Day 38 – Soncino and Torino

Today we visit the town of Soncino and learn more about the history of printing by the Soncino family.

Bepe, the director of the Soncino print museum, holds up a copy of the first page of the first Hebrew Bible. It was printed by the Soncino family in 1488.

The Soncino family had moved from Germany to Soncino at the request of the Duke of Milan to provide money lending services, as the Catholic Church forbade such activities. Not long after, a pawn shop opened, forcing them through competition to go into another kind of business. They chose printing.

Bepe shows us the matrix used to print one of the Hebrew letters.

This young man, Ricardo Rossi, works at the museum and is a comic book artist who created the graphic book on the history of the Soncino family. The family’s contribution to the printing industry, and particularly the history of printing in Hebrew, is widely recognized.

Victoria admires Ricky‘s current work in progress.

Soncino has a market the day we visit. The figs looked great but weren’t.

The church is topped with little men who may chime the bells on the hour.

We eat lunch in a restaurant housed in a nearby historic villa.

A very large group of businessmen convene for lunch, making it particularly hectic for us and for the waitresses. The men look like they’re praying at this point. They could very well be praying for lunch to come. Once they get going, it’s quite fun to watch them talk with their hands along with their mouths.

After lunch, we pass acres of rice fields as we head west.

We drive from Soncino to Alpignano, near Torino, where we visit the Tallone Press and the family that prints fine edition books. Alberto Tallone established the firm, which is now run by his son Enrico, Enrico’s wife, and their three grown children.

Alberto collected trains which sit on the family’s property. This train, once belonging to the Savoia Royal Family, took the King and Queen around Tuscany.

This engine hauled a public train that could be boarded at Roma Termini. Lynn tries to climb up, reminding me of efforts to load my luggage onto the passenger cars. Such high steps!

Enrico Tallone takes us on a tour of his garden and orchard. As his property is at the dividing line of the southern and northern hemispheres, Enrico grows plants native to both environments.

He describes the beauty of this medieval water trough and how the impulse for beautiful design is embedded in our DNA.

Enrico and his daughters lead us around their workshop and archive, describing steps in the printing process.

Enrico shows us very tiny letters.

He looks at a finely detailed matrix under a magnifying glass with his daughter Eleonora in the background.

The ink is very important. There are many variations of black. The best black comes from northern countries, like Norway, because the light there is not as brilliant so they need an ink that make a deep black.

Enrico and his father collected typefaces. The Tallone family has the most comprehensive collection of typefaces, both historical and modern, in Italy, if not world-wide.

The family has created a website called Archive of Styles that documents and teaches about its collections.

Another interesting typeface, this in wood. They are all organized in drawers with labels and comments.

Daughter Lisa walks us through one of the Tallone’s books Stabat Mater. Dies Ire, based on Gregorian Chants related to Mary at the Crucifixion and the Day of Wrath.

The typesetting of Gregorian Chants is extremely difficult, requiring 230 tiny pieces of type, with the need to fit the lyrics to the notes. All aspects of the book project have been extremely well conceived and executed. It is a treasure.

We enjoy a dinner with the Tallone family, dishes made by Enrico’s wife. A very special and heartfelt experience.

Tomorrow we are off to Parma.

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