Legacy of Letters 2023: Letterpress Extravaganza—1. Milano

June 29–30, 2023 | Orientation Day and Day 1

Visit to the Biblioteca Ambrosiana with James Clough | 29 June 2023

We began Orientation Day with a bonus event for early arrivals: a visit to the Biblioteca Ambrosiana. A group of eleven of us—myself, Eran Ben Barak, Kelci Baughman McDowell, Hofi Benediktsdöttir, Chiara Bergese, Shaqa Bovand, Susan Fitzgerald, Jacob Ford, Catie Piwinski, and Annunziato Mazzaferro [1]—walked from the Hotel Mercure Milano Solari in the Navigli neighborhood to the library where we met James Clough, an English-born Italian type and lettering historian. James and I had requested a mix of items to see: an 8th century manuscript written in artificial uncials, a 9th century manuscript written in Carolingian, four manuscripts written out by the Renaissance scribe Bartolomeo Sanvito, a writing manual by Giovanbattista Palatino (1515–c.1575), and two writing manuals by Giovan Francesco Cresci. (1534–1614)

James Clough and Shaqa Bovand at the Biblioteca Ambrosiana looking at a writing manual by Giovan Francesco Cresci (29 June 2023). Photograph by Paul Shaw.

Detail of a page from A 135 Inf, a collection of texts written between 821 and 830. The small writing is in a Carolingian minuscule while the larger drawn letters in red, blue and green are versals. Photograph by Paul Shaw.

James Clough comparing the chancery italic typeface in Giambattista Palatino’s 1547 manual (below) to the italic typeface of Francesco Griffo cut for Aldus Manutius 1500/1501 (above). Palatino’s manual was printed by Antonio Blado in a typeface derived from the typefaces designed by Ludovico Vicentino degli Arrighi in the mid-1520s. Photograph by Paul Shaw.

[1] Catie and Annunziato were not participants in Legacy of Letters 2023. Catie came along as Jacob Ford’s companion and Annunziato was a teaching assistant at the Politecnico di Milano who asked if he could join us.

Orientation dinner at Trattoria Aurora

Orientation took place in the evening of June 29. By then, Jen Thomas and Stefano Baldessari had joined the group. We ate dinner at Trattoria Aurora, a restaurant in the neighborhood suggested by Antonio Cavedoni. It has been around since the 1890s and has a wonderful garden dining area in the rear which is where we ate.

Visit to the Biblioteca Braidense with James Clough | 30 June 2023

We joined James Cough again for a second library visit the following day. This time it was to the Biblioteca Braidense. James and I had chosen both manuscripts and printed books to look at for this first official event of Legacy of Letters 2023. Among the items were a late 11th century Bible written out in a late Carolingian minuscule, another manuscript by Sanvito, more writing manuals by Palatino and Cresci, a Lactantius by Sweynheym and Pannartz (1465), a Pliny by Johannes and Wendelin da Spira (1469), a Eusebius by Nicolas Jenson (1471), and a Bible in Latin by Robert Estienne (1532).

James Clough with legacy of letters 2023 participants Susan Fitzgerald, Stefano Baldassari, Fred Wiltshire (obscured), Kelci Baughman McDowell, Shaqa Bovand, and Jacob Ford at the Biblioteca Braidense. Photograph by Paul Shaw.

Spread from Opera by Virgil (AC XII 34) written out by Bartolomeo Sanvito (c.1455–1458). Photograph by Paul Shaw.

Detail of gotico-antiqua typeface from Lactantius printed by Conrad Sweynheym and Arnold Pannartz at Subiaco (1465). Note the contemporary gloss written in a Humanist bookhand. Photograph by Paul Shaw.