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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Bodoni edition of Candide

"This Voltaire was printed in the autumn of 1944, during the most difficult period towards the end of the war, and at a time when the press was much restricted in its work. Our house had been requisitioned by the occupying power, but much to our astonishment we were not ordered to leave the workshop. Thirty-two marines were billeted with us, and a guard carrying the machine-gun continuously patrolled back and forth on the terrace in front of the big French window near the press, where I stood printing my sheets. Almost every day work was interrupted by air-raid alarms and we had to rush into the deep cave hewn into the hillside behind our house which was also used by the people living in other houses near by. At last, one night in December, a case with bound copies of Candide was on its way to Milan but the van, its lights switched off, was attacked from the air. The case had several bullet holes, yet, amazingly, not a single copy was damaged. Great concentration was needed to work in such adverse conditions and see the book through to completion, but finally optimism carried the day."

--from Giovanni Mardersteig's account of printing Candide on the Bodoni printing press, Officina Bodoni: An Account of a Hand Press, 1923-1977

I so wish I could find a copy of this edition of Candide! There's an exemplary page in the Officina Bodoni book to show the typeface used in the edition, but the graphic element isn't striking enough. I'll keep looking in the other Bodoni materials I've found. The story of its creation is extraordinary and fits so well into the set of questions I'm working on about the way that illustrators deal with optimism outside of its 18c. context, after World War II.

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Blogger Tom on Tue Apr 21, 01:06:00 PM:
What an incredible story.

This is why the work you are doing is so important, there is so much more to the story of the book than anyone would ever otherwise know.