19 Jul The Intellectual Compendiums: “a small library in the backpack”
The “Collection of intellectual compendiums” is the series that we will discuss in this appointment dedicated to the small-format book that we remind our readers to be those texts of small size, if not very small, namely with format in 64° (9×6 cm)..
The publishing house dedicated to this publication, which took place between 1916 and 1920, was the Istituto Editoriale Italiano founded in 1911 by Umberto Notari. Journalist and writer, as well as editor, was a key and central figure in the Italian cultural activity of those times. Endowed with a great entrepreneurial spirit and a volcanic personality, he was the creator of innovative and successful projects. Decisive for his career was definitely the meeting with Filippo Tommaso Marinetti with whom he shared the militancy in the Futurist Movement and, among other things, Marinetti himself wrote his biography entitled “Notari, writer new”. Unfortunately, this personality is weighed down by the adherence to fascism, in which many futurists converged, and especially the signing in 1939 on the Manifesto della Razza.
The series we are discussing consists of works by classical and contemporary authors including the futurists Marinetti, Carrà and Boccioni, without neglecting topics such as “Travel” and “Practical Life”. According to the original plan, 305 volumes were to be published, however were given to the press a little more than 200.
Focusing now on the object-book it should be noticed the great elegance and refinement that distinguishes these volumes obtained, especially, thanks to the engravings made by the artist Duilio Cambelotti. Once removed the protective case with the list of publications and topics, the text presents a leather binding with friezes and drawings made in cantilevered while on the spine of the volume is reproduced a ladder with the motto COSTRUIRE , the publisher’s symbol, and the volume number. Only later, to lower the costs, the leather is replaced by cardboard.
It is interesting, to understand the purpose of such a type of publication, to read what is written in the Corriere della Sera on 2 October 1916 about the “Intellectual compendiums”. The author of this article is anonymous but, probably, he is the same Notari who focuses attention on the need to reduce the size of books as much as possible to make them manageable and transportable everywhere and this is the result of changes in people’s lifestyle; a life become increasingly frenetic, fast and “condensed”. Another element, not to be underestimated, is also what the author emphasizes about the size of the format. This choice is linked to the fact that culture, unlike the past, is and must be for everyone and therefore it is necessary to find the appropriate means to get it to as many people as possible.
We conclude these reflections with a quote from the same article that describes these small volumes in an impeccable way and has a bit of the flavor of the rèclame, in the futuristic spirit of the publisher of the series: “Small in size, very charming in the fine binding in genuine leather, sharp in the print, the Intellectual breviaries, exercise at first glance that suggestion that preludes to the conquest without reservations… Officers and soldiers at the front are enthusiastic, they have all their Compendiums: often ten, twenty, a library entirely contained, for the practical pocket size, in the backpack or pocket. The ladies contend for these true trinkets of the editorial art, for the elegance of the form and the good taste of the content. By train you find travelers of every class reading a Compendium, favorite and now inseparable travel companion”.