Hands, heart and machine: “Arte Tipografica” in Naples

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"Arte Tipografica" work: 12 Views of Naples by Borrelli
“Arte Tipografica” work: 12 Views of Naples by Borrelli
Hands, heart and machines
Hands, heart and machines

The hands of the artisan, the heart of the entrepreneur, the machines: these are the key ingredients  that hit me last Saturday when, invited by family friends, we attended a party for the end of business for Arte Tipografica. If fact this is what it was: a party. With some inevitable somber notes, nevertheless still a party to celebrate art with friends. But let’s start from the beginning.


In Naples there is a longstanding tradition of art typography shops, small ones, places where limited editions have been celebrating local and less so artists, coupling literature and art creations with handicraft and entrepreneurship. A real “point of accumulation” for complementary excellences that produced noticeable pieces of work. I am no expert in this area so I will surely miss some names, but those of Arte Tipografica, Berisio, Liguori, Guida and many others have been part of city life for several decades.


Original machine from 1948, still working
Original machine from 1948

“Arte Tipografica” is one of these, founded in 1948. It is a place to print no ordinary books, or better not just them. Here experienced craftsmen print art books, lithographs, volumes and tomes of any size… I wish I knew more to speak about it in more details! And now they close, surrending to economical crisis, and to the recent evolution that killed lead first with digital editing, and then paper with ebooks. Perhaps it is the fair toll to evolution. it is a pity, though, that this wealth of history and art will go lost: it would have been nice to see a specialty museum start from these very halls of Arte Tipografica, but it seems this is not going to happen.


"Arte tipografica" halls and machines
Halls and machines

The halls, let’s start from there. A surprising place for a print shop with tons heavy machines: Marigliano palace in the very heart of the city, first floor, right on top of that beautiful stair with crossing ramps that we saw many times passing by. The entrance, a small room, then two large halls: one of them hosts the party, the fair, some old machines, while the other one host production machines, the paper reams, the heart of the activity.


Today everything stands still. There is the whole family of the owner, Mr. Angelo Rossi, that help him welcome the guests, show the machines, tell the story, sell the many small and big masterpieces. It is Mr. Rossi himself who shows us the old machine with moveable types, then the advanced Linotype, and then the modern machines capable to deliver thousands and thousands of prints per day. At last we stop in front of a old Heidelberg from 1948, still working, where Mr. Rossi shares some pieces of the story of his “creature”, lovely supported by one of his daughters when well justified emotion takes him over.


Pablo Neruda poetry book by Arte Tipografica
Pablo Neruda poetry book

There is also a small museum, simply a display that hosts the first two books published by the firm in 1948, issues of the newspapaer “La Barricata” (the barricade) printed during the Four Days of Naples (opposition to retiring Nazi during WW2), a poetry book by Pablo Neruda initially printed in limited anonymous edition (they were dedicated to Neruda’s mistress) thanks to rather famous 44 subscribers: Guttuso, Napolitano, Levi, Quasimodo, Morante, … Pieces of history were created and crossed here.


"Arte tipografica" halls and machines
Halls and machines

It is a magical place for a photographer; it reminds me of “Centrale Montemartini” in Rome, where roman time statues are on display in an old electric power plant with his gigantic silent machines. I am no photographer, but yet I couldn’t resist the appeal. Unable to select (or deselect) photos for this post, I created a small dedicated photo gallery.

During the visit it came to our mind, with a sense of guilty, the Kindle we were  carrying in our backpack… Life evolves and everything has its own cycle. It is right to end the nice things with a party, and it was great to be part of this one.

Thanks to Angelo Rossi, his firm and his family.



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