriele: Some years ago we counted some 2400 drawers of type for about 1000 different typefaces: 90% lead type and 10% wood type.

Detail of a lock-up using cork (and part of a broom handle) to make a random typographic composition. Idea by Emanuele Mensa. Photograph by Paul Shaw (2017).

Paul: Can you describe the job where you used corks to create the lock-up? Seeing that was one of the highlights of my first visit to the Archivio Tipografico. Who had the idea for using corks? Did you have to drink a lot of wine to get the job done?

Gabriele: That job was Emanuele’s personal project, nicknamed “the snowfall of typefaces”. He was looking for a way to securely lock lead type into a seemingly random composition. He found the solution after a good bottle of red wine! He also used a chopped broomstick, to avoid an excessively elastic form.

Paul: I had previously heard of printers pouring plaster of Paris into a forme to achieve a random typographic design, but that process permanently ruined the type. It had to be thrown away. Emanuele’s cork idea is brilliant because it preserves the type.

Lock-up for type intended to be printed diagonally. Photograph by Paul Shaw (2017).

Paul: One thing that fascinated me on both my visits is the distorted black design painted on the ceiling. Can you explain what it is?

Gabriele: It’s an anamorphic painting. Seen from the right point of view it reveals the numbers 23.56 which, in millimeters, is the type-size height of all our typefaces and printing presses. So, in a way, it is one of the fundamental principles of our space! Our friends from Truly Design Studio made it the day before our printshop opened.

Paul: That is a really cool idea. Thank you for doing this interview. We look forward to our visit to Archivio Tipografico this summer.

Ceiling and wall at Archivio Tipografico with anamorphic design painted by Truly Design Studio. Photograph by Paul Shaw (2022).

Legacy of Letters 2023 will take place from June 29 to July 12, 2023. It will include stops in Milano, Torino (to visit the Archivio Tipografico), Alpignano, Casteggio, Parma, Modena, Predappio, Venice, and Cornuda. We will visit five libraries/museums, five letterpress shops, one silkscreen shop, and the Tipoteca where we will have a multi-day letterpress workshop.