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The line as a metaphor for life

Taking the occasion of our re – edition of «Linea»,a delightful typographic children’s book originally published in 1999, scholar and typographer Alessandro Corubolo pays tribute to Alessandro Zanella, an extraordinary Veronese private printer, publisher, artist and friend.

Simplicity is the most complicated thing in the world.

Vico Magistretti

Alessandro Zanella (1955-2012) Artist printer and publisher. Raised in Verona, Zanella was the last heir of the ‘private printers’ active in the city of Verona. Between 1977 and 1982 he was a partner in Plain Wrapper Press and printed together with Richard Gabriel Rummonds, an American intellectual and printer, some fifteen titles. When Rummonds returned home, Zanella continued his private printer business, both printing for himself and as a designer and printer for other publishers. The Ampersand sign, under which Linea is published, first appears in 1990; it covers his own editions as well as the print shop proper. Alongside his publishing and artistic activities, Zanella also taught, holding numerous courses in typography, both privately and at the University of Verona and the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice. He passed away prematurely in Crete in 2012, bequeathing us his refined editions, later exhibited in numerous exhibitions in Italy and abroad.

A book that is (also) an artist’s book.

In 1999 – but the idea, the author tells us, dated back several years earlier – Alessandro Zanella devoted himself heart and soul to a project that had long lingered in his imagination: to make a little book with a fairy tale to make his two daughters and their little friends smile. He wanted them to enjoy following the path of a line zigzagging through trees and meadows, diving into the river and crossing the mountain … as long as there is breath. Alexander will then create a children’s book, with elements that attract the attention of young children, such as collages and pop-ups, putting his technical and artistic skills at the service of young and curious eyes. This is how Linea was born , a book that is (also) an artist’s book.

The term “artist’s book,” because of the multiplicity of possible meanings attributed to it, has often (always?) left most who write or read that term dissatisfied or in disagreement; but in this case there may finally be unanimity of consensus: Linea is in toto a true artist’s book! Alessandro Zanella, the artist indeed, in this case is not only the printer who pursues perfection and beauty in designing and printing books with the press. He has drawn, engraved, sewn, colored papers, cut out, glued and, of course, printed and bound them. As if that were not enough, this figurative tale is also his work in inventing and writing the fairy tale, even in what concerns the integration between text and line path. Any graphic and creative solutions, in every detail, are his work.

Alessandro Zanella at work in the act of composing a text

A little book dedicated to children

Linea was published in sixty copies, immediately sold out in gifts to the daughters’ friends and girlfriends. Remaining copies have been sought in vain for years, not only by collectors and bibliophiles but also by avid readers and lovers of beauty. One appreciates all the more, therefore, the idea of the publisher Lazy Dog, with Alexander’s wife and daughters, which was to republish the tale, obviously with the use of modern technology, in a number of copies that would allow for greater dissemination to the originally identified audience, namely children, this time in good numbers.

The bet, won, in my opinion, was, in this modern reissue, to remain as faithful as possible to the original, whose design is retraced both in the choices of materials and solutions, but also in the spirit of the author, attracted, like Munari, by children and their world. Only the dust jacket, in a beautiful blue, and the binding, which allows the line to develop horizontally through the pages, change.

An image of the interior from the original 1999 edition

Alessandro Corubolo is a Veronese scholar and printer. He shared with Gino Castiglioni the ownership and management of the private printing house Officina Chimaerea, which is known for numerous press editions valued in Italy and abroad. He also conducted several researches on the history of printing and publishing.

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