Legacy of Letters 2023: Letterpress Extravaganza—6. Modena
July 5, 2023 | Day 6
Livia Cattaneo, Alessandro Colizzi’s wife and a professor of Italian at UQAM in Montreal, Canada, joined us in Parma in the afternoon of July 4. She served as both a translator and a cicerone for the group for this day in Modena and the days ahead in Venice where the logistics of travel and eating were complicated.
In the morning we visited the Biblioteca Estense where we looked at yet another Carolingian manuscript (Lat. 988 = alfa.J.1.23), an antiphonary written in two versions of rotunda, a sylloge by Giovanni Marcanova illustrated and written out by Felice Feliciano (alfa.1.5.15), and a disbound copy of the second version of Parole in Libertà by F.T. Marinetti which was designed by Tullio D’Albisola.
In the afternoon we visited Officina Typo, the fourth letterpress studio on our itinerary. Officina Typo is run by the husband and wife team of Silvano Babini and Gina Paolini with their daughter Ebe Babini. Silvano and Gina showed us around the shop—its presses, cases of type, printed works. The designs are the work of Gina and Ebe.
Ebe led the keepsake printing—capitals of Triennale in both wood type and metal type—on a cylinder proofing press. The metal alphabet was already pre-printed by the family prior to our arrival. The wood alphabet was set up during our visit by Ebe. As with the day at Il Buon Tempo in Casteggio, the Legacy of Letters 2023 participants quickly began to play with the colors of the design. In the end, the print run included at least five different color combinations. For some of the prints the O and T—at my suggestion—were printed in a separate color. That involved tweezering out the letters, inking them, and then replacing them in the bed of the press.
Interview with Gina Paolini and Silvano Babini
After the printing of the keepsake was completed, we spent half an hour or so interviewing Gina and Silvano about their life and work. Many of the questions replicated those from the email interview I conducted in 2022. The conversation was a quiet end to a wonderful afternoon.