In Bassano del Grappa, in the Italian region of Veneto, an ancient tradition is renewed

The Tassotti printing works and the Remondini Museum: an uninterrupted voyage through the cultural and editorial tradition of Veneto.

Lucia Maffei

The Tassotti printing works, born in the city of Bassano in northern Italy 40 years ago, is a place where paper history, tradition and culture meet the needs of today’s market in an exemplary way. Not only did the founder, Mr. Giorgio Tassotti, give shape to a successful enterprise, but he also retraced a veritable intellectual experience: with philological care and through long and attentive research he recovered the graphic heritage of the Remondini family.

THE REMONDINI’S ENTREPRENEURIAL HISTORY. In the years from 1660 to 1860, Bassano became very famous worldwide for the important publishing activity carried out by the Remondini family.

Refined printers of cultural works, this family was connected with the most outstanding personalities of the Age of Enlightenment in Veneto; but they were also typographers of simple images destined to a wide clientele. The Remondini presses printed precious volumes, classical masterpieces and rare works, as well as thousands of copies of more common images typical of an ancient, popular tradition. Here the characteristics of holy iconography were combined with the typical Arcadian settings: farm and domestic animals and young shepherdesses set in idealised landscapes.

The first pieces of information about Remondini’s activity in Bassano date back to 1657, when Giovanni Antonio Remondini bought a printing press and some holy icons of Saints engraved on wood. Small, modest equipment and wise intuition gave birth to an important enterprise. Over a few years the presses became 12 and the religious copperplates produced were diffused in all of Europe. A large “commercial network”, made up of more than 1000 street vendors who traveled to sell Remondini’s large production.


The level of the wood table was lowered through the removal of material; this way, only the original level would receive the ink and transfer it onto the sheet. Our modern world is so full of images that it is difficult for us to think how people could have lived without them up to the XVIII century. Only in churches and noble palaces could one find images, thanks to books, paintings, tapestries and carpets. But common people had to wait for the diffusion of paper printing or for the very first daily newspapers to have some images in their homes: holy or popular icons, pocket-size holy images, illustrated games, reproductions of famous paintings, prints of nativity sets or soldiers to color or to cut out, and the first illustrated magazines.

BUT PAPER WAS NECESSARY FOR PRINTING AND SO, FROM SIMPLE PRINTERS, THE REMONDINI BECAME SKILLED PAPERMAKERS. The cost of paper was indeed one of the main problems affecting all printers in that period: it represented up to the 50% of the investment. Furthermore, the quality of the paper available was not always satisfactory and delivery was unstable. So the Remondini decided to invest in paper production through the acquisition of 3 paper mills between 1735 and 1739. This was the key decision to their great expansion.

In the second half of the XVIII century, the Remondini printing works owned more than 18 presses for mobile characters, 24 presses for copperplate and employed over 1000 workers. The most typical products were religious books, popular prints, wallpaper and paper for bookbinding. So paper production, which had initially been started with the sole purpose of supplying printing works, shortly became an important activity, thanks also to the high production capacity of the three paper mills.

The Remondini family strongly invested in this activity, buying machines in Holland and taking advantage of expert German workmanship.

BESIDES COMMON PAPER, ALSO DECORATED AND ORNAMENTAL PAPER WAS PRODUCED: the possibility to combine the expertise of the printing works with that of the paper mill resulted in high quality and high value products. In fact, the uniform layer of color was given to the paper during the preliminary production phase, while the following processes required specialized laboratory and skilled labor. Four presses were necessary to produce gold and silver-colored papers; the sheets passed several times through the presses where they were printed through wooden matrixes in different colors, and the result were precious polychrome decorations.

Venice, capital of the Serenissima Republic, represented the optimal market for these sheets of wallpaper; in 1792, also the Fenice Theatre was entirely covered with the wallpaper produced in Bassano.

The fall of the Republic of Venice marked the decline of the Remondini’s business and between 1859 and 1860, two centuries after their birth, the activities were separated and sold to some small producers. In the course of this process, the wood matrixes for ornamental paper somehow arrived in the city of Varese and this is the reason that, between the end of the XIX century and the beginning of the XX, the so-called Varese paper was born, very famous still today.

DURING THE 1950S, GIORGIO TASSOTTI BEGAN HIS PRINTING AND COLLECTING ACTIVITY, CREATING A VERY RICH COLLECTION OF ORIGINAL REMONDINI PRINTS,OLD WOODEN MATRIXES, BOARD GAMES, ENGRAVINGS, XYLOGRAPHS AND POPULAR PRINTS. Besides compiling the collection, exhibited since 1992 in the Remondini Museum in Bassano – next to the Tassotti paper mill, near the famous Palladio Bridge – Tassotti has also studied the ancient models for over 40 years. Fruit of his research has been the recreation of the “Remondini style”; with the quality and philological accuracy of his production he has succeeded in bringing an important tradition back to life.

The activity of the Tassotti family started with hand-colored prints and with book publishing; during the 1970s the production of decorated paper, paper and linen items, writing paper and artistic prints was added. As of today, Grafiche Tassotti produces more than 4000 different items and its dimensions enable it to compete on the worldwide market and diffuse the “Remondini style” all over the world. •

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