02 October 2023
What do you think links audio recordings of Italian traditional theatre from Florence, card diaries written in 1932 by archaeologists in Soviet Ukraine, a typescript of a play on the life of Romani people in Bulgarian, a photo album that belonged to a Roma family from Moldova, a page from a Muslim religious text originated in Bulgaria, and a journal published by Serbs in exile?
Card diaries by T.M. Movchanoskiy, 1932 (EAP220/1/3) - Archival records from Saving archival documents of archaeological researches conducted during the 1920s and 1930s in Ukraine
Catalogue record of the digital audio collection
All these image and many more were digitised through the Endangered Archives Programme. The physical archives that were under a threat of disappearance remain where they were, but digital images are available freely to anyone who would like to do research or learn. In the words of the Programme’s co-founder, Lisbet Rausing, and much echoed by the Head of the EAP Sam van Schaik , “the Endangered Archives Programme captures forgotten and still not written histories, often suppressed or marginalised. It gives voice to the voiceless: it opens a dialogue with global humanity’s multiple pasts. It is a library of history still waiting to be written”.
Ismail Osmanov. “Gypsy on the new way. A play in two parts, 1953” (EAP067/4/1) –
Archival records from Preservation of Gypsy/Roma historical and cultural heritage in Bulgaria
Roma family album No 1 (EAP699/23/2) – Archival records from Safeguarding of the intangible Romani heritage in the Republic of Moldova threatened by the volatilisation of the individual unexplored collections (EAP699)
Here in the British Library, we research the collections and try to tell more people about them. Here is the most recent report from Anna Maslenova, a PhD student who came to work with us for three months on placement: ‘Contextualising a digital photographic archive of Siberian Indigenous peoples: PhD placement report’ . A Chevening fellow from Ukraine Nadiia Strishenets helped us to improve metadata for image related to the project Saving the original lifetime archive of the well-known Ukrainian poet, artist and thinker, T.H. Shevchenko (EAP657). If you have used any of the EAP collections in your research, we would be extremely grateful if you could tell us about your research and experience.
Muslim religious texts (EAP1392/5/2) – Archival records from Rediscovering the cultural heritage of the Muslims in Bulgaria (1920-1950) (EAP1392)
The Serbian Fatherland: a monthly magazine for Serbian youth in exile  (EAP833/1/2/1/7) – Archival records from Safeguarding the fragile collection of the private archive of the Lazic family (EAP833)
The call for the 19th round of applications is open.
We hope that readers of this blog will help us to promote EAP, so that we could save more disappearing archives, uncover fascinating stories and capture forgotten voices from all over the world.
Katya Rogatchevskaia Lead Curator, East European Collections
25 August 2023
Antonio Vieyra Transtagano – he used his toponymic ‘Transtagano’ ‘of Tras os Montes’ to distinguish himself from the baroque preacher Antonio Vieira SJ (1608-97) – was the first professor of Spanish at Trinity College Dublin and the first in the UK. (Ann Frost reminds us that at the time ‘professor’ was not the lofty title of today, and was largely used to mean ‘teacher’.)
Vieyra, like nearly all the language teachers in London, was a Protestant exile. His date of birth is often given as 1712. His first publication was in London, printed by John Nourse, who seems to have specialised in foreign languages (see ESTC and Foreign-language Printing in London).
A new Portuguese grammar (London, 1768). 1568/3986
A dictionary of the Portuguese and English languages (London, 1773). 1502/272
But he was a man of parts, who also wrote on Persian:
Brevis, clara, facilis ac jucunda, non solùm Arabicam linguam; Sed etiam hodiernam Persicam, cui tota ferè Arabica intermixta est, addiscendi methodus; quam non ita pridèm quinque speciminibus comprehensam, editamque; nunc autem novis, ac berè multis vocabulis locupletatam, (inter quae plurima celtica, imò et aliquot Asiatica et Americana, quo nonnullorum Asiae, Novique Orbis populorum felici origines investigentur exitu, reperiuntur) cum Arabicis aut Persicis affinitatem habentibus, in usum utriusque ling. tyronum, denuò edit ejusdem methodi auctor Antonius Vieyra, L.L. hisp. ac Ital. prof. reg. in Col. S.S. et ind. Trin. Dublin
(Dublin, 1789) 12903.c.20
He arrived in Dublin in 1779 to teach at Trinity College, a Protestant stronghold.
Andrew Wakeley’s best-selling textbook on the use of the compass (first printed 1665) was translated into Portuguese by one ‘Antonio Vieira’ for Antonio Fernandes, merchant of London, in 1762.
A agulha de marear rectificada … composto por Andre Wakeley, mathematico … traduzido do original ingles, por Antonio Vieira, Professor de Geometria na Academia Magnanense (London, 1762) RB.23.a.40456 [The Mariners-compass rectified … composed by Andrew Wakeley, mathematician … translated from the English original by Antonio Vieira, professor of geometry in the Magnanensian Academy]
Could they be related – or even one and the same?
Our Vieira writes in his dedication to Fernandes that he left his homeland in his third lustrum: as a lustrum was a period of 5 years, his age on departure was between 11 and 15.
He calls himself (in 1762) ‘professor of geometry at the Academia Magnanense’ (Orbis Latinus identifies this as Meinvelt (or Mayenfeld), a region between the Rhine and Moselle rivers). He also calls himself ‘chaplain’.
He says explicitly that he turned to translating Wakeley ‘and others’ and needed a patron: a role which Fernandes fulfilled.
Although the humanities and sciences weren’t as divided as they are now, our man’s prologue is stuffed with literary references far beyond the needs of a work of Fachliteratur. He cites Camões – well chosen on account of the maritime feats sung in the Lusiads. He refers to his annotations on the Satires of Horace, Juvenal, Persius and Petronius and draws on classical culture to praise Fernandes as a new Cicero and Juvenal among the ancients and Salignac and Locke among the moderns.
The book has no printer or publisher named: did Vieira publish it himself?
The fullest account of the Professor’s life I have been able to see is the obituary in the Dublin Evening Post, Thursday 16 March 1797:
Doctor Vieyra, who died at the College, some short time since, was King’s Professor of Spanish and Italian. He was a most worthy man, an excellent scholar, and had a perfect knowledge of almost every existing language. Having outlived his family, and most of his acquaintance, he spent his latter days almost in retirement, but his name is well known, in the literary world. His Portuguese Dictionary is the best that has been published of that language. He was born at Estremor, [sic] in Portugal, in the year 1712, and tho’ certainly deserving a more fortunate lot, met with various calamities during his whole life. His father had been taken up by the inquisition, and a small estate he had of course seized. Dr. Vieyra was sent to Padua, and from thence to Rome, where he took the vows and entered in the order of Conventuales. Ganganelli (afterwards Pope [Clement XIV]) was in the same convent at that time, and they were of course well acquainted. The Doctor, after a residence of twenty years in Italy, got leave to return to Portugal, where he narrowly escaped the fate of his father – and was obliged to quit the country, & after many extraordinary adventures, settled in London where he was patronized by the Chevalier Pinto. He got the appointment in Dublin College, many years ago. From the time he quit the convent at Rome, he renounced the Roman Catholic religion. He had several children, who all died before him. – The family of the late Provost, and Lady Moira, were always particularly kind to him. He wrote several volumes on the derivations of words and names; had he spent half the time taken up in such uninteresting works in writing memoirs of his life, he would have gained more, and have given the public some very curious and extraordinary anecdotes.
Chevalier Pinto was Luís Pinto de Sousa Coutinho, Viscount Balsemão (1735-1804), Portuguese Minister Plenipotentiary in London, 1774-88. With his wife, Catarina de Lencastre, he made his home into a literary and scientific salon. He supplied George III with books on Portugal, used by Southey for his History of Brazil. (All this according to Rodrigues.)
On 9 November 1774 Pinto wrote to the Bishop of Beja in support of two scholars: Manuel Azulay, a Jew, son of Portuguese parents, who aspired to a job teaching Hebrew in Portugal (he promises not to draw attention to his religion); and a monk who has written a Portuguese grammar and dictionary and has knowledge of Arabic and Persian, who seeks travel money and access to becoming a secular priest (Malato Borralho, 58). (Pinto also aided António de Morais e Silva, father of Brazilian lexicography, when he fled the Inquisition: Rodrigues 98.)
Who could this be but our man? But wasn’t he a Protestant by then?
It may not be too fanciful to draw the following chronology: Antonio Vieyra Transtagano was born in 1717; left Portugal in his third lustrum; went to Rome, became a Protestant, went to Mayenfeld; arrived in London in need of a patron and where he slaved as a dogsbody translator; by 1762 he was teaching and publishing in London; in 1774 he had the patronage of Chevalier Pinto; in 1779 he was in Dublin.
Translators have always sought patronage, and translators were often hacks – one thinks of George Borrow translating for newspapers, or the women readers in the British Museum in the nineteenth century (described by Bernstein).
Professor Antonio Vieyra’s biography has many lacunae, but perhaps this book allows us to fill them in.
Barry Taylor, Curator Romance Collections
Barry Taylor, ‘St Anthony of Padua, alias Fernando of Lisbon’, European Studies Blog
Foreign-language printing in London, 1500-1900, edited by Barry Taylor. (Boston Spa, 2002) 2708.h.1059
Carmem Rodrigues, ‘Chevalier Pinto: “Um dos homens mais ilustrados que já viveram no Brasil”’, Fênix: Revista de História e Estudos Culturais, 19 (2022), 93-112
Maria Luísa Malato Borralho, "Por acazo hum viajante --" : a vida e a obra de Catarina de Lencastre, 1a Viscondessa de Balsemão (1749-1824) (Lisbon, 2008) YF.2010.a.8017
Ann Frost, The emergence and growth of Hispanic studies in British and Irish universities ([Great Britain]: Association of Hispanists, ) YD.2019.b.1143
Dublin Evening Post, Thursday 16 March 1797 (Irish Newspaper Archives)
Susan David Bernstein, Roomscape: women writers in the British Museum from George Eliot to Virginia Woolf (Edinburgh, [2014?]) ELD.DS.47217
14 April 2023
Next week, on Friday 21 April, the Italian Cultural Institute will host a round table about Futurist books, with Dr Günter Berghaus (University of Bristol) and Giacomo Coronelli (Libreria Antiquaria Pontremoli, Milan). Introduction and chair by Valentina Mirabella (Curator of Romance Collections, British Library). The event is free but places are limited and registration is required.
Front cover of Ardengo Soffici’s Bïf§zf + 18. Simultaneità e chimismi lirici. (Firenze, 1919), 20009.f.12.
The event is dedicated to the work and collecting of Chris Michaelides (1949-2017), former Curator of Romance Collections, British Library. Chris was co-curator of the exhibition Breaking the Rules: The Printed Face of the European Avant Garde 1900-1937 (2007) and we owe to him the acquisition of Marinetti’s tin Futurist book, Parole in libertà, and of an original edition of La prose du Transsibérien, Blaise Cendrars’s and Sonia Delaunay’s poem–painting.
Chris Michaelides in St Pancras Station in 2016, courtesy of Günter Berghaus
The Futurist book was instrumental in the circulation of Futurist ideas and represents a very experimental phase in book production, paving the way for the book object, the artist’s book, advertising and design. This round table will look at its importance and at the history of collecting Futurist books, in Italy and in the UK.
On this occasion, Valentina Mirabella will present an article she recently published on the British Library Electronic Journal, which contains a survey of the Italian Futurist collections held at the British Library. The survey, arranged by date of acquisition, is a tool for studying the circulation of Italian Futurist books in the UK, based on acquisition data contained in the British Library Corporate Archives and on the books themselves.
The event is organized with the support of Libreria Antiquaria Pontremoli.
For more information, visit the website of the Italian Cultural Institute.
30 December 2022
C is for Czechoslovak Independence Day, which marks the foundation of the independent Czechoslovak State in 1918.
D is for Digitisation, including the 3D digitisation of Marinetti’s Tin Book.
E is for Annie Ernaux, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in October.
Examples of Fraktur letter-forms from Wolfgang Fugger, Ein nützlich und wolgegründt Formular manncherley schöner Schriefften ... (Nuremberg, 1533) C.142.cc.12.
F is for Festive Traditions, from songs to fortune telling.
G is for Guest bloggers, whose contributions we love to receive!
H is for Hryhorii Skovoroda, the Ukrainian philosopher and poet whose anniversary we marked in December.
I is for our series on Iceland and the Library’s Icelandic collections.
J is for Jubilees.
Abetka (Kyïv, 2005). YF.2010.a.18369.
K is for Knowledge systems and the work of Snowchange Cooperative, a Finnish environmental organisation devoted to protecting and restoring the boreal forests and ecosystems through ‘the advancement of indigenous traditions and culture’.
L is for Limburgish, spoken in the South of the Netherlands.
M is for Mystery – some bibliographical sleuthing.
N is for Nordic acquisitions, from Finnish avant-garde poetry to Swedish art books.
O is for Online resources from East View, which are now available remotely.
Giovanni Bodoni and Giovanni Mardersteig, Manuale tipografico, 1788. Facsimile a cura di Giovanni Mardersteig. (Verona, 1968) L.R.413.h.17.
Q is for Quebec with a guest appearance by the Americas blog featuring the work of retired French collections curator Des McTernan.
R is for Rare editions of Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko’s Kobzar.
T is for Translation and our regular posts to mark Women in Translation Month.
Alphabet Anglois, contenant la prononciation des lettres avec les declinaisons et conjugaisons (Rouen, 1639). Digital Store 1568/3641.(1.)
V is for Victory – a contemporary Italian newspaper report of the Battle of Trafalgar.
W is for Richard Wagner who wrote about a fictional meeting with Beethoven.
X is for... (no, we couldn’t think of anything either!)
Y is for You, our readers. Thank you for following us!
Z is for our former colleague Zuzanna, whom we remembered in February.
Azbuka ōt knigi osmochastnye̡, sirěchʹ grammatikii (Lviv, 1574). Digital Store 1568/3641.(1.)
26 August 2022
August is Women in Translation Month, a 2014 initiative aimed at celebrating and promoting women writers in translation, as well as their translators and publishers. As in previous years, we are highlighting a selection of books from across the European collections that we have recently enjoyed. We hope you enjoy them too.
Bianca Bellova, The Lake, translated by Alex Zucker (Cardigan: Parthian, 2022) ELD.DS.698424
Chosen by Olga Topol, Curator Czech, Slavonic and East European Collections
The Lake won the Czech Magnesia Litera Book of the Year Award and the EU Prize for Literature in 2017. It is a surreal coming of age story that questions the relationship between humans and nature. In a fictional world set somewhere in between a post-apocalyptic future and the post-USSR past, a boy is trying to uncover the mystery of his mother’s disappearance. It is a vivid tale about a devastated, cruel world in which a child is growing into a man while searching for his identity. Dark and beautiful.
Stefania Auci, The Florios of Sicily: a novel, translated by Katherine Gregor (HarperCollins, 2020). Awaiting shelfmark
Chosen by Valentina Mirabella, Curator Romance Collections
Stefania Auci’s bestselling novel The Florios of Sicily tells the story of an entrepreneurial family that, starting from poverty in the early 19th century, built a fortune exporting Sicilian products such as Marsala wine and invented canned tuna as we know it. This is a well-documented saga, linking decades of Italian history to the Florio dynasty, which shook the feudal immobility and introduced industrialization in Sicily. Auci is particularly good at describing the places and underlining the role of women. We owe the English translation to Katherine Gregor who, impressively, is a literary translator from Italian, French and, on occasion, Russian.
Kiki Dimoula, The Brazen Plagiarist: Selected Poems, translated by Cecile Inglessis Margellos and Rika Lesser (New Haven, Conn.; London: Yale University Press, 2012), YC.2013.a.11561
Chosen by Lydia Georgiadou, Curator Modern Greek Collections
The Brazen Plagiarist is the first English translation of a wide selection of poems from across Kiki Dimoula’s oeuvre bringing together some of her most captivating and poignant works. The highly-praised and multi-award winning Greek poet embarks on a journey to a ‘magnificent’ though ‘unknown to her’ language, ‘filled with apprehension’ but grateful to be ‘accompanied by an excellent letter of introduction – their translation’. Award-winning translators Cecile Inglessis Margellos and Rika Lesser, whom Dimoula herself considers ‘heroic’, indeed rise to the challenge of recreating the poet’s mysteriously uncanny yet inexplicably familiar writing.
15 June 2022
During the interwar years, the focus of Italian Futurism expanded from the fine arts into a variety of media and mass media that were easily accessible to the wider public. On the one hand, the Futurists were attracted by new forms of communication intended for a wide audience, like the radio and advertising; on the other, they engaged with the large market of commercial items, such as furniture and household objects, that entered the majority of the Italian dwellings. Their intent was a real union between art and everyday life, a total rejection of traditional art hierarchies going beyond the move by the fine artist into the decorative arts, which would become increasingly popular in postwar Italy with artists like Fausto Melotti, Lucio Fontana, and Giacomo Manzù, to mention just a few.
Coppa amatoria, Tullio d’Albisola, 1930, from Enrico Crispolti, La ceramica futurista da Balla a Tullio d’Albisola (Florence: Centro Di, 1982) 3113.170350 v 151
It is within this background that Tullio Spartaco Mazzotti, an artist and entrepreneur from Albissola, a small community on the Ligurian coast, invited the Futurists to design ceramic objects that he could produce in his father’s factory, the Ceramiche Giuseppe Mazzotti Albissola. In his project he involved the founder of Futurism, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, who coined his Futurist pseudonym Tullio d’Albisola, and many artists, architects, and poets, like Benedetta Cappa, Bruno Munari, Farfa (Vittorio Osvaldo Tommasini), Fortunato Depero), and Enrico Prampolini. As described in the Manifesto Ceramica e aeroceramica (Ceramics and Aeroceramics) that he co-wrote with Marinetti in 1938:
‘[…] Tullio d’Albisola brings into ceramic the aesthetic of the machine […] speed […] cosmic forces […] simultaneities of contrasting or harmonizing emotional states […]’
Photograph showing (left to right) Farfa, Tullio d’Albisola and Marinetti in front of ceramics by Farfa, 1930, from La ceramica futurista da Balla a Tullio d’Albisola.
Despite the number of Futurist tiles and ceramics manufactured in Italy during this time, d'Albisola was the only one who reached a wider public. With their unusual shapes and abstract decorations, his ceramics openly challenged the more conventional pottery of Sevrès, France, the fine porcelains from Vienna, and the contemporary ceramic production in Italy that was largely based on classical ideals.
During his adhesion to Futurism, d’Albisola applied his creativity and experimental personality to a variety of media, besides ceramic design, and was an enthusiastic supporter of the ideas and projects of his Futurist fellows. For example, he convinced his old father to entrust a young Futurist architect, Nicolaj Diulgheroff, with the project of a new location for the factory, which was completed in 1934 and is today one of the remaining examples of Futurist architecture in Italy. He made sculptures, wrote poems, designed the factory’s graphic identity (from the letterhead, to the advertising), and engaged at different rates with photography, cinema and painting. The genuineness and delicacy of his poetry is in apparent contrast with his most vanguard outputs, like the famous Futurist tin-books (‘Lito-latte’), which he financed entirely, although the project was eventually a flop.
Litolatta logo, from Filippo Tommaso Marinetti/Tullio d’Albisola Parole In Libertà Futuriste Olfattive Tattili Termiche (Rome, 1932). HS.74/2143, Courtesy of Archivio Tullio d’Albissola
Thanks to the success of their Futurist ceramics, the popularity of the Mazzotti factory increased exponentially, and the name of d’Albisola began circulating within the artistic circuits in Italy and abroad. New avant-garde movements could be found in Albissola in the 1950s and 1960s, such as Spatialism, the Arte Nucleare, and Co.Br.A (the latter developed in Albissola the M.I.B.I., ‘Movement for an Imaginist Bauhaus’). Although Futurism was long gone, the Mazzotti factory continued to be one of the favorite workshops of the international Avant-Garde, where artists like Fontana, Manzù, Aligi Sassu, Agenore Fabbri, Sandro Cherchi, Asger Jorn, and Karel Appel, realized the striking post-modernist sculptures that we all know. ‘The modern ceramic art was born in Albisola’, Italian architect and critic Gio Ponti wrote.
Casa Mazzotti, designed by Bulgarian Futurist Architect Nicolay Diulgheroff in the years 1930 to 1932 for Tullio d'Albisola, who lived and worked here until his demise. It is a rare example of original futurist architecture. © UrbanItaly
On divergent but parallel paths, both d’Albisola and Ponti supported, for their entire life, the resurgence of ceramic practice, and assisted and guided in their careers worldwide renowned artists like Fontana and Melotti. Ceramics, however, continued to be largely seen as unsuitable for making art: as Melotti admitted in an interview in 1984, asking a sculptor to make ceramics was like ‘asking a poet to write advertisements’. (Tre ore con Fausto Melotti, television interview conducted by Antonia Mulas for RAI Italy)
Eleonora Traversa, Royal Holloway University of London
Enrico Crispolti, La ceramica futurista da Balla a Tullio d’Albisola (Florence: Centro Di, 1982) 3113.170350 v 151
Danilo Presotto (ed.), Quaderni di Tullio d’Albisola, vol. I-IV (Savona: Editrice Liguria, 1981-87) P.421/871
Ursula Lehmann-Brockhaus, ‘Incontro Internazionale della Ceramica’ Albisola, Sommer 1954 (Rome: Campisano Editore, 2013)
The event Italian Collections in UK Libraries: Past, Present & Future will take place on Friday 17 June at the British Library. This event is now sold out.
07 June 2022
We are delighted to bring to you a day-long exploration of the amazing diversity of 600 years of collecting Italian books in the UK. The Study Day, organized by the Italian Studies Library Group (ISLG), will be in person at the British Library Knowledge Centre, (Eliot Room), on Friday 17th June 2022. Booking essential, on the BL website.
Portraits of Italian writers
The programme is as follows:
10:00: Welcome: Janet Zmroczek (Head of European and American Collections, The British Library)
10:05: Welcome: Andrea Del Corno' (Italian Specialist, The London Library, ISLG Chair)
10:10: Abigail Brundin (Director, British School at Rome) and Dunstan Roberts (University of
Cambridge), ‘The Italian collections in National Trust and English Heritage Libraries’
10:40: Tudor Allen (Senior Archivist for Camden Council), ‘Sources for the Study of London's
Italian Quarter: Archives of the Mazzini-Garibaldi Club and the Italian Hospital’
11:00: Stephen Parkin (Curator Printed Heritage Collections, The British Library), ‘The Colt
Hoare collection of Italian topographical books in the British Library’
11:30: Tea and coffee
11:45: Giuliana Pieri (Professor of Italian and the Visual Arts, Head of the School of
Humanities, Royal Holloway University), ‘Beyond Words and Images: Re-thinking twentieth-century
12:15: Julianne Simpson (Rare Books and Maps Manager, John Rylands Library) and Stephen
Milner (Serena Professor of Italian Studies, University of Manchester) ‘Le Tre Corone: Italian
collections at the John Rylands Library – projects and promotion’
12:45: Tabitha Tuckett (Rare Books Librarian, UCL) ‘Italian rare books and archives in UCL
13:05: Cristina Dondi (Professor of Early European Book Heritage, University of Oxford)
‘Mapping the early Italian book heritage around the UK: From distribution to dispersal‘
13:45: Buffet lunch
14:45: Michele Casalini (CEO, Casalini Libri) ‘Collections aren't built in a day: Changes and
trends in Italian collecting’
15:15: Round table chaired by Andrea Del Corno', with Prof Cristina Dondi, Andrea Mazzocchi
(Bernard Quaritch Rare Books and Manuscripts), Valentina Mirabella (Curator, Romance Collections,
The British Library), Prof Giuliana Pieri, and Maria Riccobono (Librarian, Italian Cultural Institute).
16:30: Katia Pizzi (Director, Italian Cultural Institute)
11 May 2022
“In antiquity, life was nothing but silence. Noise was really not born before the 19th century, with the advent of machinery. Today noise reigns supreme over human sensibility.” Luigi Russolo
Photograph showing Luigi Russolo and his collaborator Ugo Piatti with their intonarumori, from Luigi Russolo, L’arte dei rumori (Milan, 1916). X.629/13035.
Futurism was a multidisciplinary artistic and social movement. Futurists wanted to reinvent all art forms: painting, sculpture, literature, photography, architecture, book production, dance, even cuisine... Futurist ideals were very radical, both artistically and politically.
Italian futurists, led by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, had a huge impact on the avant-garde of the twentieth century and gave popularity to art manifestos. Of the many futurist manifestos, the 11 March 1913 one titled L’arte dei rumori. Manifesto futurista (The Art of Noises. Futurist Manifesto), by Luigi Russolo, had a very long-lasting influence.
Portrait of Luigi Russolo, L’arte dei rumori.
L’arte dei rumori is a manifesto of futurist music. It was subsequently published as a monograph in 1916 in Milan by Edizioni Futuriste di “Poesia”, Marinetti’s own publishing house and official publisher of Italian futurists since 1905. The monograph, also titled L’arte dei rumori, expands on the 1913 manifesto and includes pictures and musical scores.
This book is the first to introduce the notions of noise as sound and sound-art. Noise was a product of the industrial revolution and therefore, for Russolo, futuristic. Onomatopoeic and cacophonic ‘words in freedom’ were already linked to the concept of noise as poetry in the early productions of futurist literature, so noise as sound appears a natural evolution of Marinetti’s Parole in Libertà.
The author of this book, painter turned musician Luigi Russolo, categorizes various types of noises and also created 21 rudimentary experimental noise making machines able to reproduce some noises for the futurist orchestra: intonarumori, including ‘howlers’, ‘bursters’, 'cracklers', ‘hummers’. These Leonardesque magic boxes with levers and trumpets were used for a composition, which reproduces the noise of the urban industrial soundscape: Risveglio di una città (Awakening of a city).
Concerts with intonarumori were organized in 1913 in Modena, and in 1914 in Milan and London, with 10 shows in the Coliseum. Most of Russolo’s instruments were destroyed during WWII and there is only one surviving phonograph recording of the instruments playing together with an orchestra. The full score of Risveglio di una città is also missing, apart from the two pages of notation reproduced below. Nevertheless, attempts to rebuild Russolo’s instruments and reproduce his musical performances happened in the course of the last century.
Score for Risveglio di una città, from L’arte dei rumori.
Russolo’s efforts to emancipate noises and to broaden the definition of music were truly revolutionary, but futurist music was not well received by the audience. The public was not ready at the time. However, the use of synthesizers, the invention of noise music, concrete music, soundscape art, sound-art, electroacoustic and electronic music, are all linked to Russolo’s production of writings, music, and instruments. Musicians who were directly influenced by his work include Pierre Schaeffer, Edgard Varèse and John Cage.
Valentina Mirabella, Curator, Romance Collections
Claudia Salaris, Marinetti Editore, (Bologna 1990) YF.2009.a.20485
Luigi Russolo, The Art of Noise (futurist manifesto, 1913), translated by Robert Filliou, Originally published in 1967 as a Great Bear Pamphlet by Something Else Press, 2004
Barclay Brown, ‘The Noise Instruments of Luigi Russolo’ Perspectives of New Music, vol. 20, no. 1/2, 1981, pp. 31–48 PP.8000.mn
If you are interested in finding out more about our Italian collections, join us at the upcoming event: Italian Collections in UK Libraries: Past, Present & Future, on Friday 17 June, in person at the British Library. Bookings are open on the BL website.
27 April 2022
In 1913, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (1876-1944), founder and chief promoter of Italian Futurism, extended the Futurist revolution to the field of typography:
My revolution is aimed at the so-called typographical harmony of the page, which is contrary to the flux and reflux, the leaps and bursts of style that run through the page. On the same page, therefore, we will use three or four colours of ink, or even twenty different typefaces if necessary […]. With this typographical revolution and this multi-coloured variety in the letters I mean to redouble the expressive force of the words, Destruction of Syntax –Imagination without Strings – Words in Freedom (1913).
The so-called ‘Tin Book’ is one of the best examples of the radical rethinking that the Futurists applied to the arts and the book in particular.
The British Library's copy of the Tin Book, digitised as part of the AHRC funded project Interdisciplinary Italy 1900-2020. Interart/Intermedia, was manufactured in Savona in 1932. A selection of word-in-freedom texts by Marinetti are accompanied, on the verso, by a ‘chromatic-poetic’ Futurist synthesis by Tullio d’Albisola (1899-1971), a second generation Futurist whose activities spanned ceramics, poetry, and design. The arrangement has been seen by critics as a potential flaw of the project: we cannot read simultaneously Marinetti’s words-in-freedom and d’Albisola’s visual chromatic-poetic response. Be that as it may, this object-book is no less revolutionary in the way it invites an expanded multi-sensorial reading, signalled by the proper title of the book: Parole in Libertà Futuriste Olfattive Tattili Termiche (‘Futurist Words in Freedom - Olfactory, Tactile, Thermal’).
Portrait of Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti/Tullio d’Albisola Parole In Libertà Futuriste
The act of opening the book and turning the pages is first and foremost an acoustic experience. Italian artist and critic Mirella Bentivoglio performed a reading in 1982 at the Pompidou Centre in Paris. The performance piece was called Jouer la page. This is how she describes it: ‘air pressed between the pages at different times and distances from the microphone produced unexpected results. The tin book proved to be a regular instrument furnished with a sounding-box. The cylinder of the spine is an elementary flute through which the pages seem to materialize as sounds’.
The Tin Book took an industrial material and turned it literally into poetry, fusing art and industry. The metallic sound evokes the ‘infinite variety of noises’ of modern life which Luigi Russolo (1885-1947) saw as part of the extraordinary diversity of sound (including music-sound and noise-sound) that would generate the new Art of Noises (The Art of Noises. A Futurist Manifesto, 11 March 1913).
The material and its sonic qualities de-familiarize the reader with the traditional sensorial experience of reading a paper (or digital) book. The association with industrial sounds, turns the book into a machine, and, on a more ordinary level, reminds the reader of the colourful packaging of tin boxes and glossy advertising metal plates that were part of interwar material and visual culture.
The smooth and rough surfaces of the pages have a visual equivalent in shiny and duller areas of the lithographed images, blurring the boundary between text, image, and object. The act of reading the Tin Book pushes meaning to the surface, allowing the reader to experience a multi-sensorial perception in which meaning is not principally held by the words in the book. The process recalls also the principles of the tavole tattili which Marinetti had composed in the later 1910s, especially during the war years. In the 1921 Manifesto of Tactilism, Marinetti introduced the new art of touch—tactilism—which was a means to reconnect with the sense of touch and use it as another important channel of communication and means to experience the world.
The introduction of concrete elements in poetry was a seismic shift in the concept of literature: the fundamental overlapping between word and image (and their connection to sound and touch) opened up new pathways to explore the boundaries between the arts, exposing the artificial separation between arts and media. The Futurist tin books, by playing with the sonic qualities of the book as object, took literature into the realms of sculpture, design and modern technology.
Giuliana Pieri, Professor of Italian and the Visual Arts and Executive Dean (School of Humanities), Royal Holloway University of London
Futurist Manifestos, ed. by Umbro Apollonio (London, 2009).
Giovanni Lista, Le Livre Futuriste. De libération du mot au poème tactile (Modena, 1982).
Mirella Bentivoglio, ‘The Reinvention of the Book in Italy’, The Print Collector’s Newsletter, 24.3 (1993). 93-96. 6613.160000
'The Tin Book', European Studies Blog, 12 March 2014
If you are interested in finding out more about this topic, Prof Giuliana Pieri is among the speakers of the upcoming event: Italian Collections in UK Libraries: Past, Present & Future, on Friday 17 June, in person at the British Library. Bookings are open on the BL website.
17 February 2022
Stand up for bookworms. Sir Christopher Wren never went to Italy. But he did have a library.
When you see a gleaming white Wren building against a bright blue London sky, it’s easy to think that Sir Chris. was evoking his experience of a sun-drenched Rome. This is why I was surprised to learn from Campbell (p. 124) that he never went to Italy. He did visit Paris and Holland. The nearest he got to Rome was meeting Bernini in Paris.
Portrait of Sir Christopher Wren, 1713. John Smith after Sir Godfrey Kneller. Source: Wikimedia Commons
D. J. Watkin, introducing the sales catalogue of Wren’s books (1748), commented:
It is one of the wonders of architectural history that Wren could have conceived a classic architecture so huge and assured without ever having seen at first hand any of the monuments of ancient or modern Rome.
His library did however include ‘copies of Arberti, Serlio, Vitruvius, d’Alvier, Bellori, de Rossi, Desgogetz, Boissard and Bosio, as well as three editions of Palladio’.
Some Englishmen did of course go to Italy, and a number of them doubtless were absolute wastrels, but others fed their minds. A case in point is John Evelyn, who was in Italy in the 1640s, studied medicine in Padua and attended sermons and observed buildings and antiquities in Rome.
Wren’s books are in Cambridge, but a good number of Evelyn’s are in the British Library. Among them are:
Giulio Cesare Capaccio, La vera antichità di Pozzuolo (Rome, 1652) Eve.a.21
Johannes Baptista Casalius, De profanis et sacris veteribus ritibus (Rome, 1644-45) Eve.a.134
(which includes illustrations of antiquities)
François Perrier, Icones et segmenta illustrium e marmore tabularum quae Romae adhuc exstant (Paris, 1645 [1650?]) Ece.c.26
Antonio Zantani, Primorum xii Caesarum verissimae imagines ex antuquis numismatibus desumptae (Rome, 1614) Eve.a.108
There’s a lot to be said for experience, but even more for the assiduous conning of a good library.
Page from Giulio Cesare Capaccio, La vera antichità di Pozzuolo (Rome, 1652) Eve.a.21
Page from Giulio Cesare Capaccio, La vera antichità di Pozzuolo (Rome, 1652) Eve.a.21
Barry Taylor, Curator Romance Collections
References and additional reading:
James W. P. Campbell, Building St Paul’s (London, 2007) YK.2009.a.8760
Gordon Craig, ‘John Evelyn and the theatre in England, France and Italy. Dedicated to the memory of Charles Stuart II’, The Mask. An illustrated journal of the art of the theatre, X;3 (July 1924), 97-115; X:4 (Oct. 1924), 143-60
Michael Hunter, ‘The British Library and the Library of John Evelyn, with a Checklist of Evelyn Books in the British Library’s Holdings’, in John Evelyn in the British Library (London, 1995), pp. 82–102. 2719.e.3064
John L. Lievsay, The Englishman’s Italian Books 1550-1700 (Philadelphia, 1969) YA.2002.a.8788
Giles Mandelbrote, ‘John Evelyn and His Books’, in John Evelyn and His Milieu, ed. Frances Harris and Michael Hunter (London, 2003), pp. 71-94. YC.2004.a.315
D. J. Watkin, Sale catalogues of libraries of eminent persons, IV, Architects (London, 1972) W77/0506
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