The Museum houses the following materials belonging to the Palatina Library:
- over a thousand Bodonian publications (including unique, extremely rare prints on silk and parchment) that constitute one of the world’s richest collections;
- correspondence composed of roughly 12,000 letters;
- documents, miscellanies of trial prints and typography manuals, specimens from the best known foreign and Italian type foundries, loose prints in paper and parchment;
- an extraordinary collection of punches, matrices and other printing tools (forms for type casting, files, planes and spoon shovels, etc.) totalling 70,000 pieces;
- six original neoclassical cabinets in which Bodoni kept his cases of punches and sets of matrices;
- a faithful reproduction of Bodoni’s printing press.
Furthermore, the modern library, belonging to the museum itself, is open to readers in the study room adjacent to the exhibition gallery.
1. Print before Bodoni
An overview of the history of printing from mid-fifteenth to mid-eighteenth century, with regard to the local production.
The displayed volumes allow visitors to appreciate the evolution of the printed book in its first 50 years of life and the gradual technical innovations that early typographers introduced to enable printing for images, in colour, etc…and, continuing through the centuries, to arrive at the book as we know it today.
The exhibition explains each phase of the creative and manufacturing process of a printed book through the display of the extraordinary collection of Bodoni’s printing tools, archival documents (manuscripts regarding typography, trial prints with handwritten corrections), as well as the final product and its distribution.
The printing press: a faithful XXth century reconstruction of Bodoni’s printing press was based on iconographic testimonies and descriptions left by Zefirino Campanini, chief typesetter working for Bodoni at the Royal Printing Office.
3. Giambattista Bodoni
A rich selection of editions issued by the Ducal Printing Office (under the direction of Bodoni) and by his own private office, demonstrates, in chronological order, the evolution of style and popularity of the great typographer in principal courts of his time, both in Italy and abroad.
The exhibition timeline shows the stylistic changes from the early production tied to the Ducal Printing Office, with volumes richly decorative with engravings and images, and the production of Bodoni’s private office where simplicity, clarity and neoclassical rigour make the character the sole protagonist of the page, as Bodoni desired.
Furthermore, two touch screens are available for visitors to see brief videos about the activities of Bodoni and bookmaking, and to flip through some of the publications (originals displayed in the case) and so appreciate every page.
Added to which, two sets of display boards illustrate:
The graphic evolution of the printed page (display on the right wall)
A series of display boards exhibit reproductions of early prints (dating back to XVth – XIXth century) juxtaposed with coeval expressions of other artistic techniques (sculpture, architecture and painting), thus suggesting analogies and contact points between the art of the book and the “major” arts.
The evolution of the typographic character (display on the left wall)
The illustrations on 15 display boards present the slow evolution of typographic character from its origins to the XIXth century, documenting the endeavours of the designers, engravers and typographers to obtain its ultimate clarity and legibility.