The Italian “Tipoteca”: a unique way to get to know and experience the world of printing

Paper and printing have shared the evolution of culture and civilisation. The development of the use of paper for book-making in the XVIII century certainly favoured the industrialisation of its production process.

Nico Zardo

The birth of digital typography has deeply modified printing processes and has dismissed machinery, equipment and characters which modern typographers are getting rid of - often unwillingly - in favour of modern equipment. With the purpose of preserving and keeping alive the memories of this noble profession and the cultural heritage it represents, the Character and Typography Museum of the Tipoteca Italiana Fondazione was founded in Cornuda (Treviso), in November 2002.

THIS IMPORTANT PROJECT WAS STARTED IN 1995 thanks to the will, initiative and financial support of the Antiga brothers, the owners of a well-known typography next to the Museum. The initiative has the purpose of promoting typography and documenting the meaning and the aim of the work of Italian typographical characters designers from the industrial revolution up to our days. In its 8 years of activity, the Tipoteca has gathered more than 108 historical machines for composition, fusion and printing, thousands of wooden or metal alloy typographical characters, hundreds of precious and rare punches and matrixes for characters moulding.

Furthermore it has collected the most important XX century graphics magazines, it has organised a didactic program in collaboration with the University of Bolzano and of Venice, has realised an exposition on the history of writing and has offered its workshops to international graphic designers to print artworks. The Museum is located in the ancient “Antonini-Cerasa” Hemp Mill of Veneto - important site of industrial archaeology - and is organized into various multifunctional spaces: some rooms dedicated to typographical characters collection and conservation, a restoration workshop, the historical printing workshop, the museum of the Tipoteca and a specialized library.

AMONG THE MANY INITIATIVES THAT MAKE THE TIPOTECA A LIVELY AND INTERACTIVE ORGANISATION, some composition and printing laboratories offer students of all ages the chance for a practical experience.

There are 3 different programs (for students from 5 to 10 years old, from 11 to 13, and for students older than 14) according to which it is possible to visit the centre in groups of 20 people. In such occasions, the students can realise how books and posters were printed before the advent of the computer; familiarise with the typographer’s tools (lead characters, printing machines, linotype, monotype); get to know some aspects of the world of graphics and character drawing, still relevant for visual communication even in our digital age. Under the guide of expert personnel, students are also invited to directly experience composition and printing with mobile characters; they can engrave phrases or an image on a linoleum board, which will be printed and given to them as a souvenir.

THE ITALIAN TIPOTECA OF CORNUDA is not only a museum for conservation; it also represents an important opportunity for experiencing ancient techniques that have marked our history and our culture. •

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